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SALT LAKE CITY— Republican Sen. Mitt Romney wants the federal government to send $1,000 checks to every American to help the country cope with the coronavirus outbreak causing widespread closures at restaurants, bars and other businesses around the country, including the capital of his adopted home state of Utah.
The checks would help families pay their own bills and would bolster the economy overall, like actions Congress took during past recessions, he said. The effort would cost at least $100 billion, and he would be open to doing it more than once, he said. It wasn’t immediately clear how much support it has in Congress.
“My impression is, people recognize this is a unique and singular event in our nation’s history and we need to act to help people who are in distress given this terrible disease, and we will be prepared to act in a way which is not bound by financial concerns,” he said. Romney plans to push that and other proposals, like temporary required coverage of remote telehealth services, as discussions continue about additional coronavirus relief, he said.
Romney said his family is healthy. He’s working alone in his office after sending his staff home as a protective measure.
Meanwhile, Utah reported its number of cases of the new coronavirus has risen to 39, with 10 of those being visitors. There have been no deaths.
Salt Lake County joined the Park City area in ordering bars and restaurants closed except for takeout and delivery. Grocery stores remain open, and supply chains are normal so there’s no need for people to stockpile food and supplies, officials said.
“We must rely on each other right now,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said. “We can get ahead of this and we can learn from the delays of others.”
The closures come after a bartender in Park City tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first community spread in the state.
Many ski resorts are also closed to keep the tourist destinations from becoming places where people could both bring the virus from elsewhere and take it back home, Summit County authorities said. One of Romney’s sons was unable to get a flight home to Boston after taking his family on a ski vacation, the former Massachusetts governor said.
Health officials in three neighboring counties — Uintah, Daggett and Duchesne — asked people to avoid all non-essential travel outside of the area on Monday.
Illinois, Ohio, Massachusetts, Washington state and New York City are among other places that have ordered bars to close and restaurants to stop dine-in service.
The coronavirus, deemed a pandemic by the World Health Organization, infected more than 150,000 people and killed more than 5,700. The disease for most people causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority recover.