Mormon church suspends services over coronavirus

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday temporary suspension would start end of day

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SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suspending all temple activity due to concerns over the coronavirus.

The Utah-based faith said Wednesday that the temporary suspension would start at the end of the day, said Irene Caso, a church spokeswoman. The church said the decision was made after careful consideration and "with a desire to be responsible global citizens."

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Meanwhile, a Utah county hard hit by the new coronavirus is telling residents to stay home except for essential errands and asking visitors to the ski-resort community of Park City to stay away.

The shelter-in-place order issued Wednesday in Summit County is the first such declaration in the state. It has been a hotspot for cases statewide, and now has a similar number of cases per-capita as hard-hit New York City and parts of Italy, said Summit County Health Director Rich Bullough.

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The order tells people who live not to leave their homes except for essential reasons, like grocery shopping and picking up medications. Residents can go outside for walks but must stay at least six feet away from others, known as social distancing.

The Salt Lake Temple, at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

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It starts Friday and will be in place at least until May 1. Visitors planning new trips to Park City are being asked not to come, as well as those with second homes in the area.

Authorities expect hospitals to reach capacity as the disease progresses, and they hope the order will prevent the system from being overwhelmed, said County Council Chair Doug Clyde.

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Violations of the order are considered a misdemeanor. Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has repealed criminal penalties against gathering in groups elsewhere, but said the rate of infection in Summit County makes this order justified.

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For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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