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News Briefs
Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

AM News Brief: Murder Charges Filed, Gubernatorial Debate & Bison Statue Finds Its Desert Home

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Thursday morning, May 7, 2020

State

Taking It Slow

Utah’s epidemiologist Angela Dunn said at a press conference Wednesday the rate of new COVID-19 cases in the state has been fairly consistent. But that won’t be enough to reopen more of the state’s economy — Dunn said what health officials need to see is an actual drop. Right now, cases in Utah have plateaued around a 4.2% positive rate, regardless of how many people get tested each day. Once they see a drop and make sure hospitals can handle a potential surge, the state will then consider a move to the yellow, low risk phase of its pandemic response. — Ross Terrell

Gubernatorial Primary Debate Thursday Afternoon

The four Republican candidates for Governor will square off in a virtual debate Thursday afternoon. It’s hosted by the Salt Lake Chamber and the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, so economic issues are likely to be front and center. Former Governor Jon Huntsman and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox have been leading in the polls since December. Former Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes and former Utah GOP Chair Thomas Wright are also on the ballot. Voting is June 30 and the registration deadline is June 19. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Inland Port Business Plan

The Utah Inland Port Authority met with environmental, business and other stakeholders Wednesday to discuss its strategy moving forward. The port authority used public input to inform its business plan, which relies on the authority’s ability to collect property taxes to help fund development on the northwest side of Salt Lake County. The port authority is scheduled to unveil the plan May 21, and public comment will be open from then through June 3. Board members will meet May 27 to consider the plan. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Utahns Struggle In Gig Economy

More than 14,000 gig workers and self-employed people have filed for unemployment benefits in Utah over the past two weeks, including people working for ridesharing apps and Airbnb. One Airbnb owner and property manager said her properties are renting for about 60% of the price they went for last year. And a Lyft driver with over 40,000 rides, said she went from 120 trips a week down to four. Read more here. — Jessica Lowell

Suspect Charged In Murder Of West Jordan Couple

Albert E. Johnson, the Utah man suspected of killing a West Jordan couple, reportedly forced the two out of their bed at gunpoint, took money and two cell phones, then killed them after he was recognized. Court documents filed Wednesday say Johnson broke into the house of Tony and Katherine Butterfield wearing a mask April 18. But he removed it after escaping to his car and realizing he didn't have his keys. He returned to the house to find the keys. Tony Butterfield recognized Johnson without the mask. A struggle ended in the shooting deaths of the Butterfields. Johnson has been charged with aggravated murder and other counts. — Diane Maggipinto

Search For Teens Around Utah Lake

A search for two teen girls resumed Thursday morning in Utah County. Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office tweeted that the two have been missing on Utah Lake since Wednesday afternoon. Crews looked for them Wednesday night and resumed the search Thursday morning in the area of Lincoln Beach Marina at the south end of the lake. — Diane Maggipinto

Healthcare Workers Return From NYC

A team of 100 health workers have returned to Utah from New York City. Doctors and nurses from Intermountain Healthcare volunteered to help frontline workers there. The city has had more than 150,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The team worked for two weeks in the city. So far, all caregivers have tested negative for COVID-19 and are reported to be healthy. At a press conference Wednesday, some of the workers shared their experiences and said that lessons learned can be applied in Utah. Listen to our conversation with one physician assistant. — Caroline Ballard

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

UTA Distributes Face Masks To Passengers

The Utah Transit Authority handed out masks to passengers Thursday morning. Agency board trustees distributed the face masks starting at the north end of the lines from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to passengers boarding and disembarking buses and trains in the system. UTA spokesperson Carl Arky said they want to promote and bolster the health and safety of passengers and employees riding trains and buses. Passengers are asked to wear the washable, reusable masks while riding transit, though it's not a mandate. — Diane Maggipinto

“Distant Thunder” Installed At Golden Spike

A 3,000 pound bison statue named “Distant Thunder” has made it to its permanent home at Golden Spike National Historical Park. Last year marked the 150 year anniversary of the transcontinental railroad. That’s when park officials unveiled the bison sculpted by Provo artist Michael Coleman. Officials say Distant Thunder represents the sound of the wild, the majestic animal it's designed for and the “Iron Horse” locomotives that connected the continent here in Utah. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Will Murder Hornets Strike The Mountain West?

The Asian giant hornet, or “murder hornet” as some call it, is native to Asia but has recently been spotted in Washington state and British Colombia. That has some people concerned they might invade the Mountain West and start colonizing and killing the bees. But University of Wyoming entomologist Scott Schell said that compared to other problems honeybees have, they don’t represent a significant threat. He also said that while the hornets may spread down the west coast, are unlikely to spread further east because our region is likely too high and dry. — Ivy Engel, Wyoming Public Radio

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