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PM News Brief: Churches Cancel, Navajo Nation Declares Emergency & Lawmakers Retire

Photo of the LDS Temple and the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City
KUER file
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City have suspended church gatherings in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Thursday evening, March 12, 2020

STATE

Schools Close

On Thursday, state officials made recommendations for Utah public universities to suspend large gatherings, restrict non-essential travel and move classes online to help limit the spread of coronavirus. The recommendations aren’t mandates, but each of Utah’s eight public universities are going along with them, with most suspending in-person classes starting next week. Private schools Brigham Young University and Westminster College announced they were canceling classes this week and next week before moving them online. Students are not considered vulnerable to the virus but could spread it to others who are. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Mass Cancellations

If you were planning on going to an event in the next few weeks, there is a good chance it’s canceled. Thursday, Gov. Gary Herbert recommended people avoid mass gatherings of more than 100 people. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall also said in a video statement that all gatherings of more than 100 people will be canceled starting Thursday. Those over the age of 60 and with compromised immune systems are also advised to avoid gatherings of more than 20 people. A number of organizations have already called off or postponed their plans, including concerts, conferences and art exhibits. — Caroline Ballard

Churches Call Off Worship Services

The top leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced Thursday that all public gatherings of Church members will be temporarily suspended worldwide in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. A statement from the Church’s First Presidency said essential local leadership meetings should take place online. And that efforts will be made to offer sacrament, or communion, to Church members at least once monthly.

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City has also canceled public worship and mass from March 14 to March 31, or until further notice. Catholic school facilities will close during this time and funerals and weddings will be postponed. — Lee Hale & Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Telehealth Bill Gets Legislative Nod

A bill expanding remote, electronic doctor visits passed the Utah Legislature Thursday afternoon. Bill sponsor Rep. Melissa Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, said it has become even more important as the coronavirus pandemic expands in Utah. Currently, many insurance companies only allow a set number of doctors to do telehealth. This bill opens it up to all physicians, so patients can see their own providers virtually. The bill is headed to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Abortion Ban Passes

A bill that would ban all elective abortions in Utah — if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade — passed the state Legislature Thursday. It allows abortions in cases of rape, incest, if the mothers life is at risk, or if the fetus has a lethal abnormality. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

NORTHERN UTAH

Lawmakers Announce Retirements

Two Utah state representatives announced their retirements Thursday. Democrat Sue Duckworth of Magna and Democrat Marie Poulson of Cottonwood Heights both said they will not seek reelection after their terms end this year. Duckworth served six terms in the Utah House in the same seat as her husband before her, the late Carl Duckworth. Poulson served nearly 12 years, and is a retired high school English and history teacher. — Caroline Ballard

Planting Season

With today’s beautiful Spring weather — it may be time to start thinking about gardening. According to the Utah Department of Food and Agriculture, there are a few hearty vegetables that can be planted right now. Radishes and turnips can be planted as seeds and take 30-40 days to mature. It’s also a fine time to put in leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens or swiss chard. Baby leaves for salads will appear in around 40 days —– or full leaves for cooking in just over two months. — Elaine Clark

REGION

Navajo Nation Emergency Declaration

The Navajo Nation has declared a state of emergency Wednesday night in response to the coronavirus, although there are no confirmed cases on the reservation. President Donald Trump recently signed an $8.3 billion emergency funding package to respond to the outbreak. And at least $40 million of that will be used for tribal and urban Indian health organizations. According to the Navajo Times, the Navajo Nation has requested the CDC transfer emergency funding to Indian Health Services. Utah Navajo Health System runs four community clinics in Utah through a contract with IHS. — Kate Groetzinger, Blanding

The Cost Of Hardrock Mine Cleanup

A Government Accountability Office report has found that taxpayers are shouldering the burden of the nation’s thousands of abandoned hardrock mines on public lands. It says that federal agencies spent nearly $3 billion to clean up abandoned hardrock mines over the last decade. And private companies only reimbursed them for about a third of that. According to the report, federal agencies spent nearly $93 million between 2008 and 2017 to clean up Utah’s abandoned hardrock mines. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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