SALT LAKE CITY — Utah officials announced new assistance programs Wednesday for self-employed individuals and childcare centers as the number of new COVID-19 cases increased substantially over the past week. The Childcare Operations Grant and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program are being overseen through Utah’s Department of Workforce Services.
Utah epidemiologist Angela Dunn said the Utah Department of Health confirmed 130 new cases of COVID-19 during the past 24 hours, a 5 percent growth rate. The report showed 2,542 total cases within the state, resulting in 221 hospitalizations. There have also been 47,614 people tested.
“There are national reports that have recently come out putting Utah in the top 10 of states for per capita testing,” Dunn said. “So we have tested 13,500 individuals per million in the state of Utah. I really want to take this moment to thank all of our healthcare systems in this state for the time and energy that they have put into getting people tested. We still have unmet capacity.”
Another death from the coronavirus was reported during Wednesday’s press conference. The Salt Lake County man was over the age of 60 and passed away at a hospital. His death brings the total fatalities in the state to 20.
Dunn said they are continuing to analyze daily case counts to determine when businesses, sporting and entertainment events will be reopened. It will likely be a phased approach.
“We’re hopeful that our data continues to show a decline in our growth rate and then eventually an actual decline in cases,” Dunn explained. “Those are going to be the key metrics we look at when we start talking about opening up businesses and events more widely.”
Wednesday’s press conference was held as the Bear River Health District announced three new cases of the virus, increasing the total number of cases in northern Utah to 52. There are 37 cases in Cache County, 15 cases in Box Elder County and none reported in Rich County.
Utah Office of Child Care Director Tracy Gruber also announced the launch of the Child Care Operations Grant. The program is designed to provide financial help for licensed child care centers until business return to normal.
“Utah’s childcare system is critical to Utah’s economy,” said Gruber. “It supports our workers who are continuing to go to work throughout this crisis and it’s going to be critical when people return to work when it’s over.”
State officials report 38 percent of licensed childcare centers have temporarily closed in the last month. 18 percent of the state’s family licensed programs have also shutdown.
Later, Utah Workforce Services Director Kevin Burt outlined details about the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program. The aid package, supported by the federal CARES Act, provides financial assistance for those who are self-employed and don’t qualify for Unemployment Insurance.
“It is considered pandemic unemployment assistance,” explained Burt. “What it is essentially saying is that an individual, who is ineligible for unemployment insurance but has had their employment impacted or are unemployed due to COVID-19, could potentially be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Specifically the act also covers those that have been diagnosed with COVID-19.”
Citizens can apply for both programs through the Utah Department of Workforce Services’ website, jobs.utah.gov.
Public health officials continue to advise anyone with a fever, cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches and pains, decrease sense of taste or smell, or a sore throat, to be tested. Anyone with questions about whether to be tested can call 844-442-5224.