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PM News Brief: School Closures Extended, Eleven Candidates Debate & Navajo Nation Citations

Stock photo of chairs on top of desks in a classroom.
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Utah has extended its "soft closure" of public and charter schools until the end of the school year.

Tuesday evening, April 14, 2020

STATE

Governor Extends School Closures 

Utah has extended its “soft closure” of public and charter schools until the end of the school year. Since March 13, students have only been able to pick up homework and grab and go meals from school buildings due to the coronavirus pandemic. Education officials are still working to determine how students will be graded and assessed. So far, Utah has seen 2,412 cases of COVID-19 and 19 people have died due to the disease. The state has tested 46,476 people. — Jessica Lowell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Lawmaker May Discuss Limiting Governor’s Pandemic Power

Utah lawmakers are set to discuss a bill that could limit the governor’s power during a pandemic. It would require the governor to consult with legislative leadership at least 48 hours before an order or directive is issued. It comes as Gov. Gary Herbert has issued several executive actions related to the coronavirus, including a ban on in-house dining. — Sonja Hutson

Greg Hughes Announces Running Mate

Former Speaker of the House Greg Hughes has announced his running mate in the race for governor — Washington County Commission Chair Victor Iverson. Iverson has served as president of the Utah Association of Counties, been a member of the La Verkin City Council and an advisor for U.S. Sen. Mike Lee. Hughes said Iverson is “a proven leader with a commitment to conservative principles.” — Sonja Hutson

Jan Garbett Files Lawsuit To Get On Primary Ballot

Republican candidate for governor Jan Garbett has filed a lawsuit against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox asking for her name to be put on the June primary ballot. Candidates for governor must either gather 28,000 verified voter signatures or gain enough support through the party’s convention system to be placed on a primary ballot. But with current social distancing guidelines, most candidates have suspended signature gathering. Garbett said if candidates have to stop campaigning for public health, Utah should relax its requirements for how many signatures are needed. Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order in late March allowing signatures to be gathered electronically. — Caroline Ballard

NORTHERN UTAH

Eleven Candidates Debate In First Congressional District

Eleven Republican candidates running for Utah’s first congressional district faced off in a virtual debate Tuesday. They are vying to replace long-time U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, who is not seeking re-election. Several of them said if they were in Congress they would have pushed for more county and city control over stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus pandemic. — Sonja Hutson

SOUTHERN UTAH

Navajo Nation Starts Mobile Testing

The Utah Department of Health has deployed a mobile COVID-19 testing unit to the Navajo Nation. It was in Navajo Mountain Tuesday and will move on to Monument Valley on Thursday. The van has three nurses and 1,500 test kits aboard. Anyone who’s sick will be able to get tested for the virus. More than 80 people were tested Monday and 77 were tested by noon on Tuesday. The tests are being processed by the state lab in Salt Lake City and it’ll take four to five days to get results. So far all 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Juan County have been on the Navajo Nation. Read KUER’s full story.Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Navajo Nation Sees More Than 100 Curfew Violations

The Navajo Nation Police Department said it issued 115 citations to people who violated a stay-at-home order over the weekend. The Nation banned non-essential workers and residents from leaving their homes for 57 hours, starting Friday night, to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The death rate on the Navajo Nation is 27 times higher than the death rate for Utah, and the infection rate is seven times higher. A spokesperson for the Navajo president says the curfew will likely be repeated this weekend. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

REGION

Mountain West Counties Look Into Barricades

Thirteen counties in the Colorado Rockies say they’re “dismayed to see droves of out of town residents” coming to their communities to recreate. They’re asking the governor to ban travel to mountain areas, and have law enforcement or the national guard enforce the ban. Other counties are threatening visitors with jail time or fines. One big concern is their inability to handle serious cases of COVID-19. According to data from Kaiser Health News, more than 60% of counties in the Mountain West have zero ICU beds. — Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau

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