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PM News Brief: Moving To Yellow, Unemployment Claims Falling & Teleworking

Photo of Gary Herbert wearing a mask and a yellow tie walking in front of Angela Dunn also wearing a mask
Laura Seitz, pool photographer
Gov. Gary Herbert walks to the microphone past Dr. Angela Dunn, state epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health, during the daily COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, May 14, 2020.

Thursday evening, May 14, 2020

STATE

Welcome To Yellow

On Saturday, most of Utah will move from the orange, moderate risk phase of its pandemic response to the yellow, low risk phase. The new guidelines go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on May 16. However, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday, Grand, Summit, and Wasatch Counties along with Salt Lake and West Valley cities will stay in orange. Herbert said the decision to move to yellow is based on data which show the state has a high testing capacity and new cases have plateaued. Under the yellow, low risk phase, people can gather in groups of up to 50 and team sports can return with proper safety measures like temperature checks. — Ross Terrell

New Unemployment Claims Down Week Over Week

New unemployment claims continue to drop, according to numbers released Thursday by the Department of Workforce Services. Seven thousand more Utahns filed for unemployment benefits for the week of May 3-9, but that’s down nearly 20% compared to the week before. Still, about 106,000 people here received payments. About 2,800 people filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the fund set up for gig workers and non-traditional workers. But 4,000 Utahns stopped filing for benefits, which is an increase from the previous week. — Jon Reed

Sen. Dan McCay Pushing For Telework Bill

Utah state Sen. Dan McCay said he’s pursuing a bill that would require certain state employees to work from home on days with poor air quality. It would require “work site optional” employees to telework, while “work site essential” employees could still come in. Emissions on the Wasatch Front plummeted when Utahns started working from home in mid-March to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. McCay wrote on Twitter that Utah should learn from that, and encourage more teleworking in the future to improve air quality. — Sonja Hutson

COVID Update

As of Thursday, Utah has had more than 6,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Numbers from the state’s department of health show about half of the cases here have recovered and over 160,000 Utahns have been tested. Officials reported no new deaths. Health officials also released data on how the coronavirus has impacted long-term care facilities. Of the more than 300 in the state, 97 have had at least one case of COVID-19. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

SOUTHERN UTAH

Shakespeare Festival Canceled

The Utah Shakespeare Festival announced this week that it’s canceled its summer season in Cedar City. Executive Producer Frank Mack hoped he wouldn’t have to after initially postponing their season by 10 days. The festival pivoted to set up ways that the actors could rehearse and perform that wouldn’t put themselves or audiences at risk. But since Actors’ Equity — the national union that issues the performers’ contracts — wasn’t ready to move forward, they had to cancel the show. Mack said the festival will be able to survive the hit, thanks to support from Southern Utah University. Read the full story.David Fuchs, St. George

NORTHERN UTAH

Inland Port Teams Up With Rocky Mountain Power

Rocky Mountain Power and the Utah Inland Port Authority signed an agreement to sustainably power the distribution hub planned for Salt Lake County’s northwest corner. According to a press release, the two companies will work to determine the types of renewable energy sources and infrastructure needed over the next decade. But the Center for Biological Diversity, which opposes the port because of its projected impacts on the environment, called the deal “greenwashing” and says the details are too vague. — Emily Means

REGION

Parts Of Mountain West Spared From Virus

Nearly half of all counties in our region have largely been spared from COVID–19. That’s according to data from the nonprofit organization USAFacts. Public health experts credit swift lockdowns with lowering the rate of transmission but add these communities aren’t out of the woods yet and could be hit by a second wave as states reopen.— Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

NATION

Sen. Mike Lee Introduces FISA Amendment

The U.S. Senate reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Thursday. The act grants the federal government powers to electronically surveil suspected foreign parties in the country, but has faced criticism in recent years over privacy concerns. As part of its passage, an amendment put forth by Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy will ramp up certain oversight of the FISA process. It will require FISA court judges to have a neutral third party lawyer observe cases involving sensitive investigative matters. The Act now goes back to the House for approval. — Caroline Ballard

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