Utah becomes latest state to cancel rest of school year

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah joined more than 20 other states Tuesday in canceling in-person classes at public schools for the rest of the school year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Students will finish the year doing mostly online assignments to avoid the risk of crowded classrooms, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said.

“In order for us to continue to slow the spread and to get back on our feet socially and economically this is not the time to have our schools back open,” Herbert said. “This is not an easy decision to make. It is disruptive and it impacts our children, parents and families.”

Utah public schools have been closed since March 16.

Halting in-person classes has cast thousands of parents in the role of home school teachers as they guide students through online assignments created by teachers who often organize daily video meetings with students to help.

About 667,000 children go to public schools in Utah, according to state figures.

Utah joined states such as Arizona, Oregon and Washington that had previously made the same decision to cancel classes.

The virus causes flu-like symptoms that most people recover from but can be fatal in others. Eighteen people have died in Utah.

In other Utah coronavirus developments:

— Salt Lake City is leasing a hotel to shelter homeless people over 60 with underlying health conditions who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus infections. People began checking into the 130-bed hotel Friday and can stay for at least two weeks with a possible extension, said county Mayor Jenny Wilson. Salt Lake City has confirmed a handful of cases in the homeless community, where preventative steps such as hand-washing and social distancing are more difficult.

— Fitness centers in Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties are allowed to open their doors again on Friday night. Health officials say the sites will have to screen customers for coronavirus symptoms, and patrons will have to stay at least 10 feet apart along with other restrictions.

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