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AM News Brief: Jazz Welcome More Fans, Cox Signs 57 Bills & Kindergarten LearningTakes Hardest Hit

A photo of the entrance to Vivint SmartHome Arena.
Brian Albers
The Utah Jazz have once again increased the number of fans allowed to attend home games. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, March 12, 2021


57 Bills Become Laws

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed 57 bills into law Thursday. One requires law enforcement officers to be trained on de-escalation techniques and how to handle people in a mental health crisis. Another new law requires the state be in full compliance with the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act. Cox signed two bills that expand the role of Medicaid in Utah. In the first, Medicaid money requested by the state would go to organizations that provide medical care to people experiencing homelessness after they’ve left the hospital. The other new law uses additional Medicaid funding to create a statewide mental health crisis hotlineat 988. — Sonja Hutson

Kindergarten Learning Hit Hardest By Pandemic

Utah does not yet have comprehensive data on the extent to which the pandemic has affected student performance, but the State Board of Education did release some information Thursday on the impacts to kindergarteners through third grade students. Kindergartners have been the most affected, with a 12% drop in mid-year performance compared to the previous year. State lawmakers gave public schools an extra $5 million in the 2021 budget to provide extra training for kindergarten through 3rd grade teachers. More data comparing student performance in individual districts is expected by the end of the month. — Jon Reed

Travel Still Requires Caution

Utahns are beginning to think seriously about travel plans for the first time in a year. Travel experts say masks and social distancing are things that won't change for a while even as vaccinations help boost consumer confidence. Aldo Vazquez is the spokesperson for AAA Utah. He said it’s more important than ever to do due diligence before any trip, like taking time to research what to expect along the way and at the final destination. — Bob Nelson

Southern Utah

Navajo Nation Sees Significant Drop In COVID-19 Cases

The Navajo Nation will begin lifting COVID-related restrictions on Monday thanks to a steep decline in cases across the reservation. Around 70% of eligible residents on the reservation have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Loretta Christensen with the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, which she said has led to a significant drop in cases on the reservation. The same is true in San Juan County, according to Byron Clarke with the Utah Navajo Health System. The county currently has the highest vaccination rate in Utah and the third fewest new cases per capita. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Northern Utah

Learning From The 2020 Earthquake

Next Thursday marks one year since the Magna earthquake shook the Wasatch Front. The 5.7 magnitude quake was the largest in the area since 1962, but in a joint release Thursday, scientists said it did not reduce the risk of a larger earthquake occurring. Analyzing the sequence has given scientists a better idea of the location of the fault, and they said it is likely shallower than previously thought. That means future earthquakes could produce more shaking and weaken the ground. An earthquake in the realm of a magnitude 7 to 7.5 is possible. In the past year, there have been more than 2,500 aftershocks, with no major injuries — but economic damage totaling $629 million. — Caroline Ballard

Utah Jazz Expand Seating For Friday’s Game

The Utah Jazz have once again increased the number of fans allowed to attend home games. Starting with Friday’s game against Houston, 5,600 hundred people will be allowed in the Vivint Smart Home Arena. At the start of the season, the team only admitted 1,500. Vivint can hold a little more than 18,000 people for basketball games. Jazz officials said seating will be socially distanced throughout the lower and upper parts of the arena as well as the suite level. However, masks are still required, and sanitation stations will still be placed around the facility. — Ross Terrell


Big Storm Expected For Wyoming and Colorado

A potentially historic snowstorm will hit parts of southern Wyoming and northern Colorado this weekend. Three feet or more of snow is in the forecast starting on Friday. The precipitation is badly needed to combat dry conditions in those areas, and to provide a boost to the region’s lagging mountain snowpack. But it will be dangerous and potentially deadly for people experiencing homelessness in the region. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

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