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AM News Brief: Universities Face Uncertain Fall, X-Rays For COVID-19 Tests & Utah VP Debate On Track

Photo of campus.
Courtesy Utah State University
Colleges and universities face a lot of challenges in the wake of this pandemic. This and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, April 22, 2020

State

X-rays For COVID-19

Utah radiologists are part of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Now, they are implementing new measures to capture chest X-rays on suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients. The University of Utah Health is using portable X-ray machines to take images through glass observation rooms to conserve much-needed personal protective equipment and decrease direct contact between health professionals and patients. Dr. Phuong-Anh Duong said they use the X-rays on patients with more severe symptoms while they wait for COVID-19 tests to return from the lab. She also said they are using X-rays on less than 20% of COVID-19 patients. — Jessica Lowell

The Mechanics Of A Virtual Special Session

The Utah Legislature is in the midst of a special session, and for the first time ever, it’s entirely virtual. Representatives participate through a video WebEx call and vote through an online portal built by legislative staff. The system has had few noticeable glitches, other than a nationwide WebEx outage on the first day of the special session, which delayed Senate floor time for about an hour. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Northern Utah

VP Debate Still On For Utah

The University of Utah is still on tap to host the only scheduled debate between vice presidential contenders. Leaders of the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates for the 2020 general election said Tuesday that planning is on schedule despite the coronavirus pandemic. The first debate between President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden is slated for Sept. 29 at the University of Notre Dame. The U’s vice presidential debate is on the calendar for Oct. 7 at Kingsbury Hall. It marks the first time a national debate will be hosted in Utah, the only western state selected for the debates. — Associated Press

Murder Suspect Captured

West Jordan police say U.S. Marshals have captured Albert Enoch Johnson in California. The 31-year-old man is a suspect in the double murder of Tony and Katherine Butterfield of West Jordan. The couple were shot to death, and police said the Butterfields and the suspect knew each other. The couple's three young children were unharmed in the fatal home invasion that happened overnight Saturday. — Diane Maggipinto

Region

Universities Face Uncertain Fall

Colleges and universities face a lot of challenges in the wake of this pandemic. Revenue-boosting events have been canceled. States will likely cut budgets. And then there’s enrollment. If classes are still online in the fall, will people be willing to pay tuition for those courses? Many professors hope they do, saying that even if students are having a harder time with online courses now, professors will have more time to re-work lessons for that format by the fall. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Measuring Testing By Percent Positive

Testing is widely viewed as a major requirement in returning to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic. But how can you tell if a state is doing enough testing? Per capita testing is one measure but another is to look at the percentage of tests coming back positive. A high percent suggests only people with severe symptoms are getting the tests, instead of casting a wider net that would catch people with milder symptoms. In the Mountain West, states like New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Montana have a relatively good "test positivity" — about 5% or less have come back positive. In Nevada and Idaho, 10% or more tests have come back positive. And in Colorado, about 20% of tests have been positive, which is considered an indication the state isn't testing enough. — Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau

Forest Campfire Restrictions

The six national forest parcels in Arizona now have campfire restrictions. U.S. Forest Service rangers say the move to prevent drawdown of fire and medical resources on wildland blazes and reduce firefighter exposure to COVID-19. The restrictions are in place through June 30, around the time of summer monsoonal rains and reduced wildfire threat. The Kaibab National Forest is the closest to Utah, stretching north from the Grand Canyon to the border near the city of Page, Arizona. — Diane Maggipinto

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