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AM News Brief: Proposed Homelessness Czar, Transgender Bill Fails & Second COVID-19 Case In Utah

Photo of downtown Salt Lake City.
Brian Albers / KUER
A bill to create a state homelessness director gained approval from the Utah House of Representatives Monday night 41-32. This story and more in the Tuesday morning news brief.

Tuesday morning, March 10, 2020

Northern Utah

Second COVID-19 Case In Utah

A second case of COVID-19 has been announced by the Utah Department of Health and the Weber-Morgan Health Department. Officials said the person has a presumptive positive diagnosis of the infection from coronavirus, and those results will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation. The infected person had recently traveled extensively outside the United States and is described as older than 60 and a resident in the Weber-Morgan health district. The patient is in serious, but stable, condition at Intermountain Health's McKay Dee Hospital in Ogden. IHC officials said they've engaged protocols to ensure safety for other patients and staff. — Diane Maggipinto

Low Risk COVID-19 Exposure At February BYU Basketball Game

State health officials are contacting and testing Brigham Young University basketball fans who sat near a person infected with COVID-19 at a game prior to his infection being diagnosed. The university said Monday the man had mild symptoms, and the risk the virus was transmitted widely at the Feb. 22 game against Gonzaga is low. — Diane Maggipinto

Southern Utah

Green River Diversion Study

A state bill to study the cost of diverting water from the Green River to the Wasatch Front is headed for a final vote in the Senate. But opponents say the potential project is misguided, citing its high cost, dwindling water rights and competition with the Lake Powell Pipeline. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Blanding


Vaping Bill Fails

A bill aimed at cracking down on teen vaping in Utah died in a committee hearing Monday. H.B. 118 would have banned flavored e-cigarettes from all stores except tobacco specialty stores, which are closed to people under 21. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, eased those restrictions Monday and changed the bill to allow other stores to sell menthol flavored e-cigarettes. But the Utah Retail Merchants Association opposed it because it did not include an exception for tobacco products with a federal designation that allows them to be marketed before they are approved. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Criminal Charges Under Proposed Abortion Ban

A near-total abortion ban proposed in Utah could mean criminal charges for women who end their own pregnancies if it goes into effect. Sponsor Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, said Monday he understands concerns about unwanted pregnancies, but also believes abortion ends a life. The plan would only go into effect if the legal landscape changes; that is, if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court. Two abortion proposals have found footing at the Utah Legislature. One requires that a provider conduct an ultrasound before the procedure or face fines starting at up to $100,000. That also passed committee. — Associated Press

Homelessness Czar Proposed

A bill to create a state homelessness director gained approval from the Utah House of Representatives Monday night 41-32. The director would coordinate homeless services throughout the state and approve all funding for them. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan, said she hasn't seen enough progress made under the state's current system and the Board currently overseeing homeless services has too many conflicts of interest. Critics of the bill said it gives too much power to one person. — Sonja Hutson

Transgender Bill Fails

A bill that would require the state to review scientific data on the side effects of puberty blocking drugs failed in the Utah House of Representatives Monday night. The drugs are used by transgender kids to “pause” puberty. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem, had intended to push a bill banning the drugs, as well as other hormone therapy and surgery for minors, but abandoned that effort in favor of this bill. — Sonja Hutson

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