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AM News Brief: National Parks Status, St. George On Coronavirus & Federal Food Assistance Ruling

Photo of Welcome to Utah sign.
Brian Albers / KUER
Dinosaur National Monument has closed, and Utah’s National Parks are making changes to their operations in response to federal guidance on coronavirus and social distancing. This story and more in the Tuesday morning news brief.";

Tuesday morning, March 17, 2020


Current Utah COVID-19 Cases

A total of 29 Utah residents and 10 visitors have tested positive for COVID-19 in Utah. Those numbers come from the Utah Department of Health and include the first case in Wasatch County, where a student who attends Wasatch High School tested positive. — Diane Maggipinto

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Southern Utah

Moab Regional Hospital Says “Stay Home”

People are flocking to Moab, despite warnings to stay home. That’s according to Dr. Dylan Cole, chief medical officer at Moab Regional Hospital. He says traveling increases the speed at which coronavirus spreads. Cole’s statement comes in response to a since-updated Salt Lake Tribune article published Friday that encouraged people to visit national parks. Read KUER’s full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Blanding

St. George Caps Gatherings At 10

Coronavirus prevention measures are going into effect across the state. And Southwest Utah — a region known for its rapid growth and large population of retirees — is taking precautions, too. St. George placed a cap on all gatherings of over 10 people and cancelled certain events. Dr. David Blodgett, who oversees the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, says the region’s hospitals have plans to increase capacity by 20% to meet the anticipated need. — David Fuchs, St. George

National Parks Status

Utah’s National Parks and Monuments are making changes to their operations in response to federal guidance on coronavirus and social distancing. At Zion National Park, shuttle bus service is on hold. Visitors are allowed to drive Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, but officials say only until parking is full. They will then only allow intermittent vehicle travel. Zion and Bryce Canyon are both operating virtual visitor centers instead of staffed buildings, with the bulk of questions and permit requests done online or by phone. Capitol Reef has closed its visitor center, bookstore and Gifford House. Dinosaur National Monument has closed entirely. — Diane Maggipinto

Northern Utah

Brigham City Explosion Investigation Inconclusive

Investigators say they don't know what triggered an explosion that killed a man at an HyPerComp Engineering in Brigham City. Police completed their investigation into the March 10 blast but were unable to pinpoint a cause. 33-year-old Alex Stoddard, who was the only one in the building at the time, was transferring oxygen from a larger tank to a smaller tank when something caused the explosion. HyPerComp manufactures pressure vessels, which are often used in the automotive and aerospace industries. — Associated Press


Federal Food Assistance Ruling

Thousands of Mountain West residents who were slated to be kicked off food stamps will be able to keep their benefits next month after a federal judge blocked a new Trump administration rule. That rule required able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for the program known as SNAP. The administration says it disagrees with the court’s reasoning and will appeal its decision. — Amanda Peacher, Mountain West News Bureau

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