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Impacts far and wide

The commons area at Bear River High School is normally bustling with activity at noon on a weekday, but last Friday, only a handful of students and teachers could be found.

Instead of a busy lunchtime crowd, the commons area has long tables spread out with materials for various courses that students can come pick up while the school keeps its doors open in the mornings. Junior Nicolas Poen was there to pick up a packet for his classwork, which he has been doing at home and online to try to keep up with the curriculum and maintain some sense of normalcy. He didn’t seem too worried.

“It’s been fine,” Poen said. “I think everybody feels a little safer staying home, but it’s probably boring for the teachers with no classes to teach.”

Janette Tomkinson, who teaches financial literacy at the high school and Chinese at nearby Bear River Middle School, was glad she already had her course materials up online through a learning management system, but said trying to teach while schools are in a soft closure has been “a big, huge learning curve.

“The kids are really stepping up. I’ve been impressed,” Tomkinson said of her students’ efforts to keep up with their courses. “It’s lonely without the students. We miss them a lot.”

BRHS Vice Principal Clay Chournos said teachers are “trying to help out every kid right now.

“The teachers are putting themselves out there, and going above and beyond the call of duty,” Chournos said. “On the flipside I think the kids have been extremely resilient, trying to do a hard thing without having much time to think about it.”

As in communities across the nation and world, Tremonton is feeling the effects of safety measures put into place in response to the spread of the new coronavirus, or COVID-19. The impacts are wide-ranging, affecting nearly every aspect of everyday life. Per a state order, local restaurants have closed their dining rooms and are relying on take-out and drive-through business to keep things going.

Last week, the Tremonton City Council decided it was time to close the city library and senior center. Both facilities are still holding limited operations, but keeping their doors locked to the public.

The Bear River Valley Senior Center continues to make home deliveries through meals on wheels, and is offering curbside pickup for those who want to come get food that is prepared daily.

Director Jenny Christensen said the center is trying hard to keep up, but has been having difficulty getting the right ingredients to stick to its menu — especially fresh produce, due to demand on local grocery stores and disruptions to supply chains.

Christensen said the closure is hard on the seniors who are used to going there to socialize, but they’re finding little ways to lessen the loneliness, such as talking to each other from a distance when they pull into the parking lot to pick up food.

“It’s nice to see the joy on their faces when they see someone they know pull up next to them,” she said.

The library has also stopped letting the public inside, but Librarian Sandra Dilley said people can still call to check out books, “and we’ll bag them up and hand them out the door.”

Similar measures have been taken in Garland, where the library is closed and city operations have been scaled back to mostly include essential services.

The Tremonton Food Pantry remains open during its regular Monday and Tuesday afternoon hours, but the shelves are becoming increasingly bear as people hunker down, Director Cathy Newman said.

“We’ll stay open until we run out of food or things get worse,” Newman said.

A statewide food drive that normally supplies the pantry for up to nine months was recently postponed until further notice. Newman said that food drive will happen, “but it’s just a matter of when.”

In the meantime, she said she is having to ration the amount of food each family gets when they visit, to spread what is available as wide as possible in the community.

Tremonton City offices are operating under normal hours, but the city’s justice court was restricted only to video appearances as of Monday, said Linsey Nessen, city recorder and human resources manager.

Police, fire and first responder services have to go on regardless of the circumstances. Tremonton/Garland Police Chief Kurt Fertig said his department is following Centers for Disease Control guidelines, but the nature of the work is such that sometimes social distancing just isn’t possible.

“We’re wearing the protective equipment when we can, especially on medical calls,” Fertig said. “We’re doing everything we can to prevent the spread and protect our officers so they’re able to respond to calls and serve the citizens.”

Safety guidelines advising against congregations of 10 or more people are also making it difficult, if not impossible, for public safety agencies to hold regular training exercises, he said.

At Bear River Valley Hospital, Intermountain Healthcare implemented new protocols for patient visits on Friday.

All visitors will be screened before entering the hospital, and only those who meet the criteria for virus testing will be allowed to enter. The emergency room remains open 24/7. The rules for Intermountain’s clinics and Instacare facilities are slightly different — only one guest is allowed with each visitor, and no guests with signs of respiratory illness will be allowed inside.

Drive-though testing for the virus is available with the approval of a health care provider at the Tremonton hospital, as well as Logan Regional Hospital. Call the COVID-19 hotline at (844) 442-5224, or access the Intermountain Connect Care app, before going to the hospital. For severe symptoms, visit the Emergency Department or call 9-1-1. More information can be found here: https://intermountainhealthcare.org/covid19-coronavirus/

The county fairgrounds is essentially closed and has been for the past two weeks, as the fairgrounds is adhering to the rule of no gatherings of 10 or more people, Manager Jan Rhodes said.

