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PM News Brief: COVID-19 Testing Tents, Free Breakfast & The Trouble With Falling Gas Prices

Photo of blue domed tents.
Grace Osusky
he University of Utah Hospital has set up testing tents for COVID-19 screening. This story and more in the Monday evening news brief.

Monday evening, March 9, 2020


Jail Transparency

Two bills requiring more transparency for county jails across Utah passed state legislative committees Monday. One bill requires county jails to report more information on inmate deaths to the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, including which law enforcement agency made the arrest and the gender and race of the deceased inmate. That bill passed a committee unanimously and now heads to the Senate floor. The other piece of legislation would make the operating procedures of jails and prisons public information. But there are exceptions when it comes to policies for the facility’s security. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Free School Breakfast Reversal

Under the Start Smart Utah breakfast program, beginning next school year students who already get free or reduced lunch could receive free breakfast as well. Last Wednesday, a Senate committee killed the bill, but the same committee brought it back and unanimously passed it Monday. The bill has already passed the House and goes next to the full Senate . — Jessica Lowell

Northern Utah

COVID-19 Testing Isolation Tents

TThe tents use negative pressure systems to keep the same air inside, but recycle it 15-17 times per hour to keep it sanitary. First, patients are sent to a pre-triage tent to see if their symptoms match COVID-19. If symptoms do match, they're sent to testing tents outside of the hospital. If symptoms do not, they are allowed to go inside the hospital to the emergency department. The tents can hold between 25 and 50 people, and similar ones were prepared during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009. — Grace Osusky

Intermountain Healthcare Visitation Policy

Monday, Intermountain Healthcare changed its visiting policy in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus. The new restrictions are modeled after recommendations by the Center for Disease Control, like only allowing two people at a time to visit a patient and asking people who are sick to stay away. Also, no patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed visitors. The changes come just days after the first confirmed coronavirus case in Utah.The policies include hospitals, clinics, InstaCares and physician offices. — Grace Osusky

Weber State Student Privacy

The Weber School District in Ogden has started using computer software that monitors student Google accounts for activity that may be concerning. The software is called “Bark” and flags mentions of self-harm, drugs or weapons. If something is flagged, administrators receive bits of conversations or copies of Google documents that have the concerning content. Parents can also choose to receive notifications but will only receive information about their own child. The school district says it alerted parents and students about the new program. — Associated Press

LDS Church Investment Filings

A filing shows The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints' largest investment fund had nearly $38 billion at the end of 2019. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the fund submitted the filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Feb. 14. A former church investment manager has filed a complaint with the IRS alleging the church had improperly built a $100 billion investment portfolio using member donations that are supposed to go to charitable causes. The church is not required to include investments in property or private companies in the filing. A church spokesman declined to answer questions about why the recent filing was made. — Associated Press


Wyoming Feels Pinch Of Falling Oil And Gas Prices

Oil and gas prices fell 25% since Friday — the biggest drop since 1991. It doesn’t bode well for states in our region that rely on revenue from new oil production. Wyoming, for example, gets about 20% of its taxes from oil alone, the second highest contributor to state revenue. The president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming said a sustained price decline will hurt companies and the state.He predicts the price dip could last six weeks on the low end, but anticipates it lasting closer to 3 months. A leading lawmaker here says for every time the cost of a barrel drops by a dollar, Wyoming takes a $12.5 million hit to the state’s budget. Since last Friday, that means the state is looking at a decline in about $130 million. — Cooper McKim, Mountain West News Bureau

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