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AM Brief: Ukrainian Utahns’ worst nightmare, COVID still strains ICUs & avian flu

Utah COVID Hospitalizations // former ICU patient 11
courtesy Intermountain Healthcare
A nurse in personal protective gear works in the hospital room of a COVID patient recently transferred from the ICU.

Friday, Feb 25, 2022

State

Ukrainians in Utah watch their worst nightmare unfold

For weeks, Ukrainians in Utah and their descendants have watched with bated breath as tensions ramped up along the Ukrainian border, culminating in Russia’s invasion Thursday. Basil Newmerzhycky, a second-generation Ukrainian immigrant living in the state, said this situation confirmed his worst nightmare. “It's just heartbreaking right now,” he said. “Ukrainian troops fighting and dying, trying to keep overwhelmingly stronger Russian forces out of Kyiv, and they're putting up a brave fight with what they have.” He talked with relatives in Ukraine Wednesday who said with confidence they had no plans on leaving their homeland — but communication cut out after the attack, leaving him in the dark. — Leah Treidler

ICUs remain strained as COVID cases drop

Reported COVID cases have fallen more than 300% in the past two weeks. But 75.4% of all ICU beds are occupied across the state, which the Utah Department of Health said creates major strains on the health care system. Health officials reported 627 new cases Thursday, with 395 people in the hospital — about half the amount of people hospitalized at the start of February. Utah health officials continue to recommend everyone get vaccinated and boosted. — Leah Treidler

Avian flu spreads through US

A highly contagious disease called “Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza” is spreading through birds across the U.S. The disease, which is often fatal to chickens, hasn’t yet been detected in Utah, but state officials are monitoring the situation closely. The flu could have widespread effects on the poultry industry, backyard flocks, the American consumer and human health. Officials are preparing to eradicate the disease if it’s found in the state. — Leah Treidler

Southern Utah

Springdale pauses new short-term rentals

Springdale temporarily banned all new transient lodging applications at the start of the year as the town grappled with an increase of new and converted short-term rentals. Springdale leaders are concerned about housing affordability and losing the town’s character. Sara Jane Teal, a local guide, has to move out of her apartment in April because ownership of it changed and now it may become a short-term rental. She said it’s frustrating to see local people and businesses displaced because of tourist lodging. A task force of elected leaders, residents and business owners was formed to come up with recommendations to address the issue. The moratorium is in effect until mid-July. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Western governors call for better coordination on public lands

The Western Governors’ Association is pushing for greater coordination among different levels of government in managing public lands. During a workshop Thursday, Idaho Gov. Brad Little talked about wildfires, saying they’re a growing threat because climate change is making the region hotter and drier. Little called for greater investments in workforce development to help train more loggers, and also wants to see a review of environmental regulations. He said they make it harder to remove fuels. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

New Mexico aims more resources at missing Indigenous cases

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has signed legislation aimed at ensuring more effective coordination among law enforcement agencies when it comes to cases involving missing or slain Native American women. The measures also will boost data collection and education as well as provide grant funding to improve reporting of missing person cases. The governor was joined by victims' families for a signing ceremony at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque on Thursday. Supporters say the efforts will help unite communities in providing better access to the resources needed to help solve potential crimes and bring justice to families. — Associated Press

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