Actor steps in, religious outreach curbed amid coronavirus

FILE PHOTO - Missionaries Cameron Johnson, center, and Jeremy Christenson, right, greet a pedestrian Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006, in Cambridge, Mass. Johnson and Christenson are on a two year mission in Massachusetts for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (AP Photo/William B. Plowman)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — “Modern Family” actor Ty Burrell stepped in to help people forced out of work by the coronavirus in Salt Lake City while The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints further restricted missionary activities on Friday.

The moves came as Utah’s total number of cases jumped to 112, marking the largest single day jump so far. No deaths have been reported.

The Utah-based faith sent a substantial, though unspecified, number of missionaries around the world back to their home countries, where they will be put in two weeks of self-isolation. Missionary training will also be provided online rather than in centers.

Health officials are asking people not to gather in groups of 10 or more to fight the spread of the disease, though the governor has repealed local orders that created criminal penalties.

Republican Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday the orders in Salt Lake and Utah counties, two of the state’s most populated, had not been approved by the state, which has recommended against large gatherings but not imposed a criminal penalty.

“Our intent was to have this more of a voluntary compliance,” Herbert said as he explained his decision Friday, adding that the state would have to reassess if businesses flout the rules. He said he expects people will use common sense and live within the spirit of the law to avoid forcing officials to create a “police state.”

The local orders would have made large gathering a misdemeanor. Authorities haven’t been filing criminal charges but want to make sure people understand the seriousness of the pandemic, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said, according to the Daily Herald. The original order excluded groups at grocery stores.

In Salt Lake County, officials also said the order was aimed at making sure people weren’t congregating in close quarters and risking spread of the virus.

The flap came as state epidemiologist Angela Dunn warned the response could last several months.

The virus has already forced dine-in closures at restaurants and bars statewide, and prompted a nearly 30 percent spike in unemployment claims last week, part of a national surge, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Burrell, who is a part-owner of Bar X and Beer Bar in Salt Lake, on Thursday announced a plan to help. The actor gave $100,000 to establish the “Tip Your Server” program, which aims to give $2,000 grants to food and beverage industry employees forced out of work by dine-in closures.

Utah’s total number of cases jumped to 112 Friday, up from 78 the day before, Dunn said. It was the largest single day jump so far as the state sees more community spread. No deaths have been reported.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. But for the elderly and people with existing conditions, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of those who are infected recover.

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