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LDS Church cancels BYU graduation, Women's Conference due to virus

Seniors who have already ordered their caps and gowns for Brigham Young University’s April 23 graduation should keep them in their packages.

BYU announced Wednesday night Spring graduation ceremonies are canceled, along with the campus’s annual Women’s Conference this year, as a protective effort against the COVID-19 virus.

In the announcement, the Church Education System listed the following changes and information about large gatherings and more:

“There will be no gathering for large events such as commencements, convocations, devotionals, conferences, public lectures, performances and concerts,” the statement said. “These events may be cancelled, streamed, or recorded and posted for on-demand use, as determined by leadership at each institution. Brigham Young University will make decisions regarding athletic events.”

According to BYU’s public communications office, no end date to these changes has been determined. They will continue to monitor situations as they continue to arise.

The BYU website says that BYU’s President’s Council and Incident Management Team have been meeting this week and throughout the day regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on BYU’s campus.

“Last night (Wednesday), the Church Educational System provided general guidance to CES Institutions. We will update the campus community on how BYU will move forward in more specific ways as soon as details have been finalized,” the website said.

As for classes, the university announced cancellations for all classes on Friday, Monday and Tuesday. All classes resuming March 18 will be done through remote instruction. Students are encouraged to consider leaving campus and returning home.

Daily seminary for high school students and stake institute programs for adults will follow the gathering decisions of local congregations, according to CES.

The statement also said that release-time seminary and campus institutes will follow the gathering decisions of the local high schools or college campuses.

“When classes need to be canceled, seminary and institute classes may consider remote delivery options. Gatherings for local devotionals and graduations will follow the guidelines provided by the Area Presidency,” the guidelines said.

While decisions on a number of issues that include large gatherings of the student population and the public are fluid at this time, it is certain that the Women’s Conference scheduled for April 30 and May 1, that was to feature Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the church’s Quorum of the Twelve and his wife Patricia Holland and keynote speakers, will not happen.

Provo City has yet to determine the financial blow these cancellations will have on the city; thousands of women come to the yearly BYU Women’s Conference, as well as friends and family to graduation.

On Wednesday, the church announced in a statement a number of updates including the announcement that April’s General Conference, all five sessions, will be presented remotely.

“We plan to conduct all five sessions of that conference at the Conference Center. General authorities, general officers and their spouses, musicians, choirs, technicians, and others will participate as assigned. But, proceedings of the conference will be distributed throughout the world via technology only,” the statement said. “The public will not be admitted in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, or in stake centers or meetinghouses in areas where contagion is a concern.”

Also announced Wednesday, the Missionary Training Centers in Provo and Preston, England, will close to new missionaries.

“Beginning March 16, 2020, all missionaries scheduled to enter missionary training centers in Provo, Utah, or Preston, England, will be trained remotely by video conference,” the church statement said.

Missions

In Europe, all senior missionaries and young missionaries with serious or chronic medical conditions will return home beginning Thursday.

According to the church, after returning home, they will self-isolate for 14 days. These missionaries will not receive a new temporary assignment but will be considered for reassignment once the COVID-19 situation abates.

The information above now applies to these 22 missions:

  • Adriatic South Mission.
  • Alpine German-Speaking Mission.
  • Belgium/Netherlands Mission.
  • Czech/Slovak Mission.
  • Denmark Copenhagen Mission.
  • England Birmingham Mission.
  • England Leeds Mission.
  • England London Mission.
  • England Manchester Mission.
  • Finland Helsinki Mission.
  • France Paris Mission.
  • France Lyon Mission.
  • Germany Berlin Mission.
  • Germany Frankfurt Mission.
  • Italy Milan Mission.
  • Italy Rome Mission.
  • Norway Oslo Mission.
  • Portugal Lisbon Mission.
  • Scotland/Ireland Mission.
  • Spain Barcelona Mission.
  • Spain Madrid Mission.
  • Sweden Stockholm Mission.

Temples

Several of the church’s temples have also been closed because of concern for the workers and patrons. A large number of temple workers and patrons are from an older demographic, which has a higher susceptibility to complications from the coronavirus. Temples temporarily closed currently include:

  • Asunción Paraguay Temple.
  • Boston Massachusetts Temple.
  • Copenhagen Denmark Temple.
  • Fukuoka Japan Temple.
  • Lisbon Portugal Temple.
  • Louisville Kentucky Temple.
  • Manhattan New York Temple.
  • Rome Italy Temple.
  • Seoul Korea Temple.
  • Sapporo Japan Temple.
  • Seattle Washington Temple.
  • Taipei Taiwan Temple.
  • Vancouver British Columbia Temple.

(Previously closed for renovation)

  • Hong Kong China Temple.
  • Tokyo Japan Temple.

For complete information, visit https://churchofjesuschrist.org.


Faith
breaking featured
LDS Church cancels all church meetings worldwide

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday that all church services are canceled worldwide in light of the spread of COVID-19.

