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PM News Brief: Pacific Islander Community, Deadly Rabbit Disease & ACLU Comments On Protests

Photo of a rabbit outside
Division of Wildlife Resources
A deadly disease is spreading among rabbits in Utah. The disease is extremely contagious and deadly for rabbits, but does not affect humans, dogs, cats or other animals.

Wednesday evening, July 22, 2020

STATE

COVID’s Impact On Utah’s Pacific Islander Community

The Pacific Islander community accounts for the second highest rate of COVID-19 infections and the second highest hospitalization rate in the state of Utah. Jake Fitisemanu chairs the state’s Pacific Islander Health Coalition. He said there are a few reasons for the recent uptick in cases in the community — like housing and family dynamics and cultural practices that aren’t aligned with social distancing. Across the state, Utah health officials announced 566 more cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, along with 10 new deaths. So far, over 481,000 people have been tested. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Deadly Rabbit Disease Spreading In Utah

A deadly disease is spreading among rabbits in Utah. Rabbit hemorrhagic disease serotype 2, or RHDV2, was first found in a domestic rabbit in Sanpete County in June. The Division of Wildlife Resources now confirms it’s been detected in wild rabbit populations in Wayne County. The disease is extremely contagious and deadly for rabbits, but does not affect humans, dogs, cats or other animals. Symptoms in infected rabbits include fever, lethargy, difficulty breathing and frothy blood coming from the nose. Eventually the animal dies from internal bleeding. The Division asked people to report if they find multiple dead rabbits in an area. Fall rabbit hunters are also asked to be on the lookout for animals that are lethargic or don’t flee when approached. — Caroline Ballard

NORTHERN UTAH

Salt Lake County Mask Mandate. Is It Working?

Nearly a month after Salt Lake County started requiring masks in public places, data show it’s working to slow the spread of COVID-19. An analysis by the county found that when it implemented the face covering requirement, it made up half of Utah’s new cases each day. Now, it’s closer to 40%. Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said she hopes this, along with other scientific studies, lead to the governor mandating face coverings statewide. — Sonja Hutson

Salt Lake City Schools To Resume Two Weeks Later Than Usual

In a contentious board meeting Tuesday night, the Salt Lake City School District board voted to delay the start of the school year by two weeks. The first day of classes will now be Sept. 8. As for what those classes will look like, board members opted to postpone that decision until their next meeting August 4. Salt Lake City is the only area in the state still under a yellow — or moderate — risk level, which does not allow in-person classes. But Gov. Gary Herbert said last week he would modify the guidelines to allow the district to make that decision for itself. Interim Superintendent Larry Madden proposed schools remain online through the first quarter, but the board couldn’t come to an agreement. One member instead insisted she needed to leave promptly at 6 because she had personal plans. Another played solitaire on his computer. — Jon Reed

ACLU Concerned About Law Enforcement Response To Protests

The ACLU of Utah said it has witnessed a “concerning pattern” of viewpoint discrimination and militarized action from law enforcement in response to recent protests against police brutality. In a statement, the civil liberties organization points to Salt Lake City police ramming into protesters with riot shields and shooting at them with less-lethal weapons on July 9. The group also cites the curfew imposed by the city’s mayor, in response to protests on May 30, as an infringement on free speech. ACLU officials said those actions send a message to the public that criticism of police won’t be allowed. Salt Lake Police have yet to respond to the statement. — Emily Means

SOUTHERN UTAH

Conservationists Group Ask For Pause On Northern Corridor Project

Fifteen conservation groups from across the Mountain West have sent a letter to federal agencies asking them to pause the environmental review for the proposed Northern Corridor. The highway would cut through protected habitat in Washington County, which has recently been scorched by wildfires. Conservationists said the latest damage needs to be studied before moving forward with the project. But Bureau of Land Management officials said they won’t be doing additional surveys because they’ve already included information in the draft statement about other wildfires that have happened in the reserve. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

REGION/NATION

Great American Outdoors Act Passes The U.S. House

A bill to permanently finance the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund received final Congressional approval Wednesday. The House voted in favor of the Great American Outdoors Act, 310-107. The bill easily passed through the Senate in June. The Conservation Fund receives around $900 million each year — and helps pay for environmental and public recreation projects. Its money comes from offshore drilling and gas leases. Utah Republican Rep. John Curtis voted against it. In a statement, Curtis said while he supports the intent of the act, it’s irresponsible to put that money “on autopilot.” Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams cast a yes vote — saying it’s critical to address Utah’s national park maintenance backlog. It now heads to the desk of President Trump, who tweeted his support of the bill earlier in the day. — Elaine Clark

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