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20th Utahn dies of COVID-19; new programs available for child care, the unemployed

20th Utahn dies of COVID-19; new programs available for child care, the unemployed

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SALT LAKE CITY — Wednesday's numbers from the Utah Department of Health reveal 130 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death, bringing the state's total to 20 deaths from COVID-19.

The state now sits at 2,542 total confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Previously, there were 2,412 cases in the state.

In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said the new reported death was a male Salt Lake County resident over age 60 who had underlying health problems.

The new numbers indicate a 5.4% increase in positive cases since Tuesday. Of the 47,614 people tested in Utah so far, 5.2% have tested positive for COVID-19.

The total number of cases reported by the health department includes all cases of COVID-19 since Utah’s outbreak began, including those who are infected now, those who have recovered from the disease, and those who have died.

Dunn said the state is in the top 10 nationally in testing per capita, but still has "unmet testing capacity." She urged Utahns with even one mild symptom of COVID-19 to be tested.

The six symptoms Dunn singled out were fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle pain, loss of taste or smell, or sore throat.

Dunn said only 15% of Utah's COVID-19 cases were caused by "community spread," or an unknown origin. Seventy percent resulted from "known contact to a confirmed case," 11% are travel-related and 4% are health care-associated.

"So the fact that we know where 85% of our cases were exposed to COVID-19 is a sign that the public health infrastructure is working," she said.

Dunn took several questions about a possible timeline for reopening the Utah economy. She said state guidelines will be released to the public shortly, containing advice for specific businesses to avoid spreading COVID-19, and contingency plans for what happens if cases spike after reopening parts of the economy.

Child care resources

Dunn was joined in her press conference by Tracy Gruber, executive director of the Utah Office of Child Care, and Utah Department of Workforce Services unemployment insurance division director Kevin Burt.

Gruber talked about a new state grant program that will assist child care providers who have stayed open during the pandemic.

"Utah's child care system is critical to Utah's economy," Gruber said.

Unfortunately, she said, Utah's system has taken a "significant hit" during the pandemic; 38% of licensed child care centers have temporarily closed, and the state has temporarily lost over 13,000 child care slots.

Child care providers that remain open have lost enrollment due to school closures as well, Gruber said.

The Child Care Operations Grant is designed to give financial assistance to child care centers that remain open through this time.

"The operations grant is available to child care programs in the state that are licensed, and that are open and operating," Gruber said.

More information is available at jobs.utah.gov; Gruber said the relevant forms will be available later on Wednesday.

More aid for the unemployed

Burt discussed the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which was passed as part of the national CARES Act legislation and expands some unemployment benefits to workers to are not traditionally eligible for unemployment insurance, like the self-employed or gig economy workers.

There are now two different unemployment insurance programs, "and it's important that the people that have been impacted by COVID-19 and are unemployed apply through the right program," Burt said.

Traditional unemployment, he said, is for workers who have been laid off or furloughed, or had their hours reduced.

More information and applications for both programs are available at jobs.utah.gov/covid19. Burt said there is also an "Am I Eligible?" button on the page that Utahns can use to see which program they should apply to. "If it shows that you are ineligible, or zero dollars, then Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is the correct application," he said.

Individuals who qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance will also receive the additional $600 a week allotted for unemployed Americans under the CARES Act.

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Graham Dudley reports on politics, breaking news and more for KSL.com. A native Texan, Graham's work has previously appeared in the Brownwood (Texas) Bulletin and The Oklahoma Daily.

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