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PM News Brief: Utah’s Fight Against Homelessness, Serial Bank Robber & Triple Transplant Surgery

A photo of 58-year-old Army veteran Keith Baker.
University of Utah Health
The University of Utah Health announced Wednesday, it has completed its first ever triple transplant surgery. The patient, 58-year-old Army veteran Keith Baker, received a heart, liver and kidney. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, November 11, 2020

State

How VA Hospitals Are Dealing With Intersection Of Veterans And COVID-19

Utah is home to nearly 140,000 veterans. And while relatively few have tested positive for the coronavirus — less than 1% compared to more than 4% of the state’s overall population — veteran healthcare providers have still faced many of the same challenges as others. There was a major outbreak at a long term care center in Salt Lake City, where 51 veterans tested positive for the virus and about a quarter of them died. The VA Salt Lake City Health Care System has also had to open up COVID-19 isolation units and limit in-person care, which can be especially hard for veterans who develop mental health issues after their service. Read the full story.Jon Reed

Eight Days Of More Than 2,000 COVID-19 Cases

Utah health officials reported another 2,335 COVID-19 cases Wednesday. It’s the eighth consecutive day the state has seen more than 2,000 daily cases. The state’s positivity rate has increased from 19.1% last week to 22.6% this week. Hospitalizations are also up as 446 people are currently receiving care across the state. That’s a nearly 17% increase week to week. Officials also announced six more people have died from the disease. They were all hospitalized or in a long term care facility at the time of their death. — Ross Terrell

Utah Risks Losing Ground In Fight Against Homelessness

Utah could lose ground in the fight against homelessness, if the state doesn’t make smarter decisions moving forward. That’s according to a new report from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. It found despite an increase of funds to address the problem, communication gaps and confusing leadership have led to more people facing the risk of homelessnesss. The report said to address some of these issues, the state should create a council and appoint a service officer to streamline decision making and spending. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Coalition To End Homelessness Looking For Shelter Across Salt Lake Valley

A group of homeless service providers and government officials are still trying to open emergency facilities to house people this winter. The Salt Lake Valley Coalition To End Homelessness has been looking for motels since August to house around 200 people and to limit the spread of COVID-19, which is why the group didn’t want another congregate shelter. They chose a hotel in Midvale, but the city said that option violates their land use ordinances. The coalition has identified an additional location, which they said should be open in the next two weeks. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Police Arrest Man Who Robbed Six Banks In About A Month

The Unified Police Department and the FBI said they have arrested a man suspected of robbing six banks throughout the Salt Lake Valley. Conrad Andrew Trujillo is alleged to have robbed two Chase Banks, a Wells Fargo, two University of Utah credit unions and a branch of Cyprus Credit Union — all between Oct. 2 and Nov. 7 of this year. Authorities said he was arrested at a Ramada Inn, and is currently being held at the Salt Lake County Jail. — Caroline Ballard

U of U Health Completes First Ever Triple Transplant

The University of Utah Health announced Wednesday, it has completed its first ever triple transplant surgery. The patient, 58-year-old Army veteran Keith Baker, received a heart, liver and kidney. He said he had previously been denied the surgery twice. “I thought I had basically, one foot in the grave and the other one on a banana peel,” Baker said. “But I had never had the fear of either dying or living. I just knew I wanted to live because my mom and dad are still alive.” Baker’s triple transplant is just the second one done in the U.S. this year. Since 1989, only 25 of these surgeries have been performed in the country. — Ross Terrell

Salt Lake City Proposed Budget Amendments To Assist Struggling Residents

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall is proposing amendments to the city’s budget for this fiscal year. They would fund programs aimed at helping residents experiencing hardships due to the pandemic. The mayor’s office presented the proposals to the city council Tuesday. They total more than $2 million and include funding for restaurants to provide meals to people in need, an apprentice program, a coat drive, business grants and assistance for those who couldn’t access federal stimulus funds — like undocumented immigrants or refugees. — Caroline Ballard

Ski Resorts Planning To Open Before Thanksgiving

Some Utah ski resorts plan to fire up the chairlifts in the next 10 days. Weather permitting, opening day at Park City Mountain and Brian Head will be Nov. 20. Alta plans to open Nov. 21, while other areas have announced later dates or haven't decided yet. The weekend snowstorm brought 30 inches to the upper reaches of the Cottonwood Canyons. Ski buses will have limits on the number of passengers and other measures in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Utah Department of Transportation said it expects delays because of the restrictions and increased canyon traffic. Some ski areas are implementing their own safety measures such as requiring riders to make reservations or offering prepackaged food only. — Diane Maggipinto

Region/Nation

COVID-19 Cases Surging Across Mountain West

COVID-19 is surging across the Mountain West. The recent uptick in cases can be attributed to the reopening of college campuses across the region, as well as a lack of overarching mask mandates and limits on gatherings. That’s according to doctors with the Infectious Diseases Society of America. In a briefing Wednesday, they warned holiday gatherings could lead to a further acceleration of new cases, and a vaccine won’t likely be readily available in time to fight the virus this winter. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau