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Utah lawmakers consider $16 million for coronavirus response

No handshake zone
Posted at 5:59 AM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 10:50:56-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Legislature is considering setting aside $16 million in response to COVID-19, preparing for a potential outbreak.

Sen. Jerry Stevenson, R-Layton, who oversees the budget for the Utah Senate Majority, told reporters on Thursday he believed it could help for any response the state may have for an outbreak.

"We think it's adequate with what's going on," he said.

While Utah still has no confirmed cases, COVID-19 has affected the state in different ways. Tourism has seen declines, people are hoarding toilet paper and water (even though the virus does not affect that), the Utah State Capitol has shifted to a "no handshake" policy, and lawmakers are tweaking the budget to prepare for long term economic problems brought on by the virus.

Meanwhile, state leaders appeared to break with President Trump on his remarks about the novel coronavirus. In an interview on FOX News Channel's "Hannity" program, the president suggested the number of people who have died is an exaggeration. President Trump also said a lot of people will have it and it's mild.

"We have thousands, or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work. Some of them go to work, but they get better," the president said.

Meeting with reporters on Thursday, Governor Gary Herbert also said he expected most cases would be mild. However, he vehemently urged people to stay home.

"You also have the ability to spread the virus to somebody else," Gov. Herbert said. "So our counsel to everybody is if you’re sick stay home. Take a few days off. Because you’re a carrier."

The Utah Coronavirus Task Force, headed by Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, criticized the president on Twitter for spreading misinformation. However, that tweet was later deleted.