Coronavirus And Utah: What You Need To Know | KUER 90.1

Coronavirus And Utah: What You Need To Know

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Coronavirus In Utah, Explained | KUER Coverage Listen live to KUER 90.1 | Listen live to BBC World Service

Updated 4:52 p.m. MDT 4/1/2020

As of April 1, the state has reported 1,012 resident and visitor cases of COVID-19 according to the Utah Department of Health

Number Of Lab-Confirmed COVID-19 Cases In Utah


So far, more than 20,100 people here have been tested and 91 people have been hospitalized. That number doesn’t reflect the number currently in the hospital, but rather how many have been admitted throughout the crisis. 

The Utah Department of Health also reported that people ages 25-44 make up 40% of the confirmed cases. The next highest cohort is people ages 45-64 at 32% of confirmed cases, however this age group accounts for nearly half of all hospitalizations.

Seven people have now died in Utah from coronavirus including Utah businessman and philanthropist Robert Garff who died Sunday. Garff and his wife Katharine both tested positive after returning from vacation, and he was admitted to the hospital last week when his condition worsened.

The 78-year-old was Chairman of Garff Enterprises, which includes Ken Garff Automotive — founded by his father in 1932. Robert Garff served as Speaker of the Utah House from 1985 to 1987 and as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Katharine Garff is still recovering at home.

Renters in Utah will be able to defer rent payments and be protected from evictions until May 15. Gov. Gary Herbert issued the executive order Wednesday.

Herbert said federal aid, including $1,200 stimulus checks and state unemployment benefits, could take weeks to arrive.

Last week, the governor issued a “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive. He said it is not a shelter-in-place order but rather a set of recommendations on waysUtahns can help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall responded with an emergency stay-at-home proclamation. Violating the city’s order can result in a Class B misdemeanor — an enforcement mechanism not seen in the state’s directive. But Mendenhall said law enforcement would be focused on giving people warnings rather than tickets.

A stay-at-home order in Summit County also went into effect last week. Residents under these orders can still leave their houses but people are encouraged to keep practicing social distancing and try to limit their travel for only essential needs. 

All branches of the Utah Department of Motor Vehicles have closed their lobbies and some cities are offering limited drive-through services. 

Both the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks — in Southeast Utah — closed indefinitely on Saturday per the recommendation of local public health officials. In Southwest Utah, Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks remain open. 

The number of unemployment claims shot up for the week of March 15-21 as 19,951 Utahns filed for benefits. That’s a 1,391% increase from the week before, according to numbers released by the Department of Workforce Services March 26. 

The food service, office and administrative support, and management industries have been hardest hit. 37% of new unemployment claims last week came from the food service workers. As far as location, Salt Lake County led the way, accounting for 47% of new unemployment claims. Utah County workers were responsible for 12.4% of new claims. 

Health officials have also restricted non-urgent surgeries to preserve masks, gloves and other protective equipment. The restrictions, which run through April 25, are on medical, dental and veterinary procedures.

The order applies to elective operations that can be delayed without putting the patient’s life in danger. That includes things like colonoscopies, cataracts, and endoscopies. 

The state has also issued an order recommending people gather in groups of 10 or fewer and dining-in at restaurants is still banned. It also asked local prosecutors to “exercise discretion” when deciding whether to prosecute someone for violating the order and stated that “the purpose of this Order is to protect individuals’ health and not to hold them criminally liable.”

Grocery stores and cafeterias are also required to clear out their seating areas.

President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency in response to coronavirus and has closed the border for non-essential travel with both Canada and Mexico. In early March, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic. 

Across the country, data from The COVID Tracking Project show 1,209,647 people in the U.S. have been tested, and nearly 211,000 of those cases have come back positive. There have also been 4,700 deaths. For the latest numbers, follow the COVID Tracking Project.

Prominent Positive Cases

Utah Congressman Ben McAdams was released from the hospital Saturday night. He had been admitted after testing positive for COVID-19 shortly after returning from a trip to Washington, D.C.

State Senator Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, also tested positive for COVID-19 in March. She said in a statement the diagnosis is “scary” given that she has asthma, but she is confident she will fully recover. 

Salt Lake CIty Council members Darin Mano and Dan Dugan have each tested positive for the disease. Mano thought he was possibly exposed while traveling to Washington, D.C. along with five other members of the city council. Dugan said he is clear, after announcing his positive test nearly two weeks after showing symptoms.

Both Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz have been cleared after testing positive for the disease in early March. All staff members and players have been cleared of posing any risk to others. 


Utah’s public schools will be dismissed until May 1. The state’s technical colleges will also suspend teaching through the month of April.

Gov. Gary Herbert said school buildings will still be open and continue to provide lunch for students.

Universities across Utah have cancelled in person classes to help prevent the spread of coronavirus on campuses. The University of Utah, Weber State, Utah State, and Brigham Young University have moved their classes entirely online.

Universities have also called off spring commencement, with some schools not announcing a makeup date and others asking seniors for input on when a date in the future might work. 

Public Gatherings & Social Distancing

The Moab Regional Hospital has asked people to stay away from National Parks in the area.

