Health Science & Environment | KUER 90.1

Health Science & Environment

Man in a suit stands at a podium with Utah state seal as backdrop.
Steve Griffin / Pool Photo

Gov. Gary Herbert’s legal team is reviewing whether the compounding pharmacy from which the state of Utah purchased a controversial anti-malaria drug to treat COVID-19 ever had state and federal approval to mass produce the medication, the governor’s office said Friday. 

Photo of people wearing personal protective equipment
Courtesy of Jenna Malone

New York City is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., and medical workers around the country are flocking there to help care for patients. KUER’s Caroline Ballard spoke with Jenna Malone, an Intermountain Healthcare Physician Assistant from Brighton, Utah. Malone is halfway through a two-week stint in a Queens hospital.

A decorative road sign welcomes visitors to Moab.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

COVID-19 has hit workers in Moab especially hard, since many are unemployed in the winter and go back to work in the spring. 

Photo illustration of a person speaking in a phone screen
Renee Bright / KUER

In late March, President Donald Trump signed the Federal CARES Act giving a one-time stimulus check to adult U.S. citizens. The checks varied by income but can be as much as $1,200. Families received an additional $500 per child. KUER wanted to know how people planned to spend the money. Here are some of their answers.

Photo of a hospital pharmacy storeroom.
ABBPhoto /

The state of Utah has bought $800,000 worth of a controversial anti-malaria drug to treat COVID-19, according to records obtained by KUER. 

A wastewater facility on Colorado's Western Slope is resuming operations more than a year after it was shut down for causing a sizable earthquake in 2019.

Photo of the how the healthy together app appears on an iphone
Ross Terrell / KUER

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert unveiled the “Healthy Together” app Wednesday to help the state track the spread of COVID-19. People who decide to download it can fill out a questionnaire about their symptoms and whether they’ve been in contact with anyone who had COVID-19.

Photo of people wearing masks and standing outside
Sahar Khadjenoury / UNHS

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in San Juan County more than tripled in the past week — and most of those are on the Navajo Nation. The number of cases went from 11 on April 15 to 34 on Wednesday, and only two of those are off the reservation.

Photo of a doctor holding a prescription of hydroxychloroquine.
BartekSzewczyk /

Updated 1:31 p.m. MDT 4/22/2020

The anti-malaria medication hydroxychloroquine has entered center-stage in the conversation about the coronavirus crisis. President Donald Trump is touting it, health providers are testing it, and experts say it most likely won’t work as a COVID-19 treatment. With so much information and contradiction, here is a breakdown of what the medication is, how it’s being studied and where Utah and federal officials stand on the drug as it relates to COVID-19.

Graphic illustration of of health care workers
elenabs via iStock

Health care providers are on the frontlines in the fight against the coronavirus. As they head in to work each day to confront a virus that is both unpredictable and highly contagious, it’s highlighting the need for them to be taken care of as well. 

Photo of a vista looking out over a dirt road, rows of pine trees and white canyon walls.
David Fuchs / KUER

ST. GEORGE — Kane County water officials have long said their county needed the Lake Powell Pipeline to keep up with expected demand.

But in a surprising shift last week, the county withdrew from the project that would transport water 140 miles from Lake Powell to Southwest Utah.

Photo of the Piper Down restaurant and pub building
Jon Reed / KUER

Restaurants and bars were among the first and hardest hit businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. To assist, a number of financial lifelines have been extended, including low-interest loans from federal, state and local governments. 

Photo of a person stocking a shelf at a pharmacy
MJ_Prototype / iStock

The state of Utah is negotiating the purchase of hydroxychloroquine to treat 200,000 coronavirus patients, despite little evidence that the anti-malaria drug works against COVID-19. 

Soldiers load a cargo plane. An aircraft hanger marked with the words “Utah Air National Guard” is in the background.
Courtesy of Utah National Guard

ST. GEORGE — The first positive case of COVID-19 within the Utah National Guard was confirmed nearly a month ago: a soldier who was deployed outside of the state.

Photo of Goosenecks State Park
Creative Commons / cm195902

San Juan County relaxed its public health order restricting leisure travel on Thursday, one day before Gov. Gary Herbert announced Utahns can visit state parks outside of the county they live in. 

