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AM News Brief: High Marks For State Credit Rating, Unfair Bad Air & Wildfire Threatens Homes

Photo of burning pinyon and juniper beside Toquerville sign.
David Fuchs / KUER
A roughly 350-acre wildfire ignited near the towns of Toquerville and Hurricane on Monday. The fire was 50% contained as of Tuesday morning, after destroying three structures, and damaging one other. This and more in the Tuesday morning news brief.

Tuesday morning, May 19, 2020

State

Where Bad Air Hits Hardest

Schools in the Salt Lake Valley with mostly minority students are exposed to worse air quality than other schools, according to a new study from the University of Utah. Researchers from the department of sociology looked at more than 170 public schools in Salt Lake County. Sara Grineski, a co-author of the paper, said students who live on the west side of the valley are closer to the airport and industrial locations which lead to higher pollution rates. Grineski said she hopes officials will consider the research when planning new school locations. — Jessica Lowell

Small Businesses Struggle, Even As They Reopen

The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic has devastated small businesses. But even as Utah’s economy begins to reopen, it will likely be a while before things return to normal. Some changes may also be permanent. In general, the state can expect the damage to linger longest in rural areas, especially those that rely heavily on tourism or oil production. The industries that were hit earliest — such as food service, live entertainment and some retail — will also take the longest to recover. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utah Retains High Credit Rating

S&P Global, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings reaffirmed Utah’s AAA credit rating Monday, the highest rating a state can get based on a variety of economic, managerial and institutional factors. The agencies' report noted Utah is well-positioned to respond to an economic downturn. It comes at the same time as a nearly $450 million bond sale which will allow the state Legislature to use that money in the face of a budget shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Wildfire Threatens Homes

A roughly 350-acre wildfire ignited near the towns of Toquerville and Hurricane on Monday. The fire was 50% contained as of Tuesday morning, after destroying three structures, and damaging one other. The fire threatened 30 structures in total — most of them residential — but all evacuation orders had been lifted as of Tuesday morning. The fire started on the same day the National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for the area. The warnings go into effect when there are high temperatures, low humidity and lots of wind. — David Fuchs, St. George

Northern Utah

Rush Valley Fire Out

Tooele County firefighters quickly doused a fire Monday in Rush Valley. In a tweet thanking the crew, Tooele Fire Warden Dan Walton said they stopped the fire at 7.8 acres. The human-caused fire was burning near the intersection of State Routes 36 and 73 while battling 20 mile-an-hour winds. — Diane Maggipinto

Wooing Tech In Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City has hired a technology and innovation advisor as part of its “Tech Lake City” plan, which aims to attract tech companies to set up shop in the capital city. Clark Cahoon will work with the city’s Department of Economic Development in an effort to make Salt Lake a desirable place for life sciences and technology businesses. Cahoon previously served in a similar role in the Governor's Office. Much of Utah’s tech industry is based at Silicon Slopes around Point of the Mountain. How the city has handled tech played a key role in Salt Lake’s mayoral race this past fall. Both Mayor Erin Mendenhall and her opponent state senator Luz Escamilla touted plans to make the city more attractive to those companies. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

Helping The Helpers

A Nevada psychiatrist started a hotline for doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients. It’s one effort around the country to address mental health needs of frontline workers. The Nevada phone line is staffed by sixteen volunteers, mostly psychiatrists. There is also a national crisis hotline for frontline workers dealing with COVID-19 at 800-327-7451. Locally, Intermountain Healthcare has established an Emotional Health Relief Hotline for anyone who needs it at 833-442-2211.

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