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PM News Brief: Downward Unemployment Trend, No Local Control & Bar License Renewal

Photo of the Utah state capitol building.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
The Utah Legislature finished its first virtual special session Thursday, April 23, 2020.

Thursday evening, April 23, 2020

STATE

Utah Forms COVID-19 Multicultural Task Force

Utah’s coronavirus task force has a new subcommittee focused on addressing the needs of minority communities in Utah. Hispanic and Latinx Utahns have a higher rate of infection than the rest of the population. The subcommittee has already conducted a survey that found language and cultural barriers were preventing members of minority communities from receiving public health information, like social distancing guidelines. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

COVID-19 Update

The Utah Department of Health announced 167 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Thursday. It’s the largest single-day increase since April 4. The state now has seen over 3,600 total cases. So far, more than 80,000 Utahns have been tested for the virus. The state announced one new death, bringing the total to 35. Utah’s epidemiologist said there have been a total of 45 cases within the department of corrections — all in Salt Lake County. Eighteen of them are staff and the rest are inmates. — Ross Terrell

Utah Sees Downward Trend In Unemployment

Just under 20,000 Utahns filed new unemployment claims for the week of April 12-18. That’s down 18% from the week before. But the Department of Workforce Services said that is still a historic number of people but the state has been seeing a downward trend. An additional 7,000 Utahns applied for pandemic unemployment assistance which is for people not eligible for traditional benefits, such as self-employed and gig workers. Nearly $60 million in federal and state benefits were paid out last week. — Jon Reed

House Doesn’t Vote On Local Control Bill 

The Utah Legislature finished its first virtual special session Thursday, but lawmakers did not vote on a bill limiting the authority of local health orders. It would have allowed the governor to modify or veto those orders and required elected officials, not health departments, to be the ones to issue them. Republican Rep. Tim Hawkes many Utahns thought it gave local governments more power to issue health orders, and he may bring parts of the legislation back when there's more time to clear up misconceptions. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Purchases $800,000 Worth Of Hydroxychloroquine

The state of Utah has bought $800,000 worth of a controversial anti-malaria drug to treat COVID-19. A purchase order from the Utah Division of Purchasing and General Services showed the state bought 20,000 “medication packs” of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine in combination with zinc from local compounding pharmacy Meds in Motion. The signed purchase order dated March 31 shows that the state paid $40 each for the treatments. The Draper-based company’s chief executive Dan Richards said they have stockpiled ingredients purchased from China. Read the full story.Andrew Becker

Bar Owners Could Delay License Renewals

Utah bar owners might soon receive a grace period for license renewal fees, which are normally due at the end of May each year. The state House and Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday to let bar owners delay the $2,000 payment for 90 days, until the end of August. Utah’s governor has called for a soft opening of restaurants that could start May 1, but it is still unclear when bars will reopen. Now the bill heads to the governor for a signature. — Jessica Lowell

Legislature Approves Federal COVID-19 Funding

The Utah Legislature unanimously approved the distribution of federal COVID-19 funding during a special session Thursday. Some $20 million in grants will be used to support agriculture. Another $20 million will go toward the creation of a new housing program through the Department of Workforce Services. And $40 million will help small businesses with rent payments. That program is intended for businesses that didn’t receive assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program. — Emily Means

Legislative Committee Makes Recommendations To Governor

Utah’s Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission sent recommendations to Gov. Gary Herbert Wednesday to dial back the current social distancing guidance to slow the spread of COVID-19. For now the state is at a “red” level, or high risk. The commission wants that changed to “orange,” or moderate risk. At that level, some of the most stringent policies would be relaxed, like allowing restaurants to reopen for dine-in service with quote “extreme precaution.” The commission points to the success of Utah’s social distancing in keeping the rate of infection lower than other states. The governor has until the end of April to either adopt or reject the recommendations. — Caroline Ballard

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

REGION

N95 Masks Shouldn’t Be Recycled

Normally, hospital workers would throw away an N95 face mask after treating a patient. But with the mask shortage, that’s not always happening. A listener in Utah wondered if a mask would be good to go after a nurse sprayed it with isopropyl alcohol. The answer is no. A health care worker should not reuse a mask after helping with procedures like intubating a COVID-19 patient. — Amanda Peacher, Mountain West News Bureau

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

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