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PM News Brief: Economic Recovery Plan, Homeless Cases and Safe Business Rally

Photo of downtown Salt Lake City.
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Utah Gov. Gary Herbert on Friday announced that he wants some businesses to reopen starting May 1.

Friday evening, April 17, 2020

STATE

Legislatures Grant Hydroxychloroquine Immunity

The Utah Legislature passed a bill Friday granting immunity from lawsuits to health care providers that give their patients experimental drugs to treat diseases causing a public health emergency. The immunity also covers any medication used for a different purpose than the Food and Drug Administration has approved it for. President Donald Trump and some state leaders have suggested the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine could be an effective treatment against COVID-19. But there’s no medical evidence it works and there are potentially dangerous side effects. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Governor Announces Plan To Reopen State Economy

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert introduced new details to his economic “Utah Leads Together 2.0” plan Friday. By early May the governor wants to start reopening dining in at restaurants, resuming elective surgeries, reopening gyms and relaxing some social distancing restrictions such as the ones on state parks. But if you are in that vulnerable population — if you’re over the age of 60 or if you have underlying health conditions — be cautious. Utah may reopen in phases but right now it’s still in the red when you talk about the risk the state faces. — Ross Terrell

More Than 400 Utahns Recovered From COVID-19

Utah health officials announced two more COVID-19 related deaths Friday bringing the state’s total to 23. There have been more than 2,800 confirmed cases of the virus here. But the state continues to test a large number of people as nearly 56,000 Utahns have been checked for the novel coronavirus. And as of now, more than 400 people have recovered from COVID-19. —  Ross Terrell

Campaign Launched To Produce Five Million Masks

A group of Utah health care providers launched a grassroots campaign Friday to produce personal protective equipment for health care workers. They will enlist volunteers to help sew 5 million medical-grade masks. It’s a partnership between Intermountain Healthcare, the University of Utah, and Latter-day Saint Charities. Volunteers will be given kits to make the masks, with each one expected to take about 10 minutes. Intermountain Healthcare said the state hasn’t run out of protective equipment yet, but could be short if the expected peak in coronavirus cases hits. — Jon Reed

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

NORTHERN UTAH

Homeless Cases Spike In Salt Lake County

Ninety-four out of 205 men in one of Salt Lake County’s Homeless Resource Centers have tested positive for COVID-19. It comes after the center’s first two cases were identified last week and county health officials rushed to prevent further spread. Officials said some of the measures they took — including extra cleaning and daily health screenings — held positive cases back as long as possible, but couldn’t prevent them altogether. Resource centers and other congregant living environments are similar to households, where virus transmission rates are typically between 25-50%. — Jon Reed 

Saturday “Safe Business Rally” Planned 

Local business supporters plan to gather in downtown Salt Lake City this weekend for what they’re calling a “safe business rally.” The Utah Business Revival Facebook group asked people to bring dinner from a local restaurant and to keep 7 feet apart from each other. The rally takes place at 5 p.m. Saturday, at a location yet to be determined. Salt Lake County lifted its stay-at-home order Friday evening. — Emily Means

SOUTHERN UTAH

San Juan Drops Travel Restrictions

San Juan County has dropped its travel restriction put in place nearly three weeks ago. The move coincides with an announcement Friday by Gov. Gary Herbert relaxing restrictions on visiting state parks. The travel ban was an attempt to help slow the spread of coronavirus. But San Juan health director Kirk Benge said tourism no longer poses a threat to the county’s health care system. He said they will have enough hospital beds to treat people who get COVID-19 — as long as residents continue to practice social distancing. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

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