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PM News Brief: National Suicide Hotline, Utah Black Pages & Commercial Rental Assistance

Screenshot of the Utah Black Pages website
via utahblackpages.com
Utah's Black Chamber of Commerce launched utahblackpages.com, an online directory of black owned businesses in the state.

Wednesday evening, July 15, 2020

STATE

Members Of Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints Weigh Mask Request

Utah leaders for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent a letter to members last week urging them to wear a mask and to be “good citizens.” But it may not have done much to change members’ opinions. There have been different interpretations on the letter depending on political views and how much weight a statement from local leaders carries. Utah State University religious studies professor Patrick Mason said people’s religion is often secondary to their politics — and at this point face coverings have become political. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Utah Black Chamber Of Commerce Launches Online Directory

Utah’s Black Chamber of Commerce launched an online directory Wednesday of black owned businesses in the state. It’s utahblackpages.com and Chamber officials said the list serves two purposes. It connects people with resources and gives Utahns, who may not be comfortable protesting, another way to be an activist. Officials hope now people use the website to learn more about these businesses and try something new. So far, about 200 Black owned businesses are waiting to be added to the list. — Ross Terrell

Utah Changing Up Commercial Rental Assistance Program

Utah is making some changes to its COVID-19 Commercial Rental Assistance Program. The changes expand which small businesses can get help through the program and how much they can receive. Now, businesses who have lost out on more than 45% of their revenue can get their rent covered for two months. Other restrictions, adjustments and documentation requirements have also been removed. According to state data, there are still more than $30 million available through the program. If a company has already applied for the program, it doesn’t need to reapply and will be automatically reconsidered for more grant funding. — Caroline Ballard

17 COVID Deaths Reported In Last Two Days

Utah’s health department announced seven more COVID-19 related deaths Wednesday, bringing the two-day mark to 17. But officials cautioned that most deaths occur anywhere from two days to a week before they are reported publicly. So far, 233 Utahns have died due to the disease since early March. Health officials also reported 413 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and more than 432,000 people have been tested. — Ross Terrell

Mitt Romney Calling For Expanded Telehealth Services To Continue

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, along with almost 40 others, is calling for expanded telehealth services through Medicaid to continue after the coronavirus pandemic. The senators sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services asking them to continue to waive telehealth requirements, like one that required occupational and physical therapists to perform their initial assessments in person. They argue that telehealth “enhances patient care and can provide efficiency in health care delivery.” — Sonja Hutson

Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Calls For Mask Mandate 

Democratic candidate for Utah governor Chris Peterson is criticizing state officials for how they’ve handled the coronavirus pandemic. Peterson said his opponent, Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, and Gov. Gary Herbert should institute a statewide mask mandate, and improve their plans for things like contact tracing and stockpiling N-95 masks. Herbert’s office declined to comment on Peterson’s remarks. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

REGION/NATION

‘988’ One Step Closer To Becoming National Suicide Hotline

The U.S. is one step closer to designating 988 as the National Suicide Hotline. A Congressional House Committee on Energy and Commerce unanimously passed Utah Rep. Chris Stewart’s two suicide prevention bills Wednesday, including the the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act. The Suicide Prevention Act would ramp up data collection about suicide attempts and self harm to improve prevention efforts. Both bills now head to the full House floor for consideration. If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255 for help. — Caroline Ballard

Trump Administration Taking Control Of COVID-19 Data

The Trump administration started re-routing hospital COVID-19 data Wednesday away from the public Centers for Disease Control and Prevention database. That’s after criticizing the public health agency. This was a fast change without much warning, according to hospital officials. And that raises concerns about whether it’ll hinder getting important hospitalization data to the public in a timely manner.— Madelyn Beck, Mountain West New Bureau

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