SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — As the number of coronavirus cases and deaths grew in Utah, the governor announced a freeze on evictions Wednesday and advocates demanded more inmates be released to prevent the spread in jails and prisons.
Seven people have died, including two new deaths of people over 65, said state epidemiologist Angela Dunn. The state now has more than 1,000 cases.
With businesses closed around the state to prevent the spread of the virus that’s caused a global pandemic, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert ordered landlords to allow rent payments from affected workers to be deferred and evictions stopped until May 15. “This is designed to help people who, through no fault of their own, have lost jobs or lost income because of COVID-19,” he said.
In other developments:
— The ACLU of Utah is going to the Utah Supreme Court to demand more prison and jail inmates be released so the facilities can take steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus, like social distancing and frequent handwashing. Authorities have not yet confirmed any cases among inmates, but attorneys say it could spread quickly in jails and prisons. Corrections officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Similar petitions have been filed in other states.
—Herbert also extended his order closing restaurants to dine-in customers, but said people could come inside to order food if the business take social-distancing measures.
— He also refuted an April Fools joke gaining widespread attention online: A fake news story claiming that students would be required to repeat their current grade. Schools are generally closed, but students are still learning online.
— Two sheriff’s deputies in Utah County and a jail employee at the Davis County Sheriff’s Office have tested positive for COVID-19, which causes mild to moderate symptoms in many people but can be fatal for some, especially older adults. Utah County officials say the deputies were not work when the symptoms began.