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PM News Brief: Plasma Treatment, Merit Medical Testing Kits, & Navajo Curve Flattening

Photo of a man speaking at a podium
Ross Terrell
/
KUER
Intermountain Healthcare and the Red Cross are asking people who have already had and beaten COVID-19 to donate plasma, which will be given to sick patients with severe cases of the virus as a potential treatment.

Tuesday evening, April 21, 2020

STATE

Doctors’ Mental Health In A Pandemic

Health care providers are on the frontlines in the fight against the coronavirus. As they head in to work each day to confront a virus that is both unpredictable and highly contagious, it’s highlighting the need for them to be taken care of as well. Read the full story.Jon Reed

Four More COVID-19 Deaths

Utah health officials announced four new COVID-19 related deaths Tuesday. That brings the state’s total to 32 and marks the most deaths in a day since April 5. All of the four people who died were over the age of 60, hospitalized and had underlying medical conditions. Utah’s epidemiologist said so far, half of the state’s total deaths have been people living in long term care facilities. More than 72,000 people have been tested for coronavirus in Utah. And there have been about 3,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19. — Ross Terrell

Merit Medical Testing Kits

Merit Medical will soon start producing COVID-19 testing kits. Gov. Gary Herbert toured the facility Tuesday and said having more testing supplies could help parts of the state re-open sooner. Merit will start producing 10,000 kits a day, which include a swab, a re-agent to transport it to the lab, and a biohazard bag. The goal is to eventually produce 50,000 daily. Herbert said the state has already ordered nearly half a million. — Ross Terrell

Plasma As COVID-19 Treatment

Intermountain Healthcare and the Red Cross are asking for people who have already had and have beaten COVID-19 to donate plasma. That plasma will then be given to sick patients with severe cases of the virus as a potential treatment. Dr. Brandon Webb, with Intermountain, said the hope is that people who are recovered will have developed antibodies that can help others but it’s still investigative therapies. There is also no clear cut evidence of benefit. In order to donate, people must have laboratory evidence of having had the virus and been recovered and symptom free for at least 28 days. —  Ross Terrell

Sen. Romney Calls For Financial Help

Sen. Mitt Romney is pushing for more financial resources for rural communities during the COVID-19 crisis. He and nearly two dozen senators from both parties are asking Senate leaders to reauthorize two programs to help fund essential services in rural counties. The Payments in Lieu of Taxes program and the Secure Rural Schools Act provide Interior Department funding to rural counties without a large tax base. They support infrastructure, schools and public health programs. —  Emily Means

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

NORTHERN UTAH

Salt Lake County Convention Results

Republican state Rep. Steve Christiansen will face a challenger in the party’s primary in late June. New results from Salt Lake County’s convention show Christiansen received 54% of delegates’ votes, and his opponent — business owner Nathan Brown — got nearly 46% of the vote. It’s a rematch for Christiansen and Brown: They both ran for the seat last fall after the previous incumbent resigned. Christiansen sponsored a controversial bill earlier this year, which did not pass, that would have required an ultrasound 72 hours before an abortion. — Sonja Hutson

SOUTHERN UTAH

Navajo Curve Flattening

The Navajo Nation has reported that the spread of COVID-19 is showing signs of leveling off on the reservation. President Jonathan Nez made the announcement Tuesday, citing a new report prepared by the Nation’s epidemiology team. COVID-19 has hit the Navajo Nation hard. The death rate there is almost 30 times higher than Utah’s, and its infection rate is seven times higher. But the Nation has stepped up testing in recent weeks, performing more tests per capita than every state except New York. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

REGION

Crude Oil Futures Plummet

Crude oil futures dropped into the negatives for the first time in history, dipping over 200% in just a day. Oil futures represent the cost of a barrel next month so a producer can lock into a contract now. But the market took a wild dive as producers ran out of space to store the oil. So, producers sold at a major loss just to get rid of it. — Cooper McKim, Wyoming Public Radio

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