“Beginning immediately, all public gatherings of Church members are being temporarily suspended worldwide until further notice,” the church’s announcement said.

That includes stake conferences, leadership conferences and large gatherings, all public worship services, including sacrament meetings, as well as branch, ward and stake activities.

The church also said where possible, members are asked to conduct any essential leadership meetings via technology.


Isaac Hale Daily Herald 

Brigham Young University head coach Mark Pope protests an official’s call during a rivalry game between the BYU Cougars and the Utah Utes held Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019, at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald


Local
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Utah Governor's Office recommends no meetings of more than 100 people amid COVID-19 spread

Following the announcement of five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Utah, including two Utah Jazz basketball players, the Utah Coronavirus Task Force held a one-hour press conference outlining recommendations and state-wide actions being taken to help prevent the spread of infection.

The task force is recommending that mass gatherings be limited to groups of 100 healthy individuals or 20 individuals if they have prior health concerns or are over the age of 60 years old. This precaution should begin March 16 and includes church meetings, concerts and lectures series. It does not, however, apply to schools at the moment.

Sick individuals are highly encouraged to stay home and employees should state telecommuting immediately. Additionally, the state is working with care centers and hospitals to tighten the restrictions on visitors’ access.

These recommendations will be in effect for the next two weeks, Herbert said, but officials will re-evaluate to see if they want to continue, modify or go in a different direction as necessary.

Since its establishment a week ago, the task force, which expected to meet once a week to evaluate international coronavirus news and make recommendations, has meet five times.

Since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Utah earlier this month, the number of cases has grown to five, and all cases are linked to travel, state physician Angela Dunn said,

“We are not seeing community spread of the virus, but we do know the spread is going to occur, so we are taking significant action here to amplify what we’ve been doing,” Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said during the conference. “It’s better to be too early than it is to be too late.”

Herbert announced the task force’s recommendations, which are in addition to the “common sense” precautions laid out earlier this week, including consistently keeping hands clean and not touching areas like the face, mouth, eyes or nose.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said these recommendations are meant to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in order to avoid overwhelming the healthcare system.

“If everyone gets the virus in a short amount of time, we will fill the hospital beds that are empty,” he said

School response

Early Thursday afternoon, several Utah System of Higher Education institutions has announced the closing of their campuses. Most, if not all, classes — including at University of Utah, Utah State University and Utah Valley University — will be held online for the remainder of the semester.

Brigham Young University has also canceled classes for the remainder of this week and announced earlier Thursday that all athletic events held on its campus will be closed to the public, effective immediately. Only players, coaches and essential staff will be allowed to attend. BYU Athletics will provide updates as more information becomes available.

Schools operating within the Murray School District have also announced the indefinite closure of classes after the district became aware of a potential direct contact exposure to COVID-19.

Students and teachers immediately surrounding the possibly infected person have not exhibited signs or symptoms, however, the district said it is practicing an abundance of caution to maintain the health and safety of its patrons.

Superintendent of the Utah State Board of Education Sydney Dickson told residents during the press conference that no decision has been made to close schools statewide, but this could change in the near future.

Ultimately, she said, the decision to close schools is up to the individual districts. The continued operation of schools statewide, however, will be re-evaluated as necessary.

Virus testing

Outside of the recommendations, state officials are working to expand testing. Right now, officials are only testing residents with prior health conditions and those who have come into contact with confirmed cases, as that is all they are able to do as getting supplies has been a slow process, Cox said.

Cox told conference attendees and online viewers that 136 residents had been tested in a state laboratory as of 10:40 a.m. Thursday.

Additionally, the Center for Disease Control has tested 18 Utah residents since the first case was confirmed, and private labs across the state are also testing samples. University of Utah labs tested 100 individuals on Wednesday, as well.

State health officials are working with Intermountain Healthcare, who is in the process of getting their coronavirus tests certified, to increase the number of residents being tested. After successful certification, he said, testing will increase into the hundreds each day.

While health officials are working to expand drive-thru testing options, Intermountain Healthcare has sponsored two drive-up testing sites in Salt Lake City and Cottonwood Heights. The University of Utah has also established drive-up testing locations.

“We’re not making these decisions today because things are really bad,” Cox said. “We’re making these decisions before things get really bad.”

COVID-19 has an Incubation period of two to 14 days and is spread through coughing or sneezing. People with extensive history of travel or who have been within six feet of an infected person for more than 20 minutes are at risk for infection. There are currently no vaccines or effective medications available as this is a new strain.

As of Wednesday, COVID-19 has officially be declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. Individuals showing symptoms or who have been in contact with someone showing symptoms are encouraged to self quarantine for a period of 14 days.

People infected with COVID-19 could experience a dry cough, fever and difficulty breathing, and in rare cases might also have runny noses and sore throats. Some individuals might not experience any symptoms.

Individuals who believe they are experiencing COVID-19 should call their primary healthcare physicians or use telemedical technology to get more information.