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PM News Brief: ARUP Antibody Tests, Navajo Nation Doctors & Learning From A Pandemic

Photo of a doctor's shirt with pens in the pocket
DarkoStojanovic via Pixabay
Utah is working on its strategy to deal with a second wave of coronavirus this fall, which could include building up a reserve of personal protective equipment.

Wednesday evening, May 13, 2020

STATE

Community Impact Board Audit Results

State lawmakers met Wednesday to review an audit on how Utah’s Community Impact Board has been using funds. The board oversees the Permanent Community Impact Fund, which comes from oil and gas revenue. That money is supposed to be used to minimize the effects of mineral extraction on the public. But the audit shows the board approved a number of applications where the main benefit was to private industries. It also revealed the community board disregarded a policy that places a $5 million funding cap on each project. Auditors recommended the board implement and follow stronger guidelines for awarding funding. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Massive Cuts Coming To State Budget

Utah lawmakers met Wednesday to discuss plans to cut up to $1.3 billion out of the state’s budget for the next fiscal year. The cuts are aimed at making up for falling tax revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic. To prepare for the worst case scenario, lawmakers are asking budget subcommittees to remove any new funding the Legislature approved in its general session this year, and to cut their existing budget by 10%. The subcommittees will also come back with plans to cut it by 2% and 5%. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

A Pandemic Growth Opportunity

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, health care inequalities have taken center stage. During a panel discussion Wednesday, Demographer Pam Perlich, with the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, said there is an opportunity to learn from the way COVID-19 has disproportionately affected minority populations. Perlich said “we can begin to imagine how we can use this virus to think about how we can reconstruct a future where pathways to opportunity are more open for people.” State lawmakers have started hosting a series of events serving people of color and without health insurance. — Ross Terrell

COVID-19 Update

Utah has now had more than 6,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 but more than half of those have recovered. Utah’s epidemiologist Angela Dunn also announced two more deaths Wednesday bringing the state’s total to 75. Both were Salt Lake County residents and living in long term care facilities. Dunn also said with new cases plateauing the state is working on its strategy to deal with a second wave of the virus this fall that could include building up a reserve of personal protective equipment. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

NORTHERN UTAH

ARUP Laboratories Antibody Tests

ARUP Laboratories has released a second COVID-19 antibody test. The Utah-based company had already created one antibody test for use nationwide. Both will look for evidence of a previous infection, but they use different methodologies to identify distinct antigens. The new test can also measure the level of antibody response to the virus and how that changes over time. However, testing positive for antibodies does not mean that someone is immune to the virus going forward but the company said it can help scientists understand the prevalence of the virus in a community and may help them understand possible immunity. — Caroline Ballard

Saddle Fire 20% Contained

The Saddle Fire near Midway, Utah, has grown to 630 acres, and is now 20% contained. The fire started Tuesday and the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a juvenile as a suspect for sparking it. Wasatch Mountain State Park closed its Dutch Hollow Trail system as well as “The Phosphate” and “The Face” trails until further notice because of the fire. — Caroline Ballard

SOUTHERN UTAH

Doctors Without Borders Headed To Navajo Nation

When you think about Doctors Without Borders you may picture them helping in war torn countries like Syria or Yemen. But the international Non-Governmental Organization just sent a response team to the Navajo Nation to help with the COVID-19 crisis there. There have been more than 3,200 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 100 related deaths on the Navajo reservation. Those are some of the highest rates of infection in the U.S. — Amanda Peacher, Mountain West News Bureau

San Juan Households Access To Running Water

A new analysis from Kaiser Health News highlights where people lack access to adequate plumbing and kitchens nationwide. In Utah, San Juan county sees the largest percent of people facing these conditions. Five percent of households there have inadequate plumbing, about 4% don’t have full kitchens, and 8.4% are overcrowded. The data from the Census Bureau and Housing Assistance Council show about 470,000 households nationwide face inadequate plumbing, and nearly a million don’t have full kitchens. — Caroline Ballard

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