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AM News Brief: Business Losses, Denied Elective Surgery & Cell Phones In National Parks

Photo of Downtown Salt Lake City.
Brian Albers / KUER
Some large Utah companies are reporting stock market drops this quarter. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, April 30, 2020

State

Utah Companies Report Loses

Some large Utah companies are reporting stock market drops this quarter. Overstock.com reports a loss of $16.3 million. That's about 40 cents a share for the discount retailer based in Midvale. Farmington-based Pluralsight reports a loss of $35.3 million in its first quarter. Adjusted for one-time gains and costs, that's a loss of about 9 cents a share. The online education company expects that for the current quarter ending in July losses will range from 11 to 13 cents a share. — Associated Press

Elective Surgeries, But Only For Some

As states begin relaxing state-at-home orders, some hospitals are opening their doors to elective surgeries once again. That brought in a question from one of our listeners from Irvin, Utah. Deborah Larson is 69 years old and was scheduled to have a knee replacement surgery. Larson asked if that is age discrimination. People 65 and older account for 80% of deaths from the novel coronavirus here in the United States. That’s in part because our immune system weakens as we age. This makes Larson a high risk patient, and is the reason her surgery was denied. A spokesperson for Intermountain Health pointed to Utah state guidelines for reopening. They say that, at least for now, elective surgeries like Larson’s should be for low-risk patients only. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

Utah COVID-19 Cases Grow At Around 4%

Utah continues to see about a 4% growth rate in new COVID-19 cases, according to state Epidemiologist Angela Dunn. Starting Friday, the state is planning to move from the red, high risk phase of its pandemic response to orange, which is moderate. Some restrictions on non-essential business and social gatherings will be lifted on May 1, but Dunn says older adults and people with underlying conditions should still take extra precautions. So far, the state has tested 105,778 people for the coronavirus and officials estimate 1,790 people have recovered. — Jessica Lowell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Southern Utah

Land Purchase Means No Frac Sand Mining

In a $6.3 million dollar deal inked last Friday, Best Friends Animal Society purchased three parcels of land from the State of Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, or SITLA. The move effectively closes the book on frac sand mining in several areas on roughly 1,600 acres just north of Kanab. One of the parcels contains the site where mining start-up Southern Red Sands sought to build a controversial sand mine. That project aimed to haul 700,000 tons of sand per year from Kane County to fracking operations in the Uintah Basin and stoked intense division among residents of the Southern Utah community for the better part of 2019. Read the full story. — David Fuchs

Region/Nation

Getting A Signal In National Parks

National parks are mulling how to expand cell phone service while still preserving the serenity of nature. It’s a low priority for the National Park Service right now because of the coronavirus pandemic, but officials say they want to resolve connectivity issues as states start lifting restrictions. Bryce Canyon officials are considering a request from a large telecommunications company to raise a 60-foot cell tower on a plateau near a hoodoo-heavy canyon. The number of visitors has more than doubled in the past decade, and Bryce rangers rely on social media to let people know about conditions like flash floods. But many Wi-Fi and cell signals are outside the park. Federal law requires parks to consider permits for infrastructure that could expand internet, cell phone and radio service. — Associated Press

Navajo Nation Opens Field Hospitals

Wednesday, the Navajo Department of Health reported 104 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths, bringing that total to 62. The total number of positive cases stands at just under 2,000. Two field hospitals in New Mexico are operating and a third in Arizona opens Friday, in case of a surge of patients. The Navajo Nation is regarded as a national hotspot with infection rates behind only New York and New Jersey. — Diane Maggipinto

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