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PM News Brief: More Transit Riders, Utah's Economic Plan 3.0 & Capping Insulin Prices

Utah Transit Authority bus
KUER File
State transit officials say they're seeing an uptick in riders as the state reopens.

Wednesday evening, May 20, 2020

STATE

Utah 3.0 Plan Unveiled

Utah unveiled the third version of its coronavirus economic recovery plan Wednesday. It focuses on people who are unemployed and minority communities who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Some of the things included are re-training some people who were laid off and fast tracking infrastructure projects so people in the construction trade can get some more work as well. Some of the things to address the health disparity was first to learn the facts about these disparities and also address the immediate needs of these populations like finding ways to make sure they follow and know about public safety guidelines and can stay engaged in the economy. — Sonja Hutson

90 COVID-19 Deaths

Utah has now had more than 7,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19. That’s according to new numbers released Wednesday by the state’s department of health. Officials announced two more deaths related to the virus, bringing the state’s total to 90. Both were over the age of 60. So far, more than 40% of the state’s deaths due to COVID-19 have been in long term care facilities. Officials also reported nearly 180,000 Utahns have been tested for the virus. — Ross Terrell

Public Transit Ridership Up Week Over Week

State transit officials say they’re seeing an uptick in riders as the state reopens, with almost 6% more weekday riders last week than the week before and about 10% more weekend passengers. But following sharp drops in passenger levels and service cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are still questions about when service can resume to normal levels and how the agency’s budget will be impacted in the long term. Utah is receiving close to $220 million through the federal CARES Act to put towards public transportation, which will be used mostly to subsidize current service rather than fund new projects. The agency also approved a resolution Wednesday to create a new reserve fund. — Jon Reed

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Insulin Price Cap To Take Effect June 1

A key portion of a bill Utah lawmakers approved earlier this year is going into effect earlier than expected. H.B. 207 aims to reduce the cost of insulin for diabetics, many of whom have had to ration or forgo the drug because of how expensive it is. One provision of the bill creates a bulk purchasing program through the Public Employees Health Plan (PEHP) that any Utah resident can access, regardless of their insurance plan or if they have coverage at all. Using PEHP’s discounted rates, diabetes patients can expect to pay 60% less than what they are paying for insulin right now. The program was originally supposed to start Jan. 1, 2021, but officials say it’s been fast-tracked and will now begin on June 1. — Jon Reed

Republican Voters Leaning Toward Attorney General Sean Reyes

According to a new poll released Wednesday by UtahPolicy.com and Y2 Analytics, 63% of registered Republicans would vote for Attorney General Sean Reyes, if the Utah primary election were held today. But among unaffiliated voters who lean Republican, 61% said they would side with Reyes’s challenger, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt. But they would need to register as Republicans by June 19 if they want to receive a ballot for the closed primary election on June 30. The winner will face Democrat Greg Skordas in the general election.  — Emily Means

NORTHERN UTAH

Midvale Public Comment Process

In order to help slow the spread of coronavirus, state and local governments have moved public meetings online. In Midvale that’s meant no live public comment which has upset some city residents. Lauren Graves wanted to let the city know how she felt about a planned development during a recent meeting. Since she can’t call in or join the virtual meeting, she sent a message online that a city staffer read aloud but she said it wasn’t taken as seriously as if she were in person. Meanwhile, the city said live public comment on Zoom isn’t secure enough. City officials said they have actually seen more public comment since meetings went virtual. Read the full story.Sonja Hutson

SOUTHERN UTAH

Purgatory Correctional Facility Death

An inmate at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Washington County died on Monday. The 67-year-old man had pre-existing medical conditions that required him to be separated from other inmates and have limited contact with staff. The county sheriff’s office says there is little evidence to suggest a connection between his death and COVID-19, as the facility had already implemented strict safety protocols and no inmates there have tested positive for the virus so far. However, the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner will test the body anyway. — David Fuchs, St. George

REGION/NATION

Testing Nursing Homes

The American Health Care Association says it would cost $15 million to test every nursing home resident and staff member in the Mountain West for COVID-19. That includes more than $2 million in Utah for about 15,000 tests. The estimates assume each test would cost about $150. The industry group represents most nursing homes in the U.S., and it says it’ll take state and federal support for such testing to happen on any kind of regular basis. — Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau

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