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PM News Brief: New COVID Challenge, Standardized Testing Requirements & Three Solar Projects

Photo of a solar farm.
Courtesy Rocky Mountain Power
Rocky Mountain Power will construct three new solar energy facilities across Utah to power Facebook’s data center in Eagle Mountain. This story and more in the Friday evening news brief.";

Thursday evening, August 6, 2020

State

Organizations Against Nuclear Weapons Mark Hiroshima Anniversary 

Thursday marks the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. A coalition of 163 organizations around the country hosted a virtual event where survivors and advocates spoke out against nuclear weapons. Mary Dickson is a Utah native and wrote Exposed — a play about the effects of above ground nuclear testing. Dickson spoke at the event. She said she is a victim of radioactive fallout and it continues to affect others in rural counties in Utah. Last month, the House passed a bill, sponsored by Utah’s Democratic Rep. Ben McAdams, that would prevent nuclear weapons testing on U.S. soil. — Jessica Lowell

Gov. Herbert Issues Another Covid Challenge For Utah

Gov. Gary Herbert issued a new challenge Thursday for Utah in the fight against COVID-19. Herbert said he wants the state's seven day average of new daily cases to be at 400 or fewer by Sept. 1. In July, Herbert set a goal of 500 or fewer cases by the beginning of August, which the state met. For the past week, Utah has averaged 449 cases a day. Though, health officials reported 587 new cases Thursday. There are currently 190 people hospitalized for the disease and more than 555,000 people have been tested. — Ross Terrell

Unemployment Claims Continue To Decrease In The State

New unemployment claims continue to fall in Utah, as more than 3,100 hundred Utahns filed for first time benefits last week — a 16% drop compared to the week before. Still, more than $62 million were paid out in state and federal benefits. But for the first time since the state created a pandemic unemployment assistance designation for gig workers and the self-employed, fewer than one thousand people filed new claims for those. And as the state’s economy continues to gradually reopen, another 4,500 Utahns ended their unemployment claims. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

A Three Year Update On Operation Rio Grande

It’s been nearly three years since Operation Rio Grande launched, in an effort to address homelessness and drug use in a Salt Lake City neighborhood. Since its inception, the county jail has processed more than 8,000 bookings, though some people could have been booked more than once. In an update provided Thursday, Chief Deputy Matt Dumont with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office said there’s been an increase in the jail’s daily population over the course of the operation. Dumont said the jail has released inmates to prevent spreading COVID-19. State Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, said the decline in the jail’s population makes him worry about an increase in crime. Ray said to him, public safety comes first and whether an inmate catches COVID-19 is secondary. — Emily Means

USU Ditches Standardized Test Requirement For 2021 Admissions

Utah State University is the latest in the state to temporarily suspend its standardized testing requirements for next year because of COVID-19. Undergraduate applicants are not required to submit ACT and SAT test scores for spring, summer or fall admission in 2021. Though, they can if they choose. Instead students will be evaluated based on their grade point average. The University of Utah and Westminster College both announced in June they would not require ACT or SAT scores. USU said it will review how the decision impacts retention and recruitment, and make a more permanent decision in the future. However, standardized test scores are still required to apply for academic merit scholarships and certain majors. — Caroline Ballard

Rocky Mountain Power Constructing Three Solar Projects For Facebook 

Rocky Mountain Power will construct three new solar energy facilities across Utah to power Facebook’s data center in Eagle Mountain. In its announcement Thursday, the utility company said the three projects will be built in rural areas in Carbon, Box Elder, and Tooele Counties. The facilities are scheduled to come online by 2023, and combined, will generate 235 megawatts of solar power. They join previous solar projects in Utah that currently support Facebook’s power use. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

Mad Mountain Music Festival Still Happening This Weekend

Music festivals around the country have been canceled due to COVID-19, but not all of them. The Mad Mountain Music Festival, in Casper, Wyoming, is still happening this weekend. Outside festivals like Mad Mountain present far fewer risks of spreading the virus than inside concerts, and organizers are trying to meet and exceed health standards. But it can be challenging to keep people spaced apart and police wearing masks on the dance floor. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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