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Mitt Romney dons mask on Senate floor as he recognizes Utah’s fight against coronavirus

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, wears a face mask to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 12, 2020.
Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Sen. Mitt Romney recognized Utahns who have stepped up to serve the state and the country during the coronavirus pandemic in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday.

“Their actions are inspiring and they help save lives,” he said, wearing a face mask as he spoke. “Our state’s pioneering is a big part of what makes Utah a model of what we can do when we work together as a community.”

Also Wednesday, Romney, R-Utah, and a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would extend the loan forgiveness period from eight weeks to 16 weeks and amend the rehire date from June 30 to 16 weeks after a Paycheck Protection Program loan is awarded.

“For many of Utah’s small businesses, the eight-week period they are allowed to use their PPP loan is quickly approaching, but they remain closed or far from full capacity as our economy remains paused to fight the spread of COVID-19, he said.

The bill doubles the amount of time business have to use their loan, which will help provide the flexibility they need to reopen and rehire their employees without risking their eligibility for loan forgiveness, Romney said.

In his brief floor speech, Romney said he would prefer to name individuals who have helped others through the pandemic but because “tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands” have participated he limited his remarks to groups and organizations.

Romney noted that two 50-person teams of Utah health care workers traveled to New York City to help with the surge of patients there, saying doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and other spent three weeks working in hospitals, often on 24-hour shifts.

Intermountain Healthcare and the University of Utah have helped with labs and testing, including the Hero Project, which tested more than 10,000 Utahns to assess the spread of the virus throughout the state, he said. The U.’s wellness bus also brought mobile testing to underserved areas.

Groups of students around campuses are using 3D printers to make face shields for health care workers. Businesses at Silicon Slopes expanded the state’s testing efforts and thousands have been tested through their efforts, he said.

The Utah Food Bank is using mobile pantries to distribute food throughout the state and working with the organizations like the Larry H. Miller Group to host food drives. The Utah Farm Bureau has bought food from local farmers to give to families in need, Romney said.

The Utah Manufacturing Association and its members have spearheaded an effort to provide every person in the state with a free mask. World Trade Center Utah has worked with his office to make sure local businesses have access to federal loans and other relief programs, Romney said.

ProjectProtect, in partnership with Intermountain Healthcare, the U., and Latter-day Saint Charities, is making face shields, masks and gowns for front-line caregivers. To date, more than 30,000 volunteers have sewn more than 3 million masks, he said.

“Those are just some of the many extraordinary organizations and individuals that have come together to help their neighbors,” Romney said.