SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are coming home as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the world. But a large crowd greeted them at the airport when state leaders have urged people to keep distant from each other right now.
The church decided to pull a “substantial number” of missionaries from foreign countries including 1,600 non-native missionaries from the Philippines during new travel restrictions.
Many arrived at the Salt Lake International Airport over the weekend.
There were crowds of people with signs waiting not at the escalators like in the past, but in the parking garage.
.@slcairport worked with the Church to limit the number coming to the airport yesterday to two per missionary. All were told to wait in their cars until their missionary arrived. Moving forward, it is critical for the health and safety of all, that everyone follows our request.
— SaltLakeCityAirport (@slcairport) March 23, 2020
Nancy Volmer with the Salt Lake International Airport says that they had a policy in place, but that the policy wasn’t followed.
“We’re trying to get the word out. If you’re coming out to the airport, you need to limit the number of people coming,” she says.
Volmer told KSL NewsRadio’s Dave and Dujanovic that they had worked with the church to get the word out that those coming to pick up missionaries and reminded families at the gate to remain in their cars.
That large turnout did not sit well with state leaders. Utahns are supposed to be practicing social distancing and limiting groups to 10 people that stay 6 feet apart.
Governor Herbert tweeted his concern. He urged parents to go to the airport alone to pick up their returning missionaries
As missionaries return home due to the spread of COVID-19 across the globe, they should not be met by big groups of family or friends. Large welcome parties are dangerous and could greatly increase the spread of coronavirus in our state.
— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) March 23, 2020
Lt. Governor Spencer Cox said he was really disappointed in the behavior as well.
Really disappointed in the behavior we saw from missionary families at the SLC airport tonight. I get it, I’ve been there (and still have a child serving), but this is unacceptable. In a time of shared sacrifice, we must do better to save lives. #SocialDistancing
— Spencer Cox (@SpencerJCox) March 23, 2020
Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also voiced her concern saying that the health of the community as a whole relies on individuals using good judgment.
I’ve seen photos of large groups of people gathered at the @slcairport yesterday. Our community’s health relies on individuals using good judgment. Just because you aren’t forcibly barred from doing something doesn’t mean it’s OK. We’re working to ensure it won’t happen again pic.twitter.com/VeNPYsqTZk
— SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) March 23, 2020
Church leaders have issued a plea that returning missionaries only be greeted by parents or guardians. All returning missionaries will undergo a voluntary 14-day self-quarantine.
“Parents or guardians should go to the airport alone to meet a returning missionary and practice safe social distancing while there. That way, the missionary is able to properly begin self-isolation. Upon returning home, missionaries should strictly follow the self-isolation recommendations of the CDC which include limiting contact with others and avoiding leaving their homes for any reason. They are encouraged to stay in a well-ventilated room, preferably alone. If that isn’t possible, the missionary should stay 6 feet away from others in the room. They should use good hygiene and regularly wash their hands. If a missionary develops any symptoms of a respiratory illness, they should contact a local health provider.
“We ask families, friends, and community members to help support and encourage missionaries to follow these guidelines to help prevent any potential spread of illness and to keep missionaries and those around them safe.”
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