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PM News Brief: Parts Of Utah Going Green, 495 COVID Cases & Hotel Bookings Slowdown

Photo of The Grand American Hotel.
Rocio Hernandez / KUER
Hotel slowdowns alone could cost the Mountain West region more than $1.7 billion in tax revenue this year, according to an analysis commissioned by the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Thursday evening, June 18, 2020

STATE

Utah Immigrant Community Reacts To DACA Ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Trump Administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, won’t stand. The decision is met with mixed feelings from Utah’s immigrant community. Alonso Reyna Rivarola, a DACA recipient, said he’s happy about the ruling but wants comprehensive immigration reform. And a local advocacy organization feels the same way but for now will focus its efforts on helping recipients renew their DACA status and assisting others with their applications. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Police Use Of Chokeholds Banned As Form Of Restraint

The Utah Legislature passed a bill Thursday to ban police officers from using chokeholds or kneeling on someone’s neck as a form of restraint. Police would not be trained to use chokeholds as a valid form of restraint, but could still use them when lethal force is allowed. Officers would also be banned from restraining someone by kneeling on their neck. They would be charged with a first degree felony if they do so and the person dies. The proposal comes after weeks of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, where a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. — Sonja Hutson 

Bill Passes That Requires Testing For Long Term Care Facility Residents

Utah’s Legislature passed a bill Thursday that would require long term care facilities to test all their residents and staff for COVID-19. The bill would give people living in these facilities the option to reject testing, but they could be kicked out for refusal. The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Curtis Bramble, said over 40% of the COVID-19 related deaths in the state are from long term care facilities. He said the bill would address a roadblock that facilities were facing to test residents. It would also allow the department of health to share data on COVID-19 patients with state agencies. — Jessica Lowell

Legislature Extends Utah’s State of Emergency

The Utah Legislature voted to extend the state’s COVID-19 state of emergency until the end of August. The resolution’s sponsor says it’s needed to bring in anticipated federal funds in July and staff the emergency operations center. Several lawmakers spoke out against the extension, arguing that emergency purchasing power needed to be reigned in. And that the state should be issuing recommendations to Utahns rather than orders. — Sonja Hutson

Rural Utah Moves To Green

Nine rural Utah counties will move to the green, “new normal” phase of COVID risk Friday at 1 p.m. following an executive order from Gov. Gary Herbert. Herbert said in a statement that Beaver, Daggett, Duchesne, Emery, Garfield, Millard, Piute, Uintah and Wayne counties have some of the state’s lowest case counts and hospitalization rates and rural lifestyles make social distancing easier. Public Health guidelines under green include wearing masks in businesses and staying home when experiencing symptoms. — Sonja Hutson

Rep. John Curtis Files Health Care Legislation

Utah Republican Rep. John Curtis introduced a bill Thursday that would expand access to Health Savings Accounts, or HSAs. Paying into an HSA is typically tied to having a High Deductible Health Plan, which means you pay less in monthly insurance premiums but have higher deductibles. The bipartisan legislation would make the savings accounts available to people who don’t have High Deductible Health Plans, including those on Medicare. It would also expand what HSA funds can be used for, including nutritional supplements, telehealth and purchasing gym memberships or equipment. — Caroline Ballard

495 COVID Cases, 4,800 Unemployment Claims

Utah announced 495 new COVID cases Thursday, the second largest single day increase since the start of the pandemic. This comes just a day after the state’s epidemiologist warned the risk of catching the disease has “never been higher.” Utah’s Department of Workforce Services also announced about 4,800 people filed for new unemployment claims last week. That’s down from the week before. About 5,600 people ended their unemployment claims on June 6. — Ross Terrell

Paul Petersen Plans To Plea

The man accused of exploiting women and children in an international adoption scheme is expected to plead guilty in Utah Friday to four felony charges. Former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen faces charges relating to recruiting, transporting and offering payment to Marshallese women, so they would put their babies up for adoption in the U.S. Petersen pleaded guilty Thursday to similar charges in Arizona. He also faces charges in Arkansas. — Caroline Ballard

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

REGION/NATION

Lack Of Hotel Bookings Could Cost Region More Than A Billion Dollars

Hotel slowdowns alone could cost our region more than $1.7 billion in tax revenue this year. That’s according to an analysis commissioned by the American Hotel and Lodging Association. But that’s just one part of a massive tourism industry here that was crippled during stay-at-home orders. However, as things start opening up, many hope for a boost to both hotels and rural tourism destinations. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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