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Election news from across Utah's statewide and national races in 2020.

COVID Sewage, Kanye On Utah's Ballot & Hispanic Utahns Bear Brunt Of Outbreaks At Work

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Tuesday morning, August 18, 2020


Utah Courts Need Money To Catch Up On Cases

Utah courts continue to experience a major backlog of cases due to the coronavirus pandemic, so officials requested funding from a state legislative committee Monday to help get back on track. Although the Utah State Court system has held virtual hearings and trials during the pandemic, the state court administrator said the backlog of cases is holding up other parts of the justice system. She requested the Legislature return more than $1 million in funding that the courts gave back at the beginning of the pandemic to update software and help procedures run more smoothly. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Sewage COVID Strategy

Utah could soon start to use sewage to track COVID-19 as a part of the state’s response to the pandemic. Erica Gaddis, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, said during a legislative environmental subcommittee meeting Monday that the state can use wastewater to spot trends and confirm results from testing. She also said health departments can use sewage data to track outbreaks due to tourism and travel and universities could monitor outbreaks in dorms. — Jessica Lowell

Workplace Outbreaks Hit Hispanic Employees Hard

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report said Hispanic and non-white people in Utah were disproportionately hit by workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. From March to early June, 12% of the state's coronavirus cases were tied to workplace outbreaks, mostly in manufacturing, construction and wholesale trade. The report found that 73% of the cases were among Hispanic or other non-white people, even though they only make up 24% of the workers in those industries. The CDC said a lack of flexibility along with unpaid sick leave policies may prevent workers from staying home when they're ill, resulting in more workplace exposures and increased virus spread. — Associated Press

Kanye On Utah’s Ballot

Rapper Kanye West has qualified to appear on Utah's ballot in November's general election, as an unaffiliated presidential candidate. The state elections director said Monday that his office verified that West's campaign gathered the necessary 1,000 signatures from registered voters to appear on the ballot. West, who once backed the incumbent, said last month that he had broken with President Donald Trump and would launch his own presidential bid. West has qualified in several states including Colorado. In Wisconsin, his effort to get on the ballot is being challenged. — Associated Press

Less Money To Fight Algal Blooms In Utah Water

The Utah Division of Water Quality has had to reduce the monitoring of harmful algal blooms this year because of budget cuts. Last year around 60 bodies of water in the state were tested, but this year, that’s down to 18. Erica Gaddis with the Division of Water Quality updated a legislative appropriations subcommittee Monday about the blooms. She said there are three lakes that have harmful algal bloom advisories. Algae is also affecting the Virgin River, which runs through Zion National Park. Forty-three people who have gotten sick from the blooms in Utah waters this year. That's higher than the annual average for the last three years. — Lexi Peery


Appeal In Execution Case

Attorneys for Lezmond Mitchell, the only Native American man on federal death row, are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision from a lower court over potential racial bias. Mitchell is scheduled to be put to death Aug. 26. He lost a bid in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to interview jurors. The court said Mitchell failed to show any discrimination occurred among the jury and pointed out several safeguards that were in place. Mitchell appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court late last week. — Associated Press

Firenado Hits Nevada-California Border

Over the weekend, a tornado touched down near the Nevada-California border. But this wasn’t any tornado. This was a fire tornado. The so-called “firenado” took place Saturday evening about 25 miles from Reno, Nevada. Scientists said it’s just the third time these types of conditions have ever been recorded, but that longer and drier fire seasons will lead to more of these extreme types of events. Read the full story. — Noah Glick, Mountain West News Bureau

Northern Utah

Energy Demands Could Impact Water Recreationists

Recreationists on the Green and Colorado Rivers are being warned of possible fluctuating water levels as the Bureau of Reclamation prepares for dam releases because of a power emergency. The Bureau could boost hydropower to meet critical electrical needs with water releases that will change quickly and without warning. Officials said there is unusually high energy demand because of excessive heat across the western United States, putting pressure on suppliers to augment with more hydropower. The Western Area Power Administration said Flaming Gorge Dam’s power plant may need to boost power supplies in the event of a system emergency. — Diane Maggipinto

Bull Moose Poached In Rich County

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is asking for help after officials found a dead bull moose in Rich County. DWR officials said the animal was shot with what they believe to be a broadhead arrow sometime in late July when there is no moose hunting season. Anyone with information is asked to report it. DWR says last year, 1,080 animals — worth more than $400,000 —- were illegally killed. Ross Terrell

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