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PM News Brief: Firework Displays, Grizzly Attacks & Challenging Pioneer Day

Photo of a grizzly bear.
National Park Service
There wasn’t a single human injury caused by a grizzly bear throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2019, but there have been 8 so far this year. This story and more in the Friday afternoon news brief.";

Friday evening, July 24, 2020

STATE

More Than 800 COVID Cases Reported

Officials with the Utah Department of Health reported 863 new cases of COVID-19 Friday. There are 225 people in the hospital right now because of the coronavirus, and the state also reported six more deaths — three men and three women. Five of them were in long-term care facilities. One person in Washington county died in the hospital. Since March, 36,962 people in Utah have been diagnosed with COVID-19. — Elaine Clark

Extra Unemployment Benefits End Saturday

People who are unemployed due to the pandemic will stop receiving $600 in federal benefits each week when that program ends Saturday. Utah’s housing advocates are worried about an uptick in evictions as a result. In a panel discussion earlier this month, Tara Rollins from the Utah Housing Coalition said there haven’t been many evictions so far because people have had that extra money, but now it’ll be harder to pay rent. Last week, Utahns received nearly $51 million through the additional benefits program, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services. — Emily Means

COVID Means Additional Challenges For People With Disabilities

Most of Utah is in the low-risk phase of the pandemic response, and people have been venturing out to restaurants or the gym. But the executive director of the Disabled Rights Action Committee said many community members still can't even shop for their own groceries. Disabled people might have underlying medical conditions, which makes going out in public a big risk. A board member for the organization said the general public needs to take precautions because it’s not only up to people with disabilities to protect themselves. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Shorter School Year

Utah public schools are usually required to hold classes for 990 hours every year, but the State Board of Education is waving that requirement this year. Board members voted Thursday night to let schools opt out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and would have until August 1st to submit an alternate plan. Most school districts plan to hold in-person classes. Students and teachers will be required to wear masks across the state. — Sonja Hutson

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Call To Rename Pioneer Day

A nonprofit organization wants Utah leaders to either rename Pioneer Day to make it more inclusive for all Utahns or abolish the holiday altogether. Utah Diné Bikéyah is based in San Juan county and advocates for Native Tribes and their cultural sites, like Bears Ears. Group leaders say that Pioneer Day glorifies a history marked by violence and oppression of indigenous people, and that the full history of people in Utah actually goes back thousands of years. Dine Bikeyah’s executive director Gavin Noyes wrote an op-ed in the Salt Lake Tribune, where he said he wants to start a dialogue around renaming the day to something that better portrays the state’s complex history. — Caroline Ballard

Firework Displays Around Utah

Many Pioneer Days events and activities were cancelled this year due to COVID-19, but a number of cities and towns across Utah will go ahead with professional fireworks displays tonight. Bountiful City’s fireworks will start around 9:30 at Mueller Park Junior High. Most fireworks will kick off at 10 pm, including in Provo’s Towne Center, Mapleton, Enoch, Spanish Fork, Monticello, and Washington City. Fireworks at Jackson Flat Reservoir near Kanab start at 10:30.

For those looking to set off their own pyrotechnics, officials are advising to do so with caution. The vast majority of Utah is in moderate to severe drought. Setting off fireworks on public lands is always prohibited. — Caroline Ballard

REGION/NATION

Grizzly Attacks Up This Year

There wasn’t a single human injury caused by a grizzly bear throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2019. But that number is already at eight this year. Officials said the increase could be because of a combination of two things — a denser grizzly bear population and more people spending time out in the woods thanks to the pandemic. Experts say it’s important to let bears know you’re around by making noise and traveling in groups. Plus, you should always carry bear spray with you and know how to use it. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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