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AM News Brief: CARES Dollars To State Programs, U Contact Tracing & Changes To Annual Bison Roundup

A bison browses through grass on Antelope Island.
Brian Albers / KUER
Antelope Island State Park has announced its annual bison roundup will be different this year in light of COVID-19. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, August 21, 2020

State

Federal CARES Dollars Headed To State Programs

The Utah Legislature passed a bill Thursday to direct more funding from the federal CARES Act to certain state programs, like rental assistance and job training. It also creates a grant for oil, gas and mining companies. Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, failed to pass an amendment to include the renewable energy industry as well. Briscoe said he didn't oppose supporting oil, gas and mining, but without the inclusion of other energy industries he said “we’re singling out and picking winners.” Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield, said there are so many renewable companies, they would drain the fund. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robert Spendlove, R-Sandy, said it would give state agencies flexibility to move the federal funds around where needed because the money needs to be used by the end of the year. — Emily Means

Governor Says Not Following School Mask Requirement “Irrational”

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said parents who do not want to follow his health mandate by requiring their children to wear masks when returning to school are a “little bit irrational.” During his PBS Utah monthly news conference, Herbert said students without face coverings should not return to classrooms and should instead take part in online school or homeschooling during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the comments follow confirmation by Herbert's office Wednesday that K-12 students and staff who refuse to wear masks without a legitimate medical exemption can be charged with a misdemeanor under his mandate. — Associated Press

Northern Utah

U Contact Tracing Will Rely On Self-Reporting

The University of Utah gave an overview of its contact tracing plan Thursday in anticipation of Monday’s start of the fall semester. Sharon Talboys, a public health professor at the U’s medical school, said they are relying on students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms to self report online. The U is releasing a new app for contact tracing within the next month which will allow members of the community to self report and receive health check-up information. — Jessica Lowell

Provo Collecting Input On Possible Mask Mandate

At an emergency meeting Thursday night the Provo City Council passed a resolution in support of wearing masks to limit exposure to COVID-19. The Council discussed passing an ordinance but instead tabled a vote until Tuesday. On Facebook, the Council said the delay will allow more public input and time to collect more information. Over a little more than 24 hours, the Council received more than 2,800 comments on an online survey. That survey is open through Aug. 25 at noon. — Diane Maggipinto

Help Available To Apply For Federal Food Assistance Program

The deadline to sign up for the federal food assistance program Pandemic EBT is Aug 31. But Friday, Aug. 21, Salt Lake City is teaming up with nonprofits to help eligible residents enroll. Families with children who were receiving free or reduced lunch when Utah’s public schools shut down due to COVID-19 — will get a one time payment of $308. The state estimates there are 77,000 eligible households. Help signing up will be available from 4 to 8 p.m. at the City and County Building. Children in families who were receiving SNAP benefits when schools closed don’t need to apply, but will automatically get the payment. — Ross Terrell

Charges Dropped Against Cottonwood Heights City Council Member

Cottonwood Heights City council member Tali Bruce was charged Wednesday with interfering with arrest during the messy police brutality protests there earlier this month. The city withdrew the charge on Thursday, according to television station KUTV. The march was organized in memory of Zane James, who was shot and killed by police two years ago. Police broke up the crowd after residents said they were being blocked from entering and leaving their neighborhoods. At least eight people were arrested, though Bruce was not. She alleged an officer punched her in the throat after she stepped from the sidewalk onto a driveway. — Diane Maggipinto

No Public At This Year’s Bison Roundup

Antelope Island State Park has announced its annual bison roundup will be different this year in light of COVID-19. The roundup occurs every year in the fall, when park personnel and volunteers ride out on horseback to gather the animals for vaccinations, health screenings and to cull the herd. The park said the roundup is essential for the ecosystem’s health, so it will still take place but with significant changes. The park will not announce the exact date of the roundup before it happens. Usually, it’s a big draw for visitors, and there won’t be the usual music, food vendors and festivities. The public will also not be able to register as riders to participate in the roundup. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

Montana Governor Calls For Removal Of BLM Head

Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is asking a federal court to take swift action to remove the Trump administration's chief steward of public lands. His request comes as former industry attorney William Perry Pendley of Wyoming is hanging on to his post as head of the Bureau of Land Management, despite the White House saying his nomination would be withdrawn. Pendley remains in charge of the bureau under an arrangement he himself set up months ago. Bullock and other Democrats say Pendley is undermining land conservation efforts by opening areas to more oil, gas and mineral extraction. — Diane Magginpinto

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