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PM News Brief: Unemployment Claims Plateau, Trump Rolls Back NEPA & Breaking Down COVID Numbers

Photo of a woman standing behind a podium with a microphone
Kristin Murphy
Deseret News
Utah Department of Health state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn speaks during a COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 16, 2020.

Thursday evening, July 16, 2020


A Quick COVID Math Lesson

Utah’s health department announced 954 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. But that number isn’t quite as bad as it seems. Because of electronic delays and a change in reporting, it’s rather inflated. Fifty cases announced were actually diagnosed during the first week of July and another 246 were diagnosed earlier this week. But the health department announced them for the first time Thursday. Officials also reviewed antigen tests, which look for a protein linked to COVID-19. They determined tests, which have been given for the past six weeks, were indeed accurate. So, that accounts for another 251 cases. That leaves a true number of 407 new cases. Even then, the state’s positivity rate for the past week remains around 10%. —Ross Terrell

Unemployment Claims Plateau, Disaster Unemployment Approved

Another 4,800 Utahns filed for new unemployment claims from July 5 to 11. That’s according to numbers released Thursday by the state’s Department of Workforce Services. During that same time period, about 5,000 workers ended their unemployment claims. So far, Utah alone has paid out more than $202 million in state benefits since the start of the pandemic. State officials also announced Thursday that Utah will get federal disaster unemployment assistance as a result of the March 18 Magna earthquake. The additional aid is available to people whose jobs were affected through April 17 due to the earthquake and aftershocks. People living in designated disaster areas must apply by Aug. 17. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.


A Lopsided Difference In 4th Congressional District Finances

Following Utah’s June 30 primary, Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, the incumbent for the state’s 4th Congressional District, has more than 28 times the cash in his campaign coffers compared to his Republican challenger, former NFL Player Burgess Owens. That's not surprising, said Brigham Young University Professor Quin Monson, because Owens spent nearly all his money to beat three other Republicans in the primary. But the race's financial situation could change dramatically. Within the next month, Monson said, if national Republican and Democratic groups decide that Owens has a good chance at unseating McAdams, outside money will start to pour into the race. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Gov. Herbert Modifying Salt Lake City’s Public Health Guidelines

Gov. Gary Herbert announced modifications Thursday to Salt Lake City’s COVID response guidelines. It’s meant to help the city reopen its schools for in-person classes. Right now, Salt Lake City is the only area in Utah in the orange, moderate phase of its pandemic response as it makes up nearly half of the state’s cases. And under the orange guidelines, schools are closed for most activities and have to teach remotely. But Herbert said as far as fall class planning is concerned — Salt Lake will be able to move forward as if it were in the yellow, low risk phase. That won’t affect the rules for non-school gatherings or the encouragement from state officials for mask wearing. — Ross Terrell

$80,000 Grant For Better Nutrition 

Salt Lake City has received an $80,000 grant to increase residents’ access to healthy foods through parks and recreation programs. The grant, from the National Recreation and Park Association, aims to set up nutrition hubs and connect low income people with better food resources. The hubs will host farmers markets, check for food insecure residents, and provide SNAP enrollment assistance. — Ross Terrell

Another Review, Another Justified Use Of Deadly Force

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said officers’ use of deadly force against Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal on May 23 was “reasonable” and “appropriate.” The Salt Lake City Police released the results of an internal investigation Thursday afternoon, a week after Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ruled officers were justified in shooting and killing Palacios-Carbajal. Officers fired 34 shots at Palacios-Carbajal during a foot chase, though not every shot hit him. The report notes that Salt Lake City’s deadly force policy is more restrictive than Utah law, and the officers met those standards as well. It also includes ways the officers’ response could have been better, like if they had verbally identified themselves when they arrived. — Emily Means


Trump Rolls Back National Environmental Policy Act

President Trump rolled back the National Environmental Policy Act Thursday, saying it will expedite job-creating projects. The 50-year-old law requires the government to analyze potential environmental impacts of infrastructure projects and land management plans. Landon Newell, an attorney with conservation group Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said the new law removes indirect and cumulative effects, like climate impacts, from NEPA. But Republican Rep. Rob Bishop supports the change. He said the law has led to excessive litigation and slowed economic activity in Utah. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff


Regional Senators Call For Focus On Outdoor Recreation

In a letter to Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, Democratic Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen called for future recovery legislation to include support for the outdoor recreation industry. Rosen’s letter was signed by 11 additional senators, including Michael Bennet, a Democrat from Colorado and Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, Democrats from New Mexico. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

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