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IRC in Salt Lake City responds to COVID-19

As of Wednesday, March 18th and until further notice, the IRC in Salt Lake City will close our office and all of our staff will begin working remotely. We continue to provide vital services to the refugees we serve, from staff home offices, kitchens and more. While our center of operations may be closed, refugee families need our support now more than ever—and you can help!

Be the first to support our response to COVID-19 by donating to our Emergency Response Fund>

Photo of handwashing, close up of hands. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City is focused on helping refugee families through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

During this widespread emergency, refugee families will be disproportionately affected by the impacts of COVID-19 on our community. Refugee families need our support now more than ever—and you can help!

Photo: Tara Todras-Whitehill/IRC

When we first heard of COVID-19 cases appearing in the U.S., the IRC in Salt Lake City began planning to develop a comprehensive mitigation response. Our top priority is the health and safety of the people we serve, as well as our staff and incredible volunteers. We are also committed to continuing our services for refugee families and other immigrant community members who need our help during this critical time.

During this widespread emergency, refugee families will be disproportionately affected by the impacts of COVID-19 on our community. Upon arrival, refugee families new to Utah feel isolated and removed from their former communities of support. They expect to live in a place of safety where they can focus on a new life without trauma. And they leave behind loved ones in distant countries hoping to be reunited someday but are no longer connected when an emergency strikes. 

With schools and other essential services closed or limited across Utah, newly arrived refugee families need our support to continue to access basic needs as well as recover from the impacts of COVID-19 on their livelihoods. Our team is hard at work remotely connecting with over 2,000 refugees and focusing essential services on the most vulnerable households—those with children, the elderly or high-risk health needs—to offer critical assistance as we see the impacts of broader community spread in Salt Lake County.

Here’s how you can help:


The IRC in Salt Lake City has created an Emergency Response Fund to help local refugee families impacted by COVID-19. Donate today>

Contribute Gift Cards.

To ensure refugee families can access essential supplies, mail us gift cards to stores like Walmart, Target and Smith's in amounts between $20-$50. Gift cards like these help families purchase vital supplies and empower them to make these important choices for themselves. Learn more by emailing us at DonateSLC [at] rescue.org.

Share reliable information.

Misinformation can create fear and hostility that hurts people and makes it harder to keep everyone healthy. We have compiled a number of multilingual, informational resources. Share today>

For more information, visit coronavirus.utah.gov or call the Utah Coronavirus Hotline at 1-800-456-7707. You can continue to receive our updates with new resources by:

Following us on Facebook | Receiving our monthly e-newsletter

Together, we can:

Make up for reduced access to essential services

When schools and daycare centers close, refugee families often do not have other options for childcare and will have to miss work to care for their children. The IRC in Salt Lake City will work with families over the coming weeks and months to mitigate childcare concerns or loss of wages to ensure they stay in their homes.

Help families impacted by interruptions to employment and unexpected leaves of absence

Many refugees work in industries being hit hardest by COVID-19, including hospitality, food service, airports/airlines and others. This means many families—who were on the path to self-sufficiency before COVID-19—will need extra support with rent, utilities and other basic needs in the coming weeks and months.

Ensure children continue to receive an education

Many refugee families are facing the same challenges other Utahns face: their kids need to continue their education from home. Our education team is working closely with schools to help deliver laptops and other school work, connect parents to resources as they begin to work on home-school efforts, and follow up with families to ensure children continue learning. When families do not have a laptop or internet access, our team is working to supply needed equipment and work with families to access internet service quickly

Support refugees and immigrants at a higher risk for COVID-19

One of our first priorities is ensuring people at higher risk for the illness have the information and resources they need to stay healthy. Our team is working tirelessly to provide individualized outreach to all refugee families—over 2,000 individuals—served by the IRC in Salt Lake City, so they understand COVID-19, how to contact their doctor and how to keep their families safe.

We appreciate all you do year-round to support newcomers in our community. Together, we can ensure our newest neighbors feel supported during the COVID-19 pandemic. The IRC in Salt Lake City is here for refugees and immigrants no matter what. Thanks for being right here with us.

Impacts on our work in Salt Lake City:

  • Staff from across programming in Salt Lake City are currently reaching out to hundreds of refugee families—over 2,000 individuals—to check on their health and safety, gain a better understanding of the unique challenges each family faces, and work on an individualized response plan for high-risk individuals. 
  • As of Monday, March 16th, the IRC in Salt Lake City's leadership team decided to suspend all volunteer activities until further notice to ensure the safety of community volunteers supporting our work.
  • As of Wednesday, March 18th, after Salt Lake City experienced a 5.7 magnitude earthquake and in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRC in Salt Lake City closed the doors to its office until further notice, sending all staff to work remotely to do our part to prevent community spread of the virus.
  • All group volunteer opportunities, community events, workshops and classes have been canceled until May 1st or until further notice in accordance with guidance received from local, state, and federal officials.
  • Learn about the latest impacts on our work and our efforts to mitigate these challenges by following the IRC in Salt Lake City on Facebook>

Help prevent community spread of COVID-19 by:

We compiled a number of multilingual, information resources to ensure accurate information is shared about COVID-19. Visit our resource page>

A few simple ways you can help prevent community spread of COVID-19:

  1. Wash your hands properly. Frequently clean your hands by using soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. You can get the virus by touching a variety of common surfaces such as doorknobs. So, avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes unless your hands are thoroughly cleaned.
  2. Cover your coughs and sneezes. When coughing and sneezing, cover your mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – discard the tissue immediately and wash your hands.
  3. Practice physical distancing. Avoid close contact (maintain at least six feet/two-meters distance) with everyone in public, especially anyone who has a fever or a cough.
  4. Wear cloth face coverings in public. The CDC now recommends wearing a cloth face-covering in public settings where physical distancing is difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.). Continue to practice physical distancing while wearing face coverings. Some counties are now requiring face masks in public settings. Check local health department guidelines for updates on requirements and recommendations. 
  5. Stay home, especially if you feel sick. If you are sick with fever or cough, stay home. Follow guidance and "Stay Home" orders given by your local, state and federal health officials.

For more information, visit coronavirus.utah.gov or call the Utah Coronavirus Hotline at 1-800-456-7707.

Questions? Email us at SaltLakeCity [at] rescue.org.