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PM News Brief: Unsustainable COVID-19 Cases, SLCPD K9 Program & Appointment Only Testing

A photo of K-9 dogs on leashes which are held by police officers.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York
The Salt Lake Police Department has indefinitely suspended their K9 Apprehension Program following an internal audit. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, September 25, 2020


Spencer Cox And Chris Peterson Face Off In Debate

The two major candidates for Utah governor debated the role of state versus local governments in the coronavirus pandemic response Friday during a debate hosted by the Utah League of Cities and Towns. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, the Republican nominee, said during the debate that he favors local control in the pandemic response, and it’s why he opposes a statewide mask mandate. Democratic nominee Chris Peterson, who is a law professor at the University of Utah, said he preferred local control for issues not relating to the pandemic. But he said the public health emergency requires a different approach, including a statewide mask order. Read the full story.Sonja Hutson

Utah Reaching Unsustainable Level Of New COVID-19 Cases

Utah continues to set COVID-19 records this week. Friday marked the highest single day total for new cases — with 1,411. The state also saw the most tests in a 24 hour period with more than 10,000. It’s the fourth time in the past eight days Utah has had more than 1,000 cases in a day. State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn said on KUER’s RadioWest that it's not sustainable. “Our contact tracers, even though we have increased capacity, cannot keep up,” Dunn said. “We also know that our testing capacity is going to get strained here. With more cases comes the need for more testing.” Friday also marked a record breaker for Salt Lake County as it reported 585 new cases, the most there since the start of the pandemic. Read the full story.Ross Terrell

USDA Spending $34 Million To Fund Rural Water Projects

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping fund improvements to water and wastewater infrastructure in five rural Utah communities. The money totals $34 million and is made available through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program. Recipients include towns and cities in Sevier, Box Elder, Cache and Sanpete Counties. Most of the work will be to improve wastewater treatment facilities, culinary water systems and water storage. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

SLCPD Indefinitely Suspending K-9 Apprehension Program

The Salt Lake Police Department has indefinitely suspended their K-9 Apprehension Program following an internal audit. Since 2018, there have been a total of 27 bites and 18 have now been referred to the county’s district attorney for further investigation. Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall said that many incidents show a pattern of an abuse of power. “We’re gonna be open and transparent as we go about this work,” Mendenhall said. “I truly believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant and we’re here today to shine a light on this stain in our department.” SLCPD began to review the program after one of its officers ordered his dog to attack Jeffrey Ryans, who had his hands up and was complying with orders during an arrest back in April. The department will continue to review footage and release the bodycam footage from those incidents within 10 business days. — Darienne DeBrule

University of Utah Athletics Still Struggling Financially

University of Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan said Friday even though games are slated to start up again soon, the department is still dealing with significant financial challenges. Fall and winter sports will return for the U as early as November, following Thursday’s announcement by the PAC-12. Last month, Harlan said the athletic department could lose up to $60 million if there were no fall or winter sports. He said now, they have a chance to earn some revenue due to T.V. contracts, but it’s still unclear how many games the football team will actually play. The conference agreed to seven games, but some could be canceled if players begin to test positive for COVID-19. U Athletics implemented department-wide furloughs earlier this month to help deal with the budget shortfall and Harlan said they will continue to follow those policies as they manage their way through this. — Ross Terrell

University Of Utah Health Shifting To Appointment Only COVID-19 Testing

Starting Monday, University of Utah Health is moving to an appointment only system for COVID-19 testing. U health officials made the announcement Friday and said it’s an effort to reduce wait times. They say people were having to wait in their car for hours and even after waiting, some people weren’t eligible to get tested because they didn’t have symptoms. The U will also expand testing hours on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Patients can schedule an appointment online, use the MyChart app or call the U’s coronavirus hotline. Testing slots can be reserved up to 48 hours in advance. Officials said since the start of the pandemic, they have tested more than 193,000 at their sites. Recently, the university began offering saliva testing, instead of the deep nasal swab. — Ross Terrell

Homeless Shelter Has 72 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases

A homeless shelter in Salt Lake City has 72 confirmed cases of COVID-19. The cases are focused at the Gail Miller Resource Center and coincide with a spike in Utah overall. Friday marked another record-breaking day, with more than 1,400 cases reported. Officials said there are currently 93 confirmed cases in Salt Lake City-area homeless shelters. People experiencing homelessness are said to be more vulnerable to contracting coronavirus than the general population. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Zion National Park’s Emerald Pools Reopening To Public

Zion National Park’s Emerald Pools trails are now open to the public after being partially closed for about a decade. Reconstructive work on the trail system totaled around $1.2 million to fix what had closed due to mudslides in 2010. Tony Ballard is a roads supervisor for the park and helped with the rebuild. He said the long wait to open the trails was because of a lack of staff and funding. Some of Zion’s most popular hikes have been shut down due to rockfalls and because of the coronavirus pandemic but park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh said it brings tears to his eyes to see this one open. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

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