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AM News Brief: Protection From COVID Lawsuits, Looping In Lawmakers & A Cross-Country Food Delivery

Photo of canned goods.
Utah Food Bank
Volunteers with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints drove across the country to deliver what turned out to be the largest food donation in history for one food bank in Virginia. This and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, April 24, 2020

State

Shielding Businesses From COVID-19 Lawsuits

Utah lawmakers passed legislation during Thursday’s special session that protects individuals and businesses from being sued in civil lawsuits if someone thinks they contracted COVID-19 from a person or business. The bill makes exceptions for things like willful misconduct and reckless harm. Democrats and some Republicans argued the blanket immunity would decrease compliance with health and safety standards. — Emily Means

Leg Approves Another $6 Million For Controversial COVID-19 Treatment

The Utah Legislature voted on how to spend more than a billion dollars in federal money Thursday toward the state’s coronavirus response. That includes a controversial move to set aside $6 million in federal funding to stockpile drugs to treat COVID-19. Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful, who is also a practicing physician, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to stop the state from stockpiling drugs for a purpose not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brad Last, R-Hurricane, said that if they wait to buy the drugs, it may be too late. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Looping In The Legislature

The Utah Legislature passed a bill Thursday that would require the governor to give legislative leaders advance notice of executive orders during a pandemic. The bill faced pushback from Gov. Gary Herbert over concerns about separation of powers. After discussions with his office, the Legislature amended the bill so that the governor would have to give 24 hours notice rather than 48. That notice would not be required if there’s an imminent threat of loss of life, serious bodily injury or substantial harm to property. — Sonja Hutson

Cross Country Food Delivery

Volunteers with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints drove across the country to deliver what turned out to be the largest food donation in history for one food bank in Virginia. The Interfaith Food Pantry of Blacksburg received nearly 18 tons of nonperishable food that originated from an overstocked Church facility in Utah. A dozen trucks from the central storehouse in Salt Lake City have also delivered food to other groups in West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. — Associated Press

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Region

Quicker Oil & Gas Application Reviews

A report published Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office shows that the Bureau of Land Management has reduced the time spent reviewing oil and gas drilling permits by more than half. The report’s author says that could mean the BLM is getting more efficient. But, it could also mean that environmental reviews are being rushed to favor industry. According to the report, more than 2,000 oil and gas drilling applications were submitted in Colorado between 2013-2019. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

Navajo Nation COVID-19 Cases

Navajo officials reported a slight uptick of COVID-19 cases Thursday. The 78 new positives include a total of 19 cases on the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation. Health officials also announced three more deaths across the tribal lands, bringing the sum to 52. The Navajo Epidemiology Center says the Nation has not yet reached its peak. Another weekend curfew begins at 8 p.m. Friday and will remain in place until Monday at 5 a.m. Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said last weekend police issued more than 100 citations for curfew violations. — Diane Maggipinto

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