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PM News Brief: Saliva Testing, Winter Inversion & Utah Inmates

Photo of doors inside the jail
KUER file
A Salt Lake County inmate has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an announcement from the Sheriff's Office Thursday.

Thursday evening, April 2, 2020

STATE

Utah Unemployment Continues To Rise

Utah, along with the rest of the country, continues to see huge spikes in the number of unemployment claims. Nearly 30,000 more Utahns filed for benefits for the week of March 22-28 compared to the week before. The state’s unemployment director Kevin Burt said the numbers are unprecedented, but not surprising given how much the economy has slowed along with efforts to keep the coronavirus at bay. Read KUER’s full story. — Jon Reed

State Partners With Tech Companies For Coronavirus Testing

A state partnership with a group of tech companies will get Utah close to its goal of 7,000 coronavirus tests-per-day in the next couple of weeks, Gov. Gary Herbert said Thursday. The tech companies have set up two new test sites in Utah County and plan to open another six around the state. The group has also launched an online survey that asks people about their symptoms and exposure to people who tested positive. The goal is to help the state gather more data on the pandemic and send resources where they are most needed. Read KUER’s full story.Sonja Hutson

Gov. Herbert Vetoes Tax Credit Bills

Gov. Gary Herbert vetoed four bills that would have made changes to state tax credits. One bill would have created a scholarship for kids with special needs from first through 12th grade. Herbert also rejected bills that would have given tax credits for nine more years to companies using semi-trucks that operate on cleaner fuel, provided tax relief for energy companies using hydrogen electrolysis systems and repealed a tax exemption for train fuel sales and used the money for railroad crossing construction projects. — Sonja Hutson

Winter Inversion Season Has Ended

The 2019-20 winter inversion season has officially ended according to the Utah Department of Environmental Quality Division of Air Quality. That means the division will stop issuing Action Forecasts, which advise people what to do to limit their air pollution, like avoiding burning and reducing car use. Only two areas in the state reached unhealthy levels this winter — Cache Valley in January and Salt Lake City in December. Action Forecasts will resume in the summer months to deal with Ozone levels.— Caroline Ballard

COVID-19 Update

As of Thursday, Utah has seen 1,074 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The state’s department of health has also stopped tracking visitor cases to comply with guidelines from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention. Instead those will be reported in people’s home states. The state also amended its order banning restaurants from providing dine in service to last until April 15. More than 21,000 people in Utah have been tested and there have been seven deaths.— Jessica Lowell

NORTHERN UTAH

Tier 3 Fuel Production To Increase

HollyFrontier company will begin producing Tier 3 fuel at its refinery north of Salt Lake City. That gas will be supplied to filling stations along the Wasatch Front. Tier 3 gasoline is a type of fuel with reduced sulfur content to help reduce pollution. Utah’s Tier 3 program aims to address pollution and air quality in the state.— Caroline Ballard

First Utah Inmate Tests Positive For COVID-19

A Salt Lake County inmate has tested positive for COVID-19, according to an announcement from the Sheriff’s Office Thursday. It’s the first positive case in a Utah detention facility. The inmate is one of six in the county who have been tested for the virus — out of roughly 1,400. The Sheriff’s Office said the prisoner is being isolated and more than 50 other inmates from the same unit have been moved to medical quarantine cells. — Jon Reed

SOUTHERN UTAH

Federal Funding Headed To Navajo Nation

The Department of Justice announced Wednesday that it is making $850 million available to state, local, and tribal governments in response to COVID-19. Around $2.6 million of that is available to governments in Utah, including the Navajo Nation. That’s according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Utah. The money can be used to hire staff, pay overtime, buy protective equipment, and deliver aid to areas hard-hit by the coronavirus.  — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

REGION

Nevada To Test Residents’ Saliva For COVID-19

Researchers in our region are looking to increase the availability of a new type of COVID-19 test, using saliva. The Healthy Nevada Project is a public-private partnership that is now the largest community-based population health study of its kind in the world. It is essentially collecting DNA samples from the saliva of 50,000 Nevadans with the goal of reaching a million samples statewide. Now the project is looking at whether that same collection method can be used to test for COVID-19. Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

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