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PM News Brief: Aftershock Count, Yellowstone Grizzly Bears & COVID Testing Event

Photo of a grizzly bear.
National Park Service
Yellowstone grizzly bears' endangered status is being reviewed in federal courts again.

Wednesday evening, May 6, 2020

STATE

National Guard Assisting In COVID Fight

Some 120 Utah National Guard members will soon be helping Utah health care workers in the fight against coronavirus. Retired Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton, who’s now heading up the Department of Health’s pandemic response, said they will be placed at long term care facilities and provide rapid response to any COVID-19 hotspots. Two more deaths were announced Wednesday by the department. Both women were Salt Lake County residents living in a long term care facility. Utah has had nearly 5,600 confirmed cases of the virus to date and more than 130,000 people have been tested. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

NORTHERN UTAH

Free Testing On Fairpark Grounds

Utah state lawmakers and health officials are hosting a free COVID-19 testing event at the Utah State Fairpark this Saturday targeting underserved communities. The event is being put on by the state’s six legislators of ethnic and racial minorities. Data from the Utah Department of Health show people of color account for more than 40% of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases, but make up less than a quarter of the population. The event also aims to provide resources for people experiencing housing or food insecurity. To participate, people need to register by Friday. — Emily Means

Earthquakes And Aftershocks, Oh My!

In the nearly two months since the 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Magna, Utah has experienced more than 2,000 aftershocks. Data from the University of Utah Seismograph Stations show six aftershocks were greater than 4.0 and 34 were in the magnitude three range. The quakes have gradually petered out in frequency. Nearly all of the aftershocks have been located within a few miles of the main event. Seismologists have said this is expected and normal for an aftershock pattern. — Caroline Ballard

Utah County Businesses’ COVID Cases

Utah County officials said dozens of workers tested positive for the coronavirus after two businesses there instructed employees not to follow quarantine guidelines and required people who tested positive to continue coming to work. The Daily Herald reports nearly half the employees at one business were infected. Between both businesses, a total of 68 people tested positive for COVID-19. Officials did not name either establishment in a letter released late Monday, but said the businesses’ responses were unacceptable. State epidemiologist Angela Dunn said in a press conference Wednesday that the risk to the general public is low, as neither business was outward facing. One has been temporarily closed and both have renewed cleaning requirements. — Associated Press 

SOUTHERN UTAH

National Parks Reopening

Bryce Canyon National Park opened its gates to the public on Wednesday for the first time in nearly a month. The park is reopening in phases. The main road, viewpoints and one bathroom are open for now. But backcountry areas and other facilities, like the visitor center and campgrounds, are still closed. Zion National Park will start allowing visitors to access certain areas next week. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks remain closed. Read the full story here. — David Fuchs, St. George

Southwest Utah Move To Yellow? Not So Fast

The Utah Department of Health declined Washington County’s request Tuesday to shift from the moderate- to low-risk phase of its coronavirus pandemic response. The county is projecting a $4 million decline in its 2020 sales tax revenue — about 20% of its overall budget — as a result of the pandemic. And local leaders said the state’s guidelines should recognize regional differences to strike the right balance between public health risks and business interests. The county’s request will not be reconsidered before May 15. — David Fuchs, St. George

REGION/NATION

Fire Funding Ahead Of Wildfire Season

COVID-19 is decimating local budgets across our region. But, aside from public health, there’s another threat looming: wildfires. Democratic lawmakers in our region are calling on Congress to provide more funding in the next coronavirus stimulus package to local governments that pay firefighters. Firefighters are asking for about $5 billion to cover equipment, supplies and staffing — ahead of wildfire season. An earlier stimulus package gave them $100 million. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

Yellowstone Grizzlies

Yellowstone grizzly bears’ endangered status is being reviewed in federal courts again. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service delisted Yellowstone grizzly bears back in 2017 but that decision was overturned the following year. That ruling said the agency hadn’t used the best available science in its decision and asked that a comprehensive review of the entire species in the lower 48th be part of any future delisting decision.The U.S. government is asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals for clarity on that requirement. Meanwhile Wyoming is asking for the protections to be overturned altogether. — Kamila Kudelska, Mountain West News Bureau

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