At Zion National Park shuttle buses are on hold but visitors are allowed to drive Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. Once parking lots fill up, only intermittent vehicle travel will be allowed. Both Zion and Bryce Canyon are operating virtual virtual visitors centers instead of staffed buildings.

Capitol Reef has closed its visitor center, bookstore and Gifford House. The Dinosaur National Monument has closed entirely. 

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt has waived entrance fees for national parks that are still open.

All public gatherings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been temporarily suspended worldwide. The Church also announced it is suspending all temple activity due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The public will not be allowed to attend the upcoming April General Conference either and instead are encouraged to watch the live video broadcast. It has been moved to a smaller location, too.


The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City has also cancelled public worship and mass through the end of March. Catholic school facilities will close during this time and funerals and weddings will be postponed. Parochial schools are also closed and will provide remote instruction.

Outdoor Recreation & Sports

Many of the top ski resorts in Utah including Alta, Brighton, Solitude and Deer Valleyclosed in mid-March. The resorts say they will work with vacationers to refund tickets and hotel bookings. Park City Mountain, Snowbasinand Powder Mountain have announced they will close for the remainder of the winter season.

Meanwhile Snowbirdsaid they are suspending operations indefinitely but will reopen if and when they can. Starting March 23, Salt Lake City and Davis County will close all of their golf courses for at least a week. 

The Jazz were the first team to have players test positive. The NBAsuspended its season indefinitely in early March.

Major League Soccer also announced a 30 day suspension of its season.

COVID-19 In Utah, Explained
Credit Renee Bright / KUER

What is COVID-19?

What is COVID-19?

The novel coronavirus outbreak started in Wuhan, China, and is believed to be tied to a seafood and live animal market. The virus can cause a respiratory disease which is called “Coronavirus Disease 2019,” shortened to COVID-19. Since its outbreak, the disease has spread to every continent except Antarctica. 

According to the Utah Department of Health, symptoms can include those very similar to influenza, such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath. But department officials said that alone shouldn’t cause concern unless someone showing those symptoms has been in close contact with a known positive case. 

What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

These are two methods being used by health departments in an effort to slow and prevent the spread of the virus but there is a difference. 

Quarantines, while it may sound alarming, are typically for people who appear to be healthy but may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Meanwhile, isolation is for people who do have coronavirus symptoms and are told to stay away from the public. 

The recommended quarantine period is 14 days and that’s based on a recommendation from the World Health Organization.

What are the best ways to prevent COVID-19?

The following recommendations are from the Utah Coronavirus Task Force:

  • Avoid non-essential travel to China (and areas affected by COVID-19)
  • Avoid travel and contact with other people if you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.

Utah health department officials said there is currently no vaccine or antiviral treatment available to help with the disease. But since it is flu season, they do recommend getting the flu vaccine, even though that will not protect against coronavirus. 

Pandemic, Presumptive Positive and Other terms

A pandemic is a disease with a large geographic spread, affecting entire countries or the world. 

The declaration made by the World Health Organization does not take into account the deadliness of the disease. 

And what about “community spread?” It’s the latest term health officials’ are using to talk about the spread of the virus in Utah. The virus gets that description when people begin to test positive for COVID-19 without having come in contact with any known cases.

In Utah, a service worker tested positive for the disease, without having travelled or having any known contact with a person who had the virus.

KUER Coverage
Utahns have been stocking up at big box stores and grocery stores this week.
Credit Joel Meyer / KUER

As fears of a coronavirus outbreak in Utah grow, people are stocking up on household goods from toilet paper to canned foods. KUER sent Clara Hatcher to a big box store in Salt Lake City to ask how people are preparing and reacting to the shopping rush.

Listen to their reactions in the audio above.

3/27: Salt Lake City Mayor Issues Stay-At-Home Order, Utah Governor Issues Directive

3/27: First Confirmed COVID-19 Case In San Juan County Prompts Camping Ban

3/27: Need Tips On Social Distancing? This Guy’s Been Doing It For Almost 50 Years

3/27: Crowdfunding Creates A De Facto Food Bank For The Navajo Nation

3/27: Utah Businesses Shift Production To Meet Needs During Coronavirus Pandemic

3/27: President Trump Signs $2 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Package Into Law

3/26: Utah Hospitals And Doctors Brace For Surge Of Coronavirus Patients

3/26: Trump Administration Says Data Will Drive 'Next Phase' Of Coronavirus Guidelines

3/26: Over Half Of Utah's Counties Have Declared States of Emergency. What Does That Mean?

3/25: As Utahns Stay Home, Salt Lake City Reports Rise In Domestic Violence Calls

3/24: 'It's all hitting so quickly:' Coronavirus Layoffs Cause Spike In Unemployment Claims

3/24: Escape To Public Lands? Nearby Towns Want You To Park It Instead

3/24: On The Front Lines Of The Pandemic, Grocery Store Workers Keep Shelves Stocked

3/23: Should Utahns Shelter In Place To Prevent More Coronavirus Deaths?

3/23: Across Mountain West, Scientists Have The Same Goal: Take Down COVID-19

3/23: Food Bank Struggles To Keep Up With Growing Demand

Find all of KUER’s coverage of the novel coronavirus.