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PM News Brief: Video Game Graduation, Health Strike Team & Burningham Lawsuit

Screengrab from the video game showing avatars in graduation caps and gowns
University of Utah College of Engineering
University of Utah graduates from the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program will get the chance to do so in avatar form.

Thursday evening, April 30, 2020

STATE

Health Officials Forming Strike Team

Utah Health officials are developing “strike teams” to address possible outbreaks in long term care facilities and community hotspots. State Epidemiologist Angela Dunn made the announcement Thursday and said they’ll be made up of people from the state and local level. So far more than 108,000 people here have been tested for COVID-19. There have also been more than 4,600 confirmed cases. — Jessica Lowell

12,000 More Unemployment Claims

Just under 12,000 Utahns filed for new unemployment benefits during the week of April 19-25, continuing a downward trend of people applying. That’s according to new numbers released Thursday by the Department of Workforce Services. It brings the total number of people filing for unemployment to over 105,000 or about 3% the population. As some businesses start back up, the department said anyone on unemployment has to accept “suitable offers” to return to work or risk losing benefits. If an offer is refused and not reported, people may have to pay back benefits they received and face possible fraud penalties. — Jon Reed

State Reopening With Commission Guidelines

As Utah moves to lift restrictions on non-essential business, Gov. Gary Herbert is doing so in conjunction with recommendations from a newly appointed commission. The Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission, created during the special session, unanimously advised the governor to reopen parts of the economy starting May 1. But to assist businesses that are required to provide their workers with personal protective equipment. They also recommend that the governor review guidelines every two weeks as new data becomes available. — Jessica Lowell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Burningham Sues To Get On Ballot 

Former Republican candidate for governor Jeff Burningham is suing Gov. Gary Herbert and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in an effort to get on June’s primary ballot. In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Burningham argued he wasn’t able to collect the needed 28,000 signatures because of the state’s coronavirus response. But by April 13, the signature gathering deadline, his campaign had collected more than 19,000. The lawsuit asks that he be placed on the ballot if 70% of those are valid. Earlier this week a federal judge ruled that Jan Garbett, another Republican candidate who didn’t meet the signature requirements, can head to the primary if she meets a lowered threshold. — Emily Means

NORTHERN UTAH

The U’s Video Game Graduation

Graduation for one of the University of Utah’s gaming programs will look a little different Friday. Students will still get to walk across the stage, but virtually, as avatars in a video game. The university’s Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program created the software. Students can use their avatar to march in procession, receive graduation cords, and listen to speeches from faculty. The ceremony will be live streamed on Twitch, a popular gaming platform. Meanwhile, 7,000 students at Utah State University officially graduated Thursday even though in person commencement has been canceled due to the coronavirus. — Grace Osusky

SOUTHERN UTAH

Navajo Peak Expected May 10

Public health officials predicted the Navajo Nation will see the COVID-19 pandemic hit its peak around May 10. The prediction is based on modeling by the Indian Health Service. Its chief medical officer said clinics across the reservation will likely see 200 new patients a day by next week. And over 100 patients will need critical care. The surge is predicted to fill up the health service’s facilities on the reservation. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

REGION/NATION

Librarians 3D Printing Masks

Many libraries have had to close their doors because of COVID-19, but some librarians have found a niche way to help in the crisis: using 3D printers to make face shields. The plastic shields can be used in combination with cloth masks to provide extra protection for health care workers. DIY Maker labs, universities and libraries from Billings to Salt Lake to Boise are working together to share design files and produce shields. — Amanda Peacher, Mountain West News Bureau

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