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AM News Brief: Traffic Stop Tot, Guard Deployment & State Response In San Juan County

Photo of San Juan County courthouse.
Ken Lund / Flickr Creative Commons
Utah Epidemiologist Angela Dunn said health officials are worried about the growth in COVID-19 cases in San Juan County. This story and more in the Tuesday morning news brief.

  

Tuesday morning, May 5, 2020

State

Utah National Guard Deployment

About 300 soldiers from the Utah National Guard’s aviation regiment will be deployed to Afghanistan for 12 months. They are scheduled to depart May 7 and head to Texas before being sent overseas. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, they will leave Utah in smaller groups than in past deployments. The soldiers will be a part of Operation Freedom Sentinel and will provide combat air support to troops. The battalion commander says they have been preparing for this deployment for the past two years. This is their third tour in Afghanistan. They’ve also served in Kuwait. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Northern Utah

Tracing Cases In Homeless Population Difficult, But Successful

Contact tracing is an important step in curbing the spread of COVID-19, according to public health officials. The Salt Lake County Health Department works with people experiencing homelessness who test positive for coronavirus to identify others who may have been exposed. Without addresses or phone numbers, though, it can be challenging to find those people and connect with them. Still, one county health official said contact tracing efforts have slowed the spread of the virus. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Boiler Explosion At Little America

Two people were hurt when a boiler exploded at Little America Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City Monday. Fire officials said both were hospitalized after the mid-morning blast; the workers were servicing the boiler at the time, and no guests were nearby. Traffic near the hotel was temporarily closed as crews responded to the scene. — Diane Maggipinto

Traffic Stop Tot

A Utah Highway Patrol trooper got a pint-sized surprise when he pulled over a 5-year-old driver who was swerving so badly he thought the driver needed medical attention. Trooper Rick Morgan said the boy did not respond to his lights but pulled over when he hit his siren on Interstate 15 on Monday. But when the window came down Morgan said it was pretty clear that it was "a very underaged driver." When asked, Morgan said the boy told him he was going to his sister's house — in California. His parents were contacted and they came and took custody of their son and the vehicle. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Rescue After Sevier County Rock Slide

Two teenagers trapped in a rockslide in Sevier County were rescued by emergency crews. County Sheriffs said the teens from Gunnison were driving on Willow Creek Road northeast of Salina when the rocks tumbled Sunday night. The passenger was partially trapped and the vehicle had to be cut open so first responders could free him. The driver was flown by a medical helicopter to Utah Valley hospital and the passenger was transported to Gunnison Valley Hospital. — Associated Press

State Response To San Juan County COVID-19 Cases

Utah Epidemiologist Angela Dunn said health officials are worried about the growth in COVID-19 cases in San Juan County. As of Monday, there were 116 cases there, but about half of those happened last week. Most of them are on the Navajo Nation. The new cases don’t represent a spike just because of more testing, as most of them are active. Dunn said the state health department’s role is to provide testing, increase testing capacity and send mobile teams down there to help. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Arizona Mayor Criticized For Comments Abouts Navajo Nation

The mayor of Page, Arizona is being criticized for online comments saying he wished the Navajo Nation would put more resources into battling alcoholism. Levi Tappan has since apologized, but also said he won't resign over what some call racist remarks. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said Tappan's comments have far-reaching implications and urged him to be more respectful of the relationship between Navajos and the city of Page. Nez also called on elected officials in towns that border the reservation to work with the tribe to help combat the coronavirus. — Diane Maggipinto

Tribal Governments Still Waiting On Federal Relief

The U.S. Treasury Department has yet to send payments to tribal governments from a coronavirus relief package approved in late March. The agency said it's still weighing how to allocate $8 billion in funding that was set aside for tribes. The tribes and the federal government disagree over the definition of "Indian Tribe" that was included in the relief package. And the Treasury Department is being sued by tribes who are seeking to keep the money out of the hands of Alaska Native corporations. A judge ruled to temporarily suspend payments to those corporations until the status question is resolved. — Associated Press

Distant Dance Parties Help Business Stay Afloat

Lots of businesses across our region have had to figure out how to keep operating during the COVID-19 crisis. Idaho’s Sound Wave Events is usually busy with weddings and parties this time of year. But after the pandemic hit, the company decided to host DJ’ed block parties in neighborhoods, with music blasting off the back of the company truck. They require everyone who participates to stay six feet apart and dance in their own front yards. — Amanda Peacher, Mountain West News Bureau

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