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PM News Brief: Students Role In COVID, Wildfire Charges & Donovan Mitchell On Breonna Taylor

A photo of Donovan Mitchell holding a basketball.
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Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell tweeted Wednesday he is praying for the city of Louisville after just one officer was charged in relation to the shooting and killing of Breonna Taylor. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, September 23, 2020

State

High School And College Students Driving COVID-19 Surge

High school and college-aged students continue to drive the surge in Utah’s COVID-19 cases according to Dr. Michael Good, CEO of University of Utah Health. He said about two-thirds of those cases are coming from college-aged students — 19 to 24 — while the rest are from 15 to 18 year olds. Those cases then spread to older adults. According to the state department of health, 89 schools have had coronavirus outbreaks so far. Officials from the Granite District said Wednesday two of its high schools will go online for two weeks starting tomorrow, after each confirmed at least 15 cases. — Jon Reed

Your Wildfire Wednesday Update

Over the past week there have been 39 new fires started in Utah, according to the state’s Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. That brings this year’s total to over 1,300 and humans are still the leading contributor, causing 77% of them. More than 278,000 acres have been scorched in Utah and one of the largest fires has been burning for over a month in the Ashley National Forest. The National Weather service has issued a red flag warning for the Wasatch Front for Thursday and Friday because of low humidity and gusty winds. — Lexi Peery, St. George

COVID-19 Cases Soar Near 900 Again

Utah health officials reported another 877 cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. That pushed the state’s rolling seven day average of new cases to 876. A week ago, that average was at 585. The state’s positivity rate has also climbed above 14% and current hospitalizations have increased from 115 a week ago to 171. Meanwhile in Utah County, officials have issued a mask mandate to help slow the spread of COVID-19. It’s in effect until Oct. 20. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Jazz Star Reacts To Lack Of Charges In Breonna Taylor Case

Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell tweeted Wednesday he is praying for the city of Louisville after just one officer was charged in relation to the shooting and killing of Breonna Taylor. Mitchell played college basketball at the University of Louisville for two years before going to the NBA. Police shot and killed Taylor in her home in March,while attempting to serve a warrant at night. The officers broke down her door and her boyfriend fired shots at them hitting one officer. Former officer Brett Hankison now faces three counts of wanton endangerment for firing into surrounding apartments, not for shooting Taylor. A candlelight vigil and protests are planned tonight in downtown Salt Lake City to remember her. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Book Cliffs Highway Under Scrutiny

A coalition of rural counties is trying to convince the state to build a highway through the Book Cliffs in northern Grand County to promote tourism. But critics say the highway offers marginal benefits, is a waste of taxpayer money and could endanger big game, like elk and bison, who call the lush mountains and canyons home. The Bureau of Land Management is currently reviewing a right of way application for the road, which Grand County voted to oppose last week. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Three Teenagers Charged In Connection With Turkey Farm Road Fire

Three St. George teenagers have been charged with starting the Turkey Farm Road Fire, which burned almost 12,000 acres in Washington County in mid-July. The group faces counts of lighting fireworks in a restricted area and reckless burning. Additionally, one parent was charged with obstruction of justice. Mike Melton, a fire management officer for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands said people will be held responsible who are found being “willful, negligent or malicious” in starting a fire. Suppression costs for the fire exceeded $2.5 million and officials said they will pursue recovering the money. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Colorado Researchers Manufacturing COVID-19

Colorado researchers will soon grow strains of the virus that causes COVID-19 in preparation for the possibility of human challenge studies. Colorado State University has signed a contract with a part of the National Institutes of Health to provide two strains of the virus, one isolated from a Washington patient and one from a New York patient. The U.S. does not currently plan to use human challenge studies, in which volunteers are infected with the virus on purpose, in order to see whether a vaccine or treatment is effective. According to the Financial Times, in January researchers in London will begin such studies to test potential vaccines. — Rae Ellen Bichell, Mountain West News Bureau

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