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PM News Brief: Canceled Commencements, Political Tickets & Red Cross Donations

Three photos cropped together to show the Southern Utah University, University of Utah and Utah Valley University campuses
KUER file
Utah's public colleges and universities have postponed or canceled spring commencement to help with social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday evening, March 19, 2020

STATE

COVID-19 Update

As of Thursday afternoon, 78 people in Utah have tested positive for COVID-19. Angela Dunn, with the Utah Department of Health, said we’re still in the beginning stages of the spread of coronavirus. So far, more than 1,500 people have been tested here. — Jessica Lowell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utah Republican Convention Moves Online

The Utah Republican Convention is still on schedule for April 25, except it will be online due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Republican Party’s chairman says they are working with a private company to make sure online voting is secure for delegates. The party has also postponed its caucus night which was set to happen next Tuesday. The delegates from the convention are still scheduled to attend the national one later this year in North Carolina. — Grace Osusky

Universities Call Off Spring Commencement

Utah’s public colleges and universities are postponing or canceling spring commencement. The changes come after the state’s COVID-19 Community Task Force recommended limiting group gathering size to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus. Some universities have announced there may not be a makeup ceremony, while others, such as Dixie State, are asking seniors to take a survey for a possible new date to hold graduation. —  Grace Osusky

Standardized Testing Gets Waived

Year-end, standardized tests for elementary, middle and high school students have been called off. The Utah State Board of Education made the announcement Thursday. The decision comes after schools were dismissed for at least two weeks by the governor to help slow the spread of coronavirus. The Board says the tests were suspended because they wanted to avoid administering them online in an unsecure environment. — Grace Osusky

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox Picks His Running Mate

Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox announced Thursday, he had chosen state Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson as his running mate. In a video released by the Cox campaign, she credits her time serving as a senator for preparing her for this role. If elected, Henderson would be the second woman to be lieutenant governor in the state. — Jessica Lowell

SOUTHERN UTAH

San Juan County Stays Open For Business

Grand County and the Navajo Nation have both taken extreme measures to limit tourism and slow the spread of coronavirus. San Juan County is sandwiched between the two. And while hotels there remain open for business, they’re seeing a spike in cancellations, according to Natalie Randall, who heads up the county’s department of economic development. She says at least $500,000 in lost sales have been reported by businesses in the past two weeks. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Blanding

Neighboring Colorado County Ordered To Shelter In Place

San Miguel County in Southwest Colorado has issued a shelter in place order and will be testing all residents for coronavirus. San Miguel borders Utah’s San Juan County. The Denver Post reported it will be the first county in the United States to test all residents. County officials say tests will be offered free of charge to all residents and will be processed by a private lab in New York state. — Kate Groetzinger, Blanding

REGION

National Parks Waive Fees During Pandemic

While County health officials have temporarily banned any camping near the outdoor mecca of Moab, Utah, the Trump administration is encouraging more people to visit the nation’s public lands. But health officials near some national parks in the region have pleaded with visitors to stay away in hopes they can stop a potential surge of coronavirus patients. Read KUER’s full story here.Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau 

Red Cross Calls For Blood Donors

With the COVID-19 epidemic, blood drives on campuses and corporate offices across our region have been canceled. That’s led to a shortage of donor blood, but in our region, the American Red Cross says calls for more donors have had a strong response. Amanda Peacher, Mountain West News Bureau

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