SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City has issued new guidelines for those picking up missionaries returning home to self-isolate after large groups of family and friends recently congregated at the Salt Lake airport.
About 1,600 missionaries arrived at the Salt Lake City International Airport on Sunday after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that nonnative missionaries would return to their home countries and self-isolate before being reassigned to a domestic mission, thanks to the spread of COVID-19.
Though airport and church officials asked parents and guardians to go to the airport alone and avoid large welcome parties for the missionaries, family and friends gathered in a large, close group in the parking lot, waiting for the missionaries to come out.
"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," said Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in a tweet.
Salt Lake City has now issued new guidelines in coordination with the church and the airport.
Those picking up missionaries will be asked to park on the second level of the short-term parking garage and remain in their car. Missionaries will then be directed to the parking area to be picked up, and one vehicle will be allowed to pick up a missionary.
“We know how important it is to reunite with a family member during this time but we have to adhere to mass gathering standards, which are in place to protect us. Lives are on the line and every precaution must be taken to help stop the quick spread of this dangerous illness,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said in an emailed statement.
The guidelines are "common-sense measures," and it is "imperative that missionaries and their families adhere to these guidelines for their own safety, the safety of their families, and the safety of the community," said church spokesman Eric Hawkins.
Thousands of missionaries will soon return home to self-isolate for 14 days before being reassigned to a new mission in their home countries. This includes missionaries in all the missionary training centers around the world.
"Over the next week or so, all missionaries at the Church's 10 MTCs worldwide are in the process of traveling to their missions or returning home to self-isolate. All impacted missionaries and their families are receiving information regarding travel dates and other logistics, including details of their new assignments if they were originally planning to serve outside their home country," church spokesman Daniel Woodruff said in an emailed statement.
Picking up a @Ch_JesusChrist missionary at @slcairport? Congrats! NOTE:— SLC Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) March 23, 2020
🛩 Remain in vehicle
🛩One vehicle allowed per missionary
🛩 Park on 2nd level of short-term garage
🛩 Airport staff will direct missionaries to parking area and security will monitor adherence to guidelines
Missionaries in the training centers who have assignments to a foreign country will be reassigned to a domestic mission.
Monday's guidelines are just the latest in the response from the church on the pandemic.
The church closed its Bountiful temple over the weekend.
On Monday, church officials confirmed the only Utahn to die of the illness so far had attended the Bountiful temple last week before he was diagnosed.