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AM News Brief: Legislative Economic Priority, State Financial Relief and Utah's Unemployment Rate

Photo of Utah Capitol.
Austen Diamond for KUER
A bill making its way through the Utah legislature would offer rental and housing assistance to small businesses and residents. This and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, April 20, 2020


COVID-19 Claims Four More Utah Lives

Utah now has more than 3,000 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of 138 on Sunday. The Department of Health also reported four more deaths over the weekend. They include a woman in Utah County and a Salt Lake County man who were both older than 60; it’s unknown if they had underlying medical conditions. The other two were both over 85 years old, had been living in a Salt Lake County long-term care facility and had underlying medical conditions. An estimated 679 people have recovered and more than 63,000 people have been tested. — Sonja Hutson

National Guard COVID-19 Cases

The Utah National Guard has recorded 8 cases of COVID-19 so far. But none of those have been made public until now, and more could be coming soon. Read the full story. — David Fuchs

Utah House Declares Economic Health A Priority

The Utah House of Representatives has formally declared its COVID-19 response priorities, saying economic concerns should hold as much weight as health concerns — if not more. The vote came the same day Gov. Gary Herbert announced changes to his office’s economic recovery plan, including potentially resuming in-house dining by early May. — Sonja Hutson

Legislature Considers Funding Financial Relief

A bill making its way through the Utah legislature would offer rental and housing assistance to small businesses and residents. The Senate unanimously passed a bill late last week that funds $40 million to use for commercial rental assistance. Small business owners could receive a month of free rent. It would also fund $20 million to Utahns assistance in securing and obtaining housing through the Department of Workforce Services. Finally, the bill would fund grants for farmers. It still needs House approval. — Jessica Lowell

Utah Unemployment Rate

Judging by Utah’s latest job’s report, the state’s economy fared well in March. More jobs were added and the unemployment rate sits at 3.6%. That data, though, is a month old and doesn't take into account the rapid economic slump seen after social distancing measures were put in place. Based on the historic number of unemployment claims recently filed in the state, the actual unemployment rate is at least 9%. Still, those early estimates put the state in much better standing than the rest of the country, where some estimates have put the unemployment rate closer to 20%. — Jon Reed

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Amber Alert Review

Following an Amber Alert with no useful information that was sent at 3:33 a.m. Sunday morning, the Utah Department of Public Safety said it will stop using the wireless emergency alert system for Amber Alerts until it can determine the problem. The system sent the alert to cell phones statewide, and some phones received it multiple times. The Wireless Emergency Alert system will still be available for evacuation orders and other civil emergencies during the review, and Amber Alerts will still be sent to law enforcement, the news media and via social media. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Protest Over Closure Policies Draws Hundreds

Hundreds of people gathered at the Salt Lake City and County Building Saturday protesting local and state policies that have shut down non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Organizers of the Utah Business Revival rally encouraged families and friends to bring dinner from a local restaurant for a picnic and asked people to keep seven feet apart. Most of the hundreds of participants though were in close proximity to each other as they chanted and cheered for Utah businesses to reopen immediately. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Double Homicide In West Jordan

West Jordan police say they're making some progress investigating a weekend double murder. Officers say Tony and Katherine Butterfield, age 31 and 30, were killed at their home. Their three children, all under the age of four, were not hurt. The couple were discovered after dispatch received a call sometime before dawn Saturday. — Diane Maggipinto


Are The Deceased Being Tested For COVID-19?

A listener from Idaho asked whether deceased people are being tested for coronavirus. And if they were, would that show a higher death rate from the virus? University of Wyoming public health expert Christine Porter said there aren’t enough tests right now to do that, but that in counties where the confirmed death rate from COVID–19 is low, there probably aren’t a lot of misdiagnoses. However, cities like New York and Wuhan, China have retroactively discovered thousands of deaths that were probably caused by the virus. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

You can submit your own questions about COVID-19 here.

Navajo Nation Tribal Council Convenes

Forty-four people have died of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation, at an average age of 66 according to the Navajo Nation. Tribal government has ordered all people in its vast territory to wear protective masks in public to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. As of Saturday, nearly 1,200 had tested positive for COVID-19, with 14 in San Juan County on the Utah portion of the reservation. The Navajo Nation Tribal Council convened Monday morning, after President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer vetoed a resolution that sought to cancel its regular quarterly session. They said that with proper equipment and teleconferencing, the session can proceed. — Associated Press

Boosting Broadband On The Navajo Nation

The Navajo Nation now has temporary authority to use unassigned airwaves to boost wireless broadband. The Federal Communications Commission granted a request to help the tribe's emergency response to the coronavirus outbreak. The FCC said the move should help residents working from home on the reservation and provide support for telemedicine and remote learning. Many residents in remote areas without broadband service sit in vehicles parked near local government centers, fast-food restaurants and grocery stores to connect to Wi-Fi. — Associated Press

Correction 10:24 a.m. MDT 4/20/2020: A previous version of this story misstated the number of postive cases on the Navajo Nation as of Saturday. It has been updated with the correct number.

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