Mapleton resident Mary Denna and her husband Ervin Denna were at the city’s monthly senior luncheon on Thursday when they heard Gov. Gary Herbert’s announcement. In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Utah governor recommended that, beginning Monday, residents over 60 years old limit mass gatherings to groups of 20 or less.
The recommendation both worried and saddened 84-year-old Mary Denna, one of 55 Mapleton seniors who attended Thursday’s luncheon. The monthly get-together, which includes a meal, a guest speaker and entertainment from school bands, is something she and others look forward to — and rely on — and she wondered whether the city would have to cancel April’s luncheon.
“I will miss this,” said Mary Denna, former chair of Mapleton’s Senior Citizen Committee. “I will very much miss this. Because this is one of the things that we really like to do. And there’s not very many things that seniors can do. So this will impact us.”
The recommendations will only be in effect for the next two weeks, Herbert said. But at that point, the Utah Coronavirus Task Force will re-evaluate and determine whether to continue encouraging social distancing.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults are among the most at-risk of getting seriously sick if they contract the coronavirus, along with people with serious medical conditions like heart and lung disease.
For Mapleton seniors, a cancelled luncheon would be more than a missed social gathering. Maureen Mangum, a registered nurse who works with iCare Home and Health and Hospice, volunteers at the monthly luncheon and checks the blood pressure and blood sugar levels of elderly residents.
Mangum said some residents have come to rely on her for regular health checkups.
“Because some of them don’t have cars and stuff to go to the doctor,” she said. “So they depend on us being here.”
“It’s a health issue,” Mary Denna said about potentially not being able to meet next month.
Mapleton Mayor Dallas Hakes addressed Herbert’s coronavirus announcement during his State of the City Address on Thursday, which took place immediately after the senior luncheon, and said residents should follow the state’s recommendations.
“There’s no better time (than) now to be prepared,” Hakes said.
Nearly every city in Utah County has announced that they are temporarily closing their senior centers, including Provo, Orem, Lehi, Pleasant Grove, American Fork, Eagle Mountain, Lindon, Springville, Spanish Fork and Santaquin.
Orem announced that all public events through March 31 had been cancelled or postponed, including the Orem Senior Friendship Center’s Grammy Awards.
In a written statement, American Fork Mayor Brad Frost said the city’s senior center will continue offering meals for qualified seniors and that Meals on Wheels will be delivered to elderly residents as usual.
Mangum said Mapleton considered cancelling Thursday’s senior luncheon, but ultimately decided to hold it after sterilizing the city building it was held in.
“We thought the senior citizens would really miss this,” said Mangum. “We didn’t know if they would come, but … they all came, anyway.”
Wayne Wilding, 83, who attends the city’s senior luncheon every month, said seniors may be able to still gather next month if the state doesn’t extend its recommendations.
“So we may be able to continue,” Wilding said. “But if we see anything show up here in Mapleton, then we’re going to have to stop.”