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PM News Brief: Emergency Purchases Audit, Hospitalized Utahns & SCOTUS Nominee Meeting

A photo of Mitt Romney and Amy Coney Barrett.
Courtesy Office of Sen. Mitt Romney
Utah’s two Republican senators met with Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett this week. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, September 30, 2020

State

State Releases Audit On Emergency Purchases At The Start Of The Pandemic

The Utah state auditor released a report Wednesday on the highly scrutinized emergency purchases the state made during the first two months of the coronavirus outbreak. The audit found the state’s sub-par preparation for a pandemic and a lack of clarity about who was in charge at the beginning of the outbreak hindered its ability to respond. It also said the COVID-19 testing contract with Nomi Health, known as TestUtah, initially cost a below market rate per test, but that skyrocketed to five times the original cost because of low demand. Meanwhile, the Healthy Together contact tracing app that the state paid more than $6 million for was appropriately priced, according to the audit. But the price was so high because the state prioritized speed and the location tracking feature over other app options. — Sonja Hutson

Utah’s Senators Meet SCOTUS Nominee Amy Coney Barrett

Utah’s two Republican senators met with Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett this week. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-UT, met with her Wednesday morning and said in a statement they talked about her “impressive” background and her judicial philosophy. Last week, Romney said he supported voting on a nominee before the presidential election, essentially ensuring the Republicans had the necessary support to move forward with the controversial confirmation process. Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, said in a statement he was remarkably impressed by Judge Barrett and that she has outstanding credentials. — Sonja Hutson

200 Utahns Currently Hospitalized Due To COVID-19

There are now more than 200 people hospitalized due to COVID-19. It’s the first time Utah has topped 200 active hospitalizations from the disease since early August. It comes as health officials announced 906 new cases Wednesday. Officials also reported two more people have died from COVID-19. Both were males older than 65 and long-term care facility residents. In fact, since the start of the pandemic, 525 facilities have had at least one case of COVID-19 affecting more than 1,500 residents. — Ross Terrell

Utah Wildfire Update

Utah fire officials are calling the past week "quiet" with only 37 new wildfire starts. But they warn the extremely dry weather isn't expected to improve, leading to moderate fire potential across the state. The Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands reports seven active wildfires statewide with the lightning-cause East Fork Fire in Duchesne County getting the most attention. It is only 72% contained and has burned nearly 108 square miles. The division said so far this year, there have been more than 1,300 total new wildfire starts. — Bob Nelson

Northern Utah

Two Salt Lake County Schools Going Virtual Due To COVID-19

Two schools in Salt Lake County’s Jordan School District are going online after identifying active cases of COVID-19. In emergency meetings Tuesday night, both West Jordan and Mountain Ridge High Schools each reported more than 20 cases. The two schools announced they would go online starting Thursday and will return in-person in late October. The Park Record also reported Tuesday that up to 200 Park City High School students must quarantine for two-weeks after they came in contact with a positive case. — Elaine Clark

Box Elder Must Pay For False Arrests Of Two Black Men

Box Elder County must pay $135,200 in attorney fees for the false arrests of two Black men. According to the Standard-Examiner, federal judge Dale Kimball reduced the fees by about $90,000 from the original amount of about $225,000. The ruling is based on the arrests of Nehemiah McFarlin and Atoa Fox, two Idaho State University student athletes, back in December 2016. Fox and McFarlin filed a lawsuit in 2018, claiming that they were the victims of false arrest and other civil rights violations. Attorneys for the county filed motions to overturn the original claim. Private attorney R. Blake Hamilton argued the county's case. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Dixie State President Says University Looking At Impact Of Name

Dixie State University President Richard Williams said Wednesday morning on a St. George radio show the university is doing an impact study on its name, which has ties to the Confederacy. Williams said the world changed this summer — hinting at the racial protests that were sparked by the death of George Floyd. He said the word Dixie doesn’t have a negative connotation in the community, but he is thinking of students who graduate and leave the area. Williams stressed that no official decision has been made about the name besides the need to study it. — Lexi Peery, St. George

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