Utah Legislature special session to start Thursday, address multiple coronavirus-related issues

Utah Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah, date unspecified| Photo by AndreyKrav/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Legislature will hold a special session to address the coronavirus crisis starting on Thursday.

In this February 2020 file photo, Sen. Luz Escamilla poses for a portrait at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City. The Utah Legislature special session will be held remotely for the first time to avoid possibly spreading the virus that has already infected Escamilla, who has since recovered. | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

The session announced late Monday will be held remotely for the first time to avoid spreading the virus that has already infected one lawmaker. Democratic Sen. Luz Escamilla has recovered.

Legislators will re-examine the state budget amid widespread economic fallout from business shutdowns to halt the spread of the virus, which causes flu-like symptoms that most people recover from but that can be fatal. Eighteen people have died in Utah.

Other issues on the session’s agenda include ensuring access to medication, preparing for the June primary election and extending the state income tax deadline.

Special sessions typically last one day, but this one could continue for 10 days.

“We are navigating uncharted territory as a state and as a nation,” Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson said, adding that the state has a robust rainy-day fund that will help officials manage the crisis.

This January 2020 file photo shows Utah Speaker of the House Brad Wilson on the floor of the Utah House of Representatives, in Salt Lake City. | Associated Press photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

The state hasn’t be able to set up virtual viewings for committee hearings, so lawmakers are instead asking people to read bills and submit comments online. Those won’t be visible to everyone else. The left-leaning Alliance for a Better Utah raised questions about the transparency of that process, saying the comments should be visible just as verbal comments made in a typical hearing are open to all.

In other Utah coronavirus developments:

Salt Lake City is leasing a hotel to shelter homeless people over age 60 or with underlying health conditions who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus infections. People began checking into the 130-bed hotel last Friday and can stay for at least two weeks with a possible extension, said county Mayor Jenny Wilson.

Salt Lake City has confirmed a handful of cases in the homeless community, where preventative steps like hand washing and social distancing are more difficult.

Also, local health officials in northern Utah are allowing gyms to re-open. Fitness centers in Cache, Rich and Box Elder counties were allowed to open their doors again Friday night, the Herald Journal reported. They will have to screen customers for coronavirus symptoms, and patrons will have to stay at least 10 feet apart along with other restrictions.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, The Associated Press.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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