Photo illustration of a woman in a mask talking on a phone screen
Renee Bright / KUER

People who have weakened immune systems are considered high risk for COVID-19 related complications. As the immunocompromised community continues to navigate this pandemic, here are some of their stories in their own words. 

Illustration of people wearing masks

As demographic data emerges around the country about which people are most vulnerable, health officials are now seeing that the virus disproportionately hurts people of color, particularly those who live in dense, urban areas.

Photo of a woman standing in a room
Jon Reed / KUER

With the coronavirus forcing businesses to close and leaving many out of work, Gov. Gary Herbert put a temporary stop to evictions in Utah and is allowing renters to defer rent payments until May 15. 

Photo showing two people wearing personal protective equipment are under a tent outside
Utah Navajo Health System for KUER

The Utah Department of Health has deployed a mobile COVID-19 testing task force to the Navajo Nation. It started in Navajo Mountain on Monday and will move on to Monument Valley on Thursday and Friday. So far all 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Juan County have been on the Navajo Nation. 

Photo of Erin Mendenhall making the announcement outside.
Nicole Nixon / KUER

When Salt Lake City opened a temporary overnight homeless shelter in January, it was intended as a solution for high demand for shelter space during the winter. The plan was to close it April 15, and the city is sticking with that plan, despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

 The city of St. George, seen from above. A grid of rooftops, treetops stretch out towards red cliffs in the distance.
David Fuchs / KUER

ST. GEORGE — Local leaders are pushing back on recent ABC News reports that depicted life during the coronavirus pandemic as relatively unchanged for most Washington County residents.

Photo of beds at a new homeless shelter.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER

Salt Lake County is renting out an entire hotel for the next two weeks to house asymptomatic people — who are older than 60 or who have underlying health conditions — and were staying at homeless shelters.

Illustration of graduation caps falling through the air
Yakobchuk via iStock

For high school seniors, spring is usually a time for celebration — graduations, parties and special events to recognize their achievements. But not this year. Many once-in-a-lifetime events have been postponed or canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. To learn more about how to deal with the loss of important life events, KUER’s Caroline Ballard talked with Sara Lafkas, an assistant professor of social work at Utah Valley University who runs a small practice in Orem. 

Photo of the church building
Grace Osusky / KUER

Holy Week is one of the most important times in the Catholic faith, with three out of four members in the U.S. attending mass on Easter Sunday. Easter is also a common time for the faithful to receive the sacraments of Confession, First Communion and Confirmation.

A roadside sign inscribed with an arrow and the words "relief center here" stands out against the red cliffs and desert landscape of Ivins, Utah.
Courtesy of Greg Federman

Greg and Rachel Federman have spent the last 14 years growing Xetava Gardens Cafe into a community staple in the small Southwest Utah city of Ivins.

Photo illustration of a person in a graduation cap and gown talking on a smart phone screen
Renee Bright / KUER

In late March, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert closed public schools until May 1 to help slow the spread of coronavirus. And for high school seniors, that meant year end traditions, like prom and graduation, were up in the air.

Illustration showing letters going into a pencil
Pict Rider via iStock

With all that’s going on right now, it may be more important than ever to remember to take a beat and appreciate something beautiful — even if that’s just a few lines of poetry. April is national poetry month, and to mark the occasion KUER’s Caroline Ballard spoke with Utah poet Katharine Coles. 

Photo of three people wearing face masks and standing in front of a tent
Moab Regional Hospital

Despite the growing need for health care in response to the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals, along with almost every industry in the country, have been hit economically. As they’ve geared up for a potential surge in coronavirus patients, major revenue sources have started drying up. 

Two people load groceries into a truck in front of a grocery store
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

A 57-hour stay-at-home order will be in effect on the Navajo Nation this weekend to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Photo of gary herbert wearing a mask
Francisco Kjolseth / The Salt Lake Tribune

People traveling to Utah will be asked to fill out an online form and answer questions about their possible exposure to the coronavirus under an order announced Wednesday by Gov. Gary Herbert.