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PM News Brief: Romney’s Frustration, Coronavirus Complacency & Power Restoration

A photo of fall tree branches and a light post in front of a brown house.
Renee Bright
Crews in Salt Lake City continue to assess and clean up the damage after a historic wind storm hit Northern Utah this week. This story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, September 10, 2020


Two Counties Moving To Green, Governor Worries About Complacency

Box Elder and Carbon counties will move to the green, new normal phase of their coronavirus response Friday. But as pandemic restrictions across the state continue to loosen, Gov. Gary Herbert said his biggest concern is Utahns becoming complacent and not following protocol. He said if people want to get through this pandemic, they need to continue to sacrifice and tolerate inconvenience. Herbert encouraged people to continue wearing a mask and social distancing but he still has no plans to issue a statewide mask mandate. Health officials announced 346 more cases of COVID-19 Thursday. They also reported an additional 5,000 people have been tested. That’s the most in a single day since last Friday. — Ross Terrell

Ended Unemployment Claims Skyrocket

More than 13,000 Utahns stopped filing for unemployment benefits last week, a nearly 85% increase from the week before and by far the largest rise since the pandemic began. That’s according to the latest numbers from the state Department of Workforce Services. Utah also began distributing newly available federal lost wage assistance Wednesday. The extra $300 payments will go to people who were receiving benefits from late July to early August. Average state benefits are $426 a week. Still, nearly 60,000 Utahns remain out of work. And just over 2,600 new claims for traditional benefits were filed last week. — Jon Reed

Romney Frustrated Over Lack Of COVID Relief

Sen. Mitt Romney, R- UT, is expressing his disappointment after Senate Democrats blocked a Republican-led coronavirus relief package. In a statement, Romney said there was an opportunity to build on the federal CARES Act and that relief is needed now, not weeks or months down the road. He said he had hoped Democrats would at least move it forward for a debate. Senate Democrats argued the bill did not provide enough funding for things like unemployment, food security or schools and that there were provisions they could not support — like lawsuit protections for businesses. — Caroline Ballard

Five New Films Given Approval For State Incentives

Five new productions have been approved by the governor’s Office of Economic Development to receive film incentives in Utah. The state Film Commission announced Thursday that the productions are estimated to generate $6.5 million dollars in economic impact and create over 185 jobs. They include the series The Chosen and The Outpost, sci-fi feature Alien Country, the musical Michael McLean’s The Forgotten Carols and family feature Twice Upon a Song. Filming for some shows will begin as early as next month. — Darienne DeBrule

Northern Utah

Power Restoration Still In Progress. Don’t Worry. It’s Coming

Crews in Salt Lake City continue to assess and clean up the damage after a historic wind storm hit northern Utah this week. City officials said at least 2,000 trees were uprooted, but did not have an estimate on the total cost of the damage. They added that crews will have most roads passable by Thursday evening, but several parks will be closed until further notice, as there is still a risk from loose or fallen trees. About 60,000 people still don’t have power. Rocky Mountain Power’s spokesman said most households should have power restored by the end of day Thursday, though it could take until Friday for some. The outages also forced the Salt Lake School District to postpone its return to class this week. The district will remain closed Friday and officially start on Monday. — Jon Reed

Park City Man Sentenced Over Illegal ‘Spice’

A Park City man has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his role in the illegal production and trade of the drug “synthetic cannabinoid,” or “spice.” According to the National Institutes of Health, “spice” has effects similar to marijuana, but can be stronger and more unpredictable. Charles Burton Ritchie and his business partner were found guilty last year of manufacturing the drug with illegally imported ingredients from China and selling it to smoke shops around the country. Ritchie was already serving two sentences for money laundering and unlawful monetary transactions. The 20-year sentence will be added on to those. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Northern Corridor Public Comment Ending Soon

The comment period for the environmental review of the Northern Corridor closes Thursday at midnight. One aspect of Washington County’s preferred plan would set aside nearly 7,000 acres of land as protected tortoise habitat to make up for the proposed highway cutting through the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. It’s a popular recreation spot, and some people are concerned about activities being limited in the area. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

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