Utah limits gatherings to 100 people as coronavirus spreads

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Group gatherings in Utah should be limited to no more than 100 people for at least the next two weeks in an effort to prevent prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday.

Officials from the University of Utah and Utah State University announced they are canceling in-person classes and moving the rest of the semester online, following the lead of dozens of other universities.

Utah is not seeing community spread of the virus but officials are bracing for that to happen, Herbert said at a news conference in Salt Lake City. The limit on gatherings applies to churches, conferences and concerts, but not businesses.

“It’s better to be too early than to be too late,” Herbert said. “We are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.”

Five people have tested positive for the virus so far in Utah, including two Utah Jazz basketball players, but no one has died, said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, who is leading the state’s coronavirus task force. All have contracted the disease while traveling outside of Utah, said state epidemiologist Angela Dunn.

She urged caution but also said people can still go to the park with their children and go to the store.

The state hasn’t been able to test as many people as they would like, Cox said, with a total of about 160 people tested as of Thursday.

The decisions come one day after the World Health Organization declared that the global coronavirus crisis and the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it would hold a major conference without attendees.

Utah was also at the epicenter of pro sports cancellations Wednesday when Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert became the first NBA player to be diagnosed with the coronavirus Wednesday, leading to the suspension of the NBA season. Gobert’s teammate Donovan Mitchell has also tested positive for the virus.

The Utah Legislature said Thursday it plans to allocate about $24 million to provide to health departments in an effort to try and prevent the spread of the virus among older people who are the most vulnerable, according to a news release.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 61,000 have so far recovered.

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