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PM News Brief: Eight New COVID-19 Deaths, Opening Salt Lake City Streets & Rising Housing Costs

Photo of the intersection of 200 South and West Temple in Salt Lake City
Wikimedia Commons
Salt Lake City is looking to reconstruct a major section of 200 South, to not only fix worn-out pavement but add urban features.

Tuesday evening, May 19, 2020

STATE

Pandemic’s Effect On Public Transit

Public transportation ridership in Utah has plummeted since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Utah Transit Authority has reduced service and implemented a number of safety measures — including providing free face masks to riders and allowing them to board without touching doors or buttons. But like many others around the country, Utah’s transit system is facing questions about if and when people will feel safe riding again and what kind of financial support will be needed to keep long term plans alive. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Eight COVID-19 Deaths

Utah health officials announced eight new COVID-19 related deaths Tuesday. It’s the highest single day increase in the state since the start of the pandemic. Six people who died were Salt Lake County residents, one lived in Utah County and the other in Washington County. All but one were over the age of 60, and all of them were either hospitalized or living in a long term care facility when they died. Utah has now had more than 7,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19. And more than 177,000 people have been tested. More than 4,200 have recovered. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utah Attorney General Supports Dropped Charges

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and 14 other Republican attorneys general filed a brief Monday in support of the U.S. Department of Justice dropping charges against former Trump administration official Michael Flynn. Flynn has been accused of lying to the FBI about conversations with the Russian ambassador. The brief signed by Reyes argues a federal judge should not stop the Department of Justice from dropping the charges because he does not have the authority to do so. — Associated Press

250 Bill Requests

Over the past week, Utah lawmakers have requested almost 250 bills for next year’s general session. But not all requests turn into actual legislation that is introduced during the session. Republican Rep. Steve Christiansen has requested a bill called “abortion amendments.” During the 2020 session he sponsored an unsuccessful piece of legislation that would have required ultrasounds before abortions. In response to emergency state contracts related to COVID-19, Democratic Rep. Suzanne Harrison has requested a bill that would require more transparency and public access to information regarding emergency purchases. — Sonja Hutson

NORTHERN UTAH

Reimagining A Major Street In Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City is looking to reconstruct 200 South, a main street that runs through downtown and east to the University of Utah. Officials are using $11 million from the Funding Our Future initiative, which addresses streets, housing and public transportation in Salt Lake City. Kyle Cook, who’s working on the project, said the pavement along the street from 400 West to 900 East is worn out, so they decided to rebuild it with more urban features. Salt Lake is holding a “virtual open house” Wednesday to get public feedback before construction starts in 2022. — Jessica Lowell

University Of Utah Police Participating In Investigation

The University of Utah announced Tuesday its police department will participate in an investigation by the state’s Department of Public Safety. It comes on the heels of allegations that a police officer kept explicit photos of Lauren McCluskey on his phone and shared them with others. McCluskey’s ex-boyfriend shot and killed her on campus in 2018. The university said an internal investigation hadn’t shown any inappropriate behavior by the officer handling her case. In a statement released Monday, University Police Chief Rodney Chatman said if the story is true, the officer must be held accountable for his actions. — Emily Means

REGION/NATION

Housing Costs Tied To Recreation

Researchers with the nonprofit Headwaters Economics looked at what drives housing to become so expensive in places that depend on recreation for their economies. They say it’s actually a side effect of success  — outdoorsy towns are desirable. But it means that a lot of residents are funneling big chunks of their wages to pay a rent or mortgage  — in some places more than half. The researchers said such unaffordable housing “has created a baseline of financial hardship that makes residents less able to weather” crises like natural disasters, or pandemics.  — Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau

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