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Poll: Utahns weigh in on how COVID-19 is affecting them

FILE -- (Utah State Capitol. Credit: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News, Feb. 13, 2020)

WASATCH FRONT – New data from the Deseret News and The Hinckley Institute shows how concerned Utahns are about coronavirus. A new poll shows the vast majority Utahns surveyed are either “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the spread of coronavirus in Utah. Voters voiced their concerns about the damage it will cause.

Breanna Rivers had been working for the online service marketplace company, Thumbtack, for over six years. She, and her husband, are two of 250 people across the country who got laid off Monday.  Rivers says the company did everything they could to keep their employees, but, even after cutting a lot of costs, Thumbtack couldn’t hold on to those workers.

She says, “The only way they were able to do it was telling everybody via Zoom.  My husband and I were both working and found out at the same time.”

They both applied for unemployment insurance within a few hours of losing their jobs.  Rivers isn’t necessarily worried about keeping their house or paying for other expenses.  She is, however, very concerned about her family’s healthcare.

“With a special needs son and a young daughter, heaven forbid one of us should get sick,” Rivers says.

According to a Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll, 16 percent of Utahns have lost jobs and 28 percent of lost income because their hours were cut.  Plus, 48 percent had to cancel travel plans, 63 percent axed social or entertainment events and 71 percent weren’t able to buy the groceries they needed.

The poll also shows 40 percent of Utahns believe the spread of the virus is going to get worse over the next months as opposed to being generally contained.  Ginger Street restaurant owner Michael McHenry agrees with this.

He says, “People get scared.  I think that fear is going to increase over time.”

McHenry’s company owns three restaurants across the Wasatch Front, and he has had to lay off employees, also.  However, he’s taking steps to ensure those people still have the things they need.

“[We’re] providing two meals a day to each of our team members who are currently scheduled and those that have been laid off, at this time.  We’re providing two meals a day and access to an essentials pantry,” McHenry says.  Those essentials include things like rice, soap, and toilet paper.

McHenry says running a restaurant is getting increasingly tricky.  They’ve had to adapt seemingly hour by hour.  Since no one can dine indoors, they’ve had to develop new ways to serve customers while completely avoiding physical contact.

He says March is typically one of the busiest times of the year in the restaurant industry, and none of his colleagues have been through a situation like this before.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute poll also shows 58 percent of Utahns are following recent news of the virus very closely, with an even amount of people watching the national and local news.