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PM News Brief: Medal Of Valor, November Election Changes & Child ID Kits

Close up of a medal of valor with an American flag in the background.
Gov. Gary Herbert will award the state’s highest honor, the Utah Medal of Valor, to a member of the Utah National Guard Tuesday afternoon. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Monday evening, August 31, 2020


Marking International Overdose Awareness Day

Monday is International Overdose Awareness Day. While U.S. data appear to show an increase in overdoses during 2020, there’s not enough local data to know the impact in Utah. Jennifer Plumb with Utah Naloxone, an organization that distributes overdose rescue kits, said national 911 call data show a rise in requests for emergency overdose responses, and anecdotal information from local communities also supports that. A group called Overdose Awareness Utah planned a memorial Monday evening at the State Capitol building. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Governor Signs 19 Bills, Including One Aimed At November’s Election

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed 19 bills into law Monday. They include an elections law that requires each county to have at least one in-person polling location this November, which can be indoors or outdoors. Hebert also approved legislation that loosens the job requirements for the state health department’s deputy director. Right now, if the head of the department is not a physician, the deputy director has to be one. Moving forward they have to have at least five years of experience in public health. If they are not licensed to practice medicine in Utah, there must be another deputy director who is. Both laws take effect immediately. — Sonja Hutson

Three Consecutive Days With Zero Reported COVID-19 Deaths

For the third consecutive day, Utah health officials reported no new deaths due to COVID-19. New cases were also down to 253 Monday after a weekend with around 450 each day. The state’s positivity rate, however, remains right around 9%. So far, nearly 44,000 Utahns have recovered from the coronavirus. — Ross Terrell

Sgt. Chasen Brown To Receive Utah’s Highest Honor

Gov. Gary Herbert will award the state’s highest honor, the Utah Medal of Valor, to a member of the Utah National Guard Tuesday afternoon for his actions during the 2017 Las Vegas shooting. Sgt. Chasen Brown was attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival when a gunman opened fire on concertgoers. Utah’s National Guard said Brown immediately started aiding wounded attendees in the midst of gunfire, saving half a dozen lives, though 59 people were still killed that day. The Utah Medal of Valor is awarded to military members who have shown "extreme valor," namely by putting themselves in mortal danger. Due to the pandemic, the award ceremony will take place via Facebook Live. — Roddy Nikpour


How Wildfire Smoke Affects Susceptibility To COVID-19

Wildfire smoke from nearby states has made its way into Utah over the past couple of weeks, and that could lead to a higher risk of catching COVID-19. Cheryl Pirozzi, a pulmonologist with University of Utah Health, said when the air quality is poor, people should avoid outdoor activities even if they are wearing a face covering. “Cloth or surgical face masks are really important for reducing COVID-19 transmission,” Pirozzi said. “They don’t protect from wildfire smoke exposure, so for that you would need a well fitting N-95 mask.” Pirozzi said older adults and people with underlying heart and lung conditions are at the highest risk of suffering from COVID-19 complications due to air pollutants from smoke. She warns though that bad air quality could also make young children more susceptible to catch the virus. — Ross Terrell


Southwest U.S. Caught Up In A Drought

It's grim news for the western U.S. The latest maps show most of the southern half of the region is in a drought with the most extreme conditions centered over parts of Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado. Some parts of Nevada have gone months without measurable rain. New Mexico's state climatologist said his state has its own problems, where drought has been compounded by dismal spring runoff and now a nearly nonexistent monsoon season. Earlier this year, Salt Lake City recorded its driest April on record and last month, only received .26 inches of rain. — Associated Press


Outdoor Climbing Up, So Is Human Waste

Indoor climbing gyms have had to close their doors this summer to slow the spread of the virus. And with that, crags and boulder fields in our region have seen a record number of visitors. That’s meant overcrowding, crushed plant life and more human waste on public lands. Climbing advocacy groups say it’s important to follow Leave No Trace principles, like pack it in, pack it out. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

Utah Wants Federal Funding For Child ID Kits

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, along with 19 other attorneys general, are asking President Trump to support a bill that would allow them to request federal funding for Child ID Kits. The kits would allow parents to collect their kids' fingerprints and DNA, which they could then turn over to law enforcement if their child goes missing. The bipartisan legislation, dubbed the National Child ID Act, would provide attorneys general federal money to buy kits for children between kindergarten and sixth grade. — Sonja Hutson

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