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PM News Brief: Money For Police Training, Utah Jobs Report & Questioning Cox’s Role In COVID-19 Effort

A photo of Spencer Cox wearing a face mask.
Spencer Heaps
/
Deseret News
Democrat Chris Peterson said because Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is charged with overseeing elections and lobbyists, he should leave management of the pandemic to the state’s Department of Health. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, September 18, 2020

State

Another Record Broken For COVID-19 Cases

The Utah Department of Health reported the state’s highest single-day jump in coronavirus cases Friday, with 1,117 new cases. It’s the second record-breaking day in a row and the eighth straight day of more than 550 new daily cases. A majority of the recent spike comes from Utah County, officials say, which also recorded its highest single-day increase — 501 new cases. In a statement, Governor Gary Herbert said this week’s surge is making him seriously question if warnings and education are enough to prevent the spread of the virus and is considering imposing stricter public health measures statewide. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Vaccine Trial Recruiting Volunteers

Doctors are currently recruiting volunteers on the Navajo Nation and in Salt Lake City to take part in a COVID-19 vaccine trial. The Pfizer vaccine has been proven safe and is now being tested for effectiveness across the United States. According to researchers, the vaccine has caused only minor side effects so far, and it does not contain any active virus material, so it will not infect study participants with COVID-19. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Utah Jobs Report

The latest jobs report shows unemployment continued to fall in Utah in August — evidence of the state’s slow but steady economic recovery. Almost every other state in the country is showing the same downward trend, though Utah still has one of the lowest unemployment rates at just over 4% or about 66,000 people out of work. The national unemployment average is more than double Utah’s, at 8.4%. According to the report, most of the major private-sector industry groups are still facing job losses, but they have been improving since April. — Jon Reed

Candidate Calls For Cox’s Removal As Head Of State’s COVID Task Force

The Democratic candidate for Utah Governor called for the Republican candidate to be removed as the head of the state’s COVID task force. Democrat Chris Peterson said because Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is charged with overseeing elections and lobbyists, he should leave management of the pandemic to the state’s Department of Health. Utah is in the midst of a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. State health officials reported a new record of more than 1,100 cases Friday. Cox’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. — Sonja Hutson

Feds Transfer Water Projects To Utah

The federal government transferred two federal water projects to local water districts Friday. U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed an agreement transferring their ownership in front of the state capitol. The projects, which consist of building dams and pipelines, are located in Emery and Duschene counties. The idea is to maintain and improve the ecology of several reservoirs while providing water to nearby communities. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

National Group Urges End To Homeless Camp Removal in SLC

A national legal advocacy organization supporting unhoused people has urged Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall to leave homeless camps in place as the coronavirus pandemic continues into winter. Eric Tars from the National Homelessness Law Center notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend an end to camp evictions to stop the spread of COVID-19. Tars recommends using individual hotel rooms to house people this winter rather than crowding into emergency shelters. Salt Lake County has used a hotel to shelter extra vulnerable people experiencing homelessness — those who are older or have underlying medical conditions — during the coronavirus pandemic. — Emily Means

No Charges In February Police Shooting

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said he will not press charges against two officers after their role in a police shooting. In February, Brian Filion did not report to his parole officer and was thought to be involved in a murder in Weber County. Herriman City Police officer Ben Ricks and Department of Homeland Security Officer Jared Holland first tried to apprehend Filion with a K-9. In a struggle with the dog, Filion allegedly produced a gun. Both Holland and Ricks fired their guns, killing Filion. The K9 was also shot and died of his injuries. There was no body camera footage of the incident, and Gill said a jury would likely find the officer’s use of deadly force justified. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

McAdams Wants More Money For Police Training

Utah Congressman Ben McAdams plans to propose an amendment next week that would boost federal funding for police training by about $175 million. It’s an expansion of an existing grant program, and McAdams said the extra money can help law enforcement be more community oriented by funding programs like de-escalation training and mental health outreach. The first-term Democratic congressman is up for re-election this November. The race is listed as a “toss up” between McAdams and Republican challenger Burgess Owens by the Cook Political Report. — Sonja Hutson

Extinction Deniers

Conspiracy theories seem to be everywhere right now, including in the conservation world. For instance, scientists are dealing with an increasing amount of pushback and misinformation when it comes to warning the public about species’ extinctions and habitat loss. That’s according to a paper recently published in the journal, Nature Ecology and Evolution. Lead author Alexander Lees said the misinformation ranges from literal denial of facts, like saying something that is true is untrue, to interpretive denial, like putting a positive spin on data. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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