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AM News Brief: 5,000+ COVID-19 Cases, Bars Open & Salt Lake City Flag

Photo of storefronts in downtown Salt Lake City
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Over the weekend, Utah began to lift restrictions on social distancing, allowing bars and restaurants to open their doors to customers for the first time in over a month. This and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, May 4, 2020

State

Utah Surpasses 5,000 COVID-19 Cases

Utah topped 5,000 cases of COVID-19 over the weekend according to the latest numbers released by the department of health. An additional 4 more deaths brings the total to 50, and all but one of those four were over the age of 60. The state’s seven-day average percent positive is under 5%, which the health department says indicates Utahn’s efforts are working to flatten the curve. — Jon Reed

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Guidelines For Returning Employees

Identifying high risk employees and screening all of them are some of the guidelines released by the Utah Labor Commission as people return to work. On Friday, restrictions on some non-essential business were lifted, allowing places like restaurants and gyms to reopen. The commission says employers should take extra precautions to protect those who are at a high risk, like people over the age of 65 or with underlying conditions. — Grace Osusky

More Time Outdoors Could Mean More Wildfire

April went down as the driest one on record in Utah, but officials say there have been almost the same number of fires so far this year compared to last year. Jason Curry with the Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands said they’re still unsure how the coronavirus pandemic will affect this season, but that it’s possible that more people outside could lead to more wildfires. Curry said Utahns should be extra careful because it's uncertain how firefighters will be able to respond. — Jessica Lowell

Northern Utah

Bars Open In Salt Lake City

Over the weekend, Utah began to lift restrictions on social distancing, allowing bars and restaurants to open their doors to customers for the first time in over a month. The crowds certainly weren’t out in full force, but downtown Salt Lake City did see signs of life. On Saturday evening, around 50 people were out and about, walking around, having a drink or eating on outdoor patios. — Jon Reed

Salt Lake City Flag Contest

Salt Lake City is replacing the flag that’s represented it since 2006, and the city is making a contest of it. Anyone from the public can submit ideas from now until June 30. The city encourages people to consider color, symbolism and the character of Salt Lake’s community in their design. A panel that includes flag expert Ted Kaye, indigenous community advocate Samantha Eldridge and elected officials will review the submissions. Then, the public will rate the finalists, and the mayor and city council will decide who wins. That person will receive a $3,000 prize. The new flag adoption is scheduled for September 15. — Emily Means

Surveillance Company Contracts Suspended

A surveillance technology company that had a $21 million contract with the state of Utah suspended over its founder's past associations with white supremacists also had a contract with a healthcare company to track coronavirus patient data. The Salt Lake Tribune reports it appears to be the first case of the Park City-based tech company Banjo selling data it collected through government agencies to an outside organization. The agreement was reached last month and later suspended. It called for Intermountain Healthcare to pay $60,000 for equipment that carried a Banjo computer platform that monitored government surveillance. A Banjo spokesman says the company does not sell data. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Boost For Oil And Gas Companies

Many oil and gas companies with Mountain West operations will now be eligible for federal loans following requests by industry groups. The money will come through the CARES act, the economic relief package. The relief package is supposed to be for companies that had a good financial record before the pandemic. Critics said many of these businesses though had significant pre-existing debt. — Cooper McKim, Mountain West News Bureau

Western COVID-19 Pact

Two Mountain West states — Colorado and Nevada — have joined the West Coast to collaborate on fighting COVID-19. The stated aim of the so-called Western States Pact is to bring together governors with a “shared vision for modifying stay at home orders and fighting COVID-19.” But Colorado doesn’t seem to share that vision — it’s starting to reopen, while other states remain under a stay-at-home order. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Corrected: September 24, 2020 at 6:29 PM MDT
A previous version of this story and audio misstated which metric reflected the state's progress toward flattening the COVID-19 curve.
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