At the high school, Chournos said the most frustrating thing is not knowing when classes might be able to return to normal.

“There’s just so many unknowns right now. It’s hard on everybody,” he said. “We’re just in a holding pattern.

With all athletic events postponed or canceled, the school’s sports teams are in a similar situation.

I feel terrible for our student athletes and coaches, especially our seniors and I am trying to stay optimistically hopeful that we can get going soon,” BRHS Athletic Director Van Park wrote in an email. “I love these students and coaches at Bear River and can’t begin to imagine the emotions they are feeling, but we have to have faith that the experts are doing those things that are best for the health of our students, community, state and country.”

In the meantime, the local community is hanging on and trying to weather the storm, making sure that essential services remain available to people.

“Who knows what will happen,” Fertig said. “I hope we will get over the hump soon, and be able to get back to the lives we know.”

Earthquake felt in Box Elder; no damage reported

The largest earthquake to hit Utah in nearly 28 years was felt in communities around Box Elder County last week, although no major damage or injuries were reported.

At about 7 a.m. Wednesday, March 18, a magnitude 5.7 quake centered just southwest of Salt Lake City caused significant damage to buildings in the city and nearby. Residents of Box Elder County were awakened by shaking that reached 80 miles or more away from the epicenter.

Mark Millett, emergency manager for Box Elder County, said there were no reports of injuries or property damage in the county.

Residents from Brigham City to Portage said they felt the shaking.

“Standing in my kitchen in Elwood, it felt like a wave,” wrote Becky Price in response to a Facebook post.

With much of normal life at a screeching halt to combat the coronavirus, millions of people in Utah are hunkered down in the safety of their homes. But even that protection felt fragile as the earthquake strong enough to shut down the airport tore through the Salt Lake City area.

Though no one was hurt, the earthquake chipped away at an already thin sense of security. Michelle Daneri, 30, emerged from her apartment for the first time in days to search for her frightened cat and questioned whether she can still rely on one of her last safe spaces.

“I hope there isn’t lasting damage, because if I had to move at a time like this I don’t know what I’d do,” she said. Others reported books thrown from shelves, swinging chandeliers and fallen pottery.

About 100 other people were driven from buildings and homes by damage near the epicenter in Magna, a working-class suburb between the airport and Great Salt Lake west of the capital city. Tens of thousands more lost power after the state’s largest quake in nearly three decades.

A chemical plume was released at a nearby copper mine, and airplane passengers were temporarily stranded. Bricks showered onto sidewalks. The temblor shook the trumpet from the hand of a golden angel statute atop the iconic Salt Lake Temple of the state’s predominant faith, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

About 2.8 million people felt the initial shaking that lasted up to 15 seconds, some running outside in panic, and aftershocks continued through the day. The effects rippled into neighboring Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada.

The airport was evacuated, a process made easier with the number of passengers down nearly 70% because of coronavirus-related travel restrictions, executive director Bill Wyatt said. The runways weren’t damaged and flights resumed by late afternoon, after crews cleaned up a busted water main.

Crews also worked to fix road damage and natural gas leaks at state buildings.

The coronavirus formed the backdrop to the earthquake response, as testing and a state hotline were interrupted and authorities pleaded with people to disclose any symptoms so crews could don protective gear when they went to help.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Coronavirus reaches Box Elder County

Box Elder County has its first confirmed case of the coronavirus.

The Bear River Health Department made the announcement at 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, but as of Monday, March 23 had not provided further details.

From a BRHD press release:

The details of this case are still being investigated but do appear to be the result of exposure to a known case in Salt Lake County. The case is an adult between the ages of 18-60 years who is hospitalized.

Due to medical privacy laws, BRHD will not release further information about the confirmed case. The patient’s family has been asked to self-quarantine at home for 14 days and monitor themselves for symptoms throughout that time.

Symptoms include cough, fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and shortness of breath. Quarantine at home means not leaving the home for ANY reason, except when advised by their health care provider to seek medical care in person. They are told not to go to work, school, or any public place including stores, malls, theaters, restaurants or any other retail establishment. They should also not visit family or friends or have any visitor at home.

Lloyd Berentzen, Director of the BRHD stated that, “We would like to remind the community that most people with COVID-19 experience only mild illness but as a community, we must slow the spread of this disease.” He added, “I urge the public to PLEASE practice social distancing. Do not gather in groups of more than 10 people. If you are sick, STAY HOME. Wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face. Sneeze or cough into a tissue or the inside of your elbow and disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible. We are confident that with your help, we will get through this difficult public health emergency.”

To best utilize our staff and resources in response to COVID-19, the health department will CLOSE our newest location at 635 South 100 East in Logan. Please contact us at our Bailey Building at 655 East 1300 North, Logan, UT. For questions please call the Bear River Health Department at (435) 792-6510 or visit us at brhd.org.