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PM News Brief: College Athlete Compensation, Facial Recognition & Cuckoo Bird Protections

A photo of the yellow billed cuckoo.
Wikimedia Commons
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo bird will continue to receive Endangered Species Act protections. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, September 15, 2020

State

Legislators Discuss Facial Recognition Technology

On Tuesday, a Utah legislative committee discussed recent updates to law enforcement’s use of facial recognition technology in responding to crimes. Chief Brian Redd, from the state’s Department of Public Safety, told the committee they’ve implemented some new policies, including one for facial recognition analysts to only send one possible match to police agencies. Previously, they would send multiple photos of potential matches. Analysts also receive implicit bias training, as the technology has been criticized for misidentifying people of color. Representatives from the ACLU of Utah and the libertarian Libertas Institute said their organizations want the new DPS policies to become state law. Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, said there’s a bill file open to codify the updates. He also said facial recognition software bias isn’t “nearly as dire as it is being made out to be” because an actual person analyzes the photos for matches. — Emily Means

USU Athletic Director Weighs In On Compensating College Athletes

A U.S. Senate committee held a hearing Tuesday to discuss the potential effects of compensating college student-athletes. Earlier this year, the NCAA ruled, student-athletes will soon be able to profit off their name, image and likeness. Testifying before the committee, Utah State Athletics Director John Hartwell said he supports student athletes making money that way but wanted to make sure it didn’t turn into a pay for play system which he said would “erode the collegiate model.” Representatives from the University of Wisconsin and The Ohio State University also spoke to senators Tuesday in favor of allowing athletes to be compensated for their name and image but asked Congress to set up a framework to protect recruitment. — Darienne DeBrule

Fifth Day Of 550+ COVID-19 Cases

For five consecutive days, Utah has reported more than 550 new cases of COVID-19. Tuesday, health officials announced 562. This pushes the state’s seven day average of new cases to 522 a day, which is above the goal set by the governor of keeping that number below 400. Utah’s week long positivity rate has also risen to nearly 11%. The state has now seen 59,000 total cases since the start of the pandemic and more than 725,000 Utahns have been tested. — Ross Terrell

Utah Increasing Funds For Business PPE Grants

Utah is upping the amount of money it will give businesses to buy their employees personal protective equipment. The program, Safe in Utah, has provided grants of up to $100 per full time employee. State officials announced Tuesday that the amount will increase to $250 beginning Wednesday. Utah set aside $5 million in federal CARES money for the program. The grants can be used to buy PPE, redesign workspaces or add more signage about COVID protocols. So far, the state has awarded a little more than $1.1 million through the program. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County Assessing COVID-19 Response

Salt Lake County officials released a report Tuesday assessing their response to the coronavirus pandemic over the last six months. The report, which mostly detailed the county’s successes, noted Salt Lake officials helped reduce the virus’ impact by quickly building quarantine and isolation centers and getting federal grant funding out to small businesses and residents struggling with food and housing costs. County Mayor Jenny Wilson said one challenge they faced was creating efficient communication and finding the right people to make decisions. And with winter approaching, more unknowns are ahead, she said a more comprehensive assessment of the county’s response will have to come after the pandemic is over. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Fiber Gets The Green Light To Expand Through San Juan County

A project to bring broadband to southern San Juan County will move forward after receiving permits from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe last month. It will bring faster internet to schools, clinics and libraries in Bluff, Montezuma Creek and White Mesa using underground fiber optics lines. The project should be completed by the end of October and will tie into a project underway within the San Juan School District to connect Navajo students’ homes to the internet. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Cuckoo Habitat Gets Continued Protections

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo bird will continue to receive Endangered Species Act protections. The bird is migratory and can be found throughout Utah and in much of the Western United States, Canada and Mexico. The agency proposed protections for nearly 500,000 acres of critical habitat for the bird earlier this year. Those are still under consideration. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

Vax Hesitancy Still A Reality Among Americans

A poll from the Colorado Health Foundation found that less than half of respondents said they're "very likely" to get a COVID-19 vaccine once it's available. A couple national polls back in May found something similar, with between 40 and 50% of people saying they plan to get a future COVID-19 vaccine. — Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau

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