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PM News Brief: Utah Economic Plan, Wasatch Fault & 'Banjo' Surveillance

A map of the segments
U.S. Geological Survey
The Wasatch fault system runs from southern Idaho to central Utah and is divided into segments. Last month's 5.7 magnitude earthquake took place in the Salt Lake City segment.

Tuesday evening, April 28, 2020

STATE

Hydroxychloroquine Price Gouging Complaint

A progressive advocacy group has alleged Draper-based pharmacy Meds in Motion charged the state too much for 20,000 doses of a controversial anti-malaria drug used to treat COVID-19. Alliance for a Better Utah filed a price gouging complaint Tuesday with the Utah Department of Commerce. The complaint said Meds in Motion sold the state hydroxychloroquine at almost double the average retail price and more than 20 times the lowest available price on GoodRX, a website that tracks prescription prices. Meds in Motion’s CEO did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

State Economy Reopening

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said that on Friday, the state will move from the high risk phase of its COVID-19 pandemic response — which is red — to the moderate phase — orange — as officials plan a soft re-opening of Utah’s economy. But this is not going back to business as usual. The idea is to open up more economic activity and allow in-house dining as long as restaurants can keep people 6 feet away from each other. Gyms and salons are also going to be able to open up under this new phase, as long as they follow similarly strict protocols. While orange does mean moderate risk for most people, vulnerable populations are still in the high risk zone. — Sonja Hutson

Four More COVID Deaths

Four more COVID-19 related deaths were announced Tuesday by the Utah Department of Health. All had underlying conditions and were Salt Lake County residents. Two were in a long-term care facility while the others had been hospitalized. Confirmed cases of the virus in Utah have topped 4,300, but the state is starting to see a plateau in new cases. So far, more than 102,000 Utahns have been tested for COVID-19. The state also announced a new effort to produce 2 million reusable masks for Utahns. The masks are free and people can order one online, though priority will be given to vulnerable populations. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Banjo Founder Former KKK Member

The Utah Attorney General’s office announced Tuesday it will suspend the use of Banjo surveillance technology, after a report revealed the company’s founder, Damien Patton, was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Patton joined the Nashville-area Dixie Knights as a teenager in the late 80s and early 90s according to records and was behind the wheel during a drive-by shooting at a synagogue. In a statement in the new report, Patton said he was a desperate youth when this took place and that he is ashamed of his actions. Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a press release no one in his office was aware of these affiliations. — Caroline Ballard

NORTHERN UTAH

ARUP Antibody Testing

Utah based ARUP Laboratories has started antibody testing for COVID-19. The non-profit lab, run by the University of Utah, is accepting samples from health care providers and hospitals nationwide. And officials said they hope to soon be able to do 30,000 antibody tests a day. Since mid-March, ARUP said they have identified more than half of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. Right now, they can test up to 4,500 people a day for the virus. — Grace Osusky

Wasatch Fault Study

The Utah Geological Survey has released new data with detailed mapping of the Wasatch fault system. The report is the result of a four-year study, which used high-resolution elevation surveys. It looks at past surface ruptures along the Wasatch Fault System in Utah and Idaho, and which areas are at-risk for the most damage in future earthquakes. The data also identifies “special study zones” for local governments to look at during future planning and regulation. A release from the Department of Natural Resources said last month’s 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Magna should be a wakeup call and that faults in the area are capable of 7.6 magnitude quakes. — Caroline Ballard

SOUTHERN UTAH

Grand County Restrictions Lifting

Businesses and hotels in Moab will be allowed to reopen on Friday, when local and state health restrictions expire. The regional health department said the decision was made to align with plans to reopen the state economy, and that the local hospital is prepared to handle a small outbreak of COVID-19. But local officials and business owners are worried a second wave of COVID-19 could hit, and be worse than the first. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

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