PM News Brief: 500,000 Masks, Towns Return To Orange & The Passing Of Utah Jazz Legend Jerry Sloan
Friday evening, May 22, 2020
Returning To Orange
Two towns in San Juan County will re-institute some social distancing measures, like limiting gatherings to 20 people and banning team sports. Gov. Gary Herbert issued an executive order Friday approving Bluff and Mexican Hat’s request to move from the low risk or yellow phase to the moderate risk or orange phase. Both towns border the Navajo Nation, which has one of the highest rates of infection in the country. There have been 241 cases of COVID-19 on the Utah portion of the Navajo Nation, according to numbers released Friday by the Utah Department of Health. Across the state there have been more than 8,057 cases. Utah also reported one new death Friday — a woman over the age of 85 living in a Weber County long term care facility. — Elaine Clark
Jazz Coaching Legend Dies
Former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan died early Friday morning at the age of 78. Sloan succumbed to complications from Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia. In his 23 years as the Jazz coach, Sloan led the team to more than 1,223 wins, 20 playoffs, and two NBA finals. He retired in 2011. Before his time as coach, he played for the Chicago Bulls. In a statement, Gov. Gary Herbert called Sloan "a fierce competitor and disciplinarian" and said that the coach "was the heart and soul of the Utah Jazz for years."
Poll Puts Bob Stevenson In Lead For Utah’s 1st Congressional Primary
A new poll from UtahPolicy.com and KUTV 2News shows Davis County Commissioner Bob Stevenson leading in the Republican primary race for Utah’s 1st Congressional District. Thirty-eight percent of likely Republican voters said they would vote for Stevenson if the primary were held today. He has a 12 point lead over Kaysville Mayor Katie Witt. Candidates Kerry Gibson and Blake Moore came in with 20% and 16%, respectively. The field was initially crowded in the race to replace retiring Rep. Rob Bishop, with 13 Republicans vying for the seat. It is a heavily conservative district, and the winner of the Republican primary will be favored to win the general election in November. The primary is set for June 30 and will be conducted entirely by mail, except for in San Juan County. — Caroline Ballard
COVID Unemployment Numbers
April’s unemployment numbers came out Friday, providing Utah with what the Department of Workforce Services says is its first measured glimpse into the coronavirus’ economic impact. Last month, the state’s unemployment rate hit 9.7%, with approximately 155,800 Utahns out of work. The department said Utah came out better than the rest of the country, where unemployment averaged 14.7%. Part of the reason Utah may have done better is because of how well the state was doing prior to the pandemic, as well as because the industries most affected by the pandemic — such as leisure and hospitality — are small here compared to other states. — Jon Reed
Memorial Day Precautions
Memorial Day normally marks the unofficial start of summer, especially at national parks and other public land in Utah. State parks are open, as is most public land under the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. But some national parks are still closed and most are only partially open. Officials are asking visitors to check for closures online and to avoid risky behavior this weekend, as it stresses emergency medical staff. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff
Who Was That Masked Tourist?
Areas surrounding national and state parks in Utah will receive half a million face masks to distribute free to visitors this Memorial Day Weekend. The state office of tourism is partnering with parks and recreation, economic development agencies and private organizations to bring highly-visited spots the masks. Places expecting an increase in traffic, like Moab, Zion and Bryce will all receive tens of thousands of masks each to encourage social distancing. — Caroline Ballard
Cannabis And Banking
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is asking Congress to pass a bill that allows marijuana businesses to use federally insured banks. He’s joined a coalition of his counterparts in 33 other states to support the SAFE Banking Act. Utah has legalized cannabis for medical use, but since marijuana is illegal under federal laws, dispensaries can’t access banks. Reyes said in a statement “that creates significant practical and public safety issues.” — Sonja Hutson