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AM News Brief: Bag Ban Delayed, Navajo Nation Peak COVID & Utah County AG Clears COVID Allegations

Photo of bags of plastic recycling.
Senior Airman Franklin R. Ramos
U.S. Air Force
Restrictions aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastic bags have been put on hold in northern Utah during the coronavirus pandemic. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, May 27, 2020

Northern Utah

Utah County AG Says COVID Allegations Against Businesses Aren’t True

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt refuted reports Tuesday that two businesses linked to dozens of coronavirus cases forced employees to work after testing positive. Leavitt said his office found the allegations, made public by county leaders, weren't true, though he acknowledged the virus could have been spread by employees who worked without knowing they were infected. He did not elaborate on how the businesses were cleared, or whether the establishments followed other public-health guidelines to slow the spread of the virus. Officials have refused to release the names of the businesses connected to a total of 68 coronavirus cases, though they have said they do not directly interact with the public. — Associated Press

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Women’s Prison Work Program Shutters

Serving Time Cafe, a popular breakfast and lunch joint staffed by incarcerated women, will close its doors. The cafe, adjacent to the Draper prison, had been open to the public for the last 13 years. It was temporarily closed because of restrictions with the coronavirus pandemic, but prison officials have said it won't reopen. The cafe had a regular following, often with a lunchtime rush, and a way for women prisoners to build skills and prepare them to re-enter the community when released. — Associated Press

Plastic Bag Ban Delayed

Restrictions aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastic bags have been put on hold in northern Utah during the coronavirus pandemic. But officials say the efforts won't be forgotten. In response to COVID-19, some stores have banned reusable bags as part of their safety measures, believing they pose a risk in spreading the virus. The Cache County Solid Waste Advisory Board drafted a plan to reduce single-use plastic bags that included a public-education program and working with retailers to develop their own reduction measures and policies. But plans are on hold during the pandemic. — Associated Press

Watch KUER RadioWest’s short film about the cafe.

Southern Utah

Triple Digits For Southwest Utah

The National Weather Service is issuing an “excessive heat warning” in effect Wednesday at 11 a.m. until midnight Friday for St. George, Washington County and Zion National Park. An early-season heatwave is expected to sizzle the southwest, with a high of 104 Wednesday in St. George and 107 Thursday. People are urged to know the signs of heat stroke. For those who work outside, scheduling early morning and evening shifts is ideal, along with many breaks in shade or air-conditioned environments. — Diane Maggipinto


Utah’s Social Services Could Take $112 Hit

The Utah Legislature’s Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee met virtually Tuesday to discuss up to $112 million dollars in cuts to Utah’s health, human and workforce service programs. Medicaid, mental health programs and others could be impacted by cuts to Utah’s budget. Lawmakers fleshed out ways to reduce next year’s spending by 2, 5 and 10%, in response to revenue loss due to the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday, the committee will finalize its recommendations as well as take public input on the proposals. Read the full story. — Emily Means


Navajo Nation Passes Peak COVID Cases

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a virtual town hall Tuesday that they hit their peak number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and ER visits a few weeks early thanks to social distancing and mask-wearing. On Tuesday, the Nation reported 157 deaths and 4,689 cases of the virus. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Presidential Task Force On Missing And Murdered Indigenous People

A presidential task force probing the epidemic of missing and murdered Native Americans is resuming listening sessions. The task force held a handful of sessions in person before the coronavirus hit and is now turning to teleconferences and webinars to update tribes on its work and get feedback. Those sessions start Thursday. The task force is reviewing cold cases in Indian Country to find ways to improve investigations and respond more quickly to reports of missing Native Americans. — Associated Press

Judge Sides With Sage Grouse Over Energy

A U.S. judge has dealt a setback to the Trump administration's efforts to increase domestic oil and gas exploration. Judge Brian Morris said administration officials failed to protect habitat for the greater sage grouse when it issued leases on hundreds of thousands of acres. The ground-dwelling bird's population has dropped dramatically. He cancelled those leases, mostly in Wyoming and Montana and generally struck down federal policies that allowed more drilling in sage grouse habitat. The judge says officials must return the sales proceeds to companies. — Associated Press

Maternal Mental Health During The Pandemic

COVID-19 has changed the way hospitals take care of women before and after giving birth. Those changes have led to stress and anxiety for mothers. Researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health are trying to understand that impact and how healthcare providers can better support their patients. In a survey, they found that women are particularly concerned about reducing their exposure and what they can expect from prenatal and postnatal care. Thirty-on women were surveyed. The researchers expect to publish their results in early June. — Allison Herrera, Colorado Public Radio

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