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AM Brief: Utah challenges federal mask mandate, snowpack prompts concerns & SLC crime drops

A blue sign in an airport lobby area reads "mandatory face mask."
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Utah is joining 20 other states in suing to end the federal transportation mask mandate, which requires all individuals to wear face covering on planes, cars and other public transportation.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

State

Lawmakers introduce bill to curb inflation

The country’s inflation rate is at a 40-year high. It’s even higher in Utah and other states in the region, impacting the cost of everything from gas to groceries. Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, and Rep. Blake Moore, R-UT, joined the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce Tuesday to highlight the need to tackle government spending and supply chain issues. Lee has introduced a bill that makes it more difficult for Congress to spend money when inflation is up. But one Weber State University economist said federal spending doesn’t impact inflation as much as other factors. Read the full story.Emily Means

Utah and other states sue to end federal mask mandate

Utah is joining 20 other states in suing to end the federal transportation mask mandate, which requires all individuals to wear face covering on public planes, cars and other conveyances. The states claim the policy oversteps federal authority and interferes with state laws. According to the lawsuit, the order conflicts with a Utah law prohibiting mask mandates on public school conveyances. The Utah Department of Health reported 98 COVID cases yesterday. Meanwhile, an omicron variant is surging in countries across Europe and Asia, prompting worries about a future wave in the United States. — Leah Treidler

Utah’s dwindling snowpack prompts water concerns

According to Salt Lake County's watershed manager Robert Thompson, Utah's snowpack is in dire shape and the state should expect a very dry summer. He made his comments Tuesday at the first of four water summits the county is holding. “If you compound the significantly below average precipitation regionally with above average temperatures, that doesn't bode well for a regional forecast for water availability,” he said. But there is some good news. Salt Lake County agencies reduced their use of water last year by 13%. From now until early May, leaders will continue to look at issues like water conservation, the Great Salt Lake and recently passed legislation. — Ivana Martinez

Northern Utah

Crime rate falls in Salt Lake City

Crime in Salt Lake City dropped in the past year. In a press conference Tuesday, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown said that’s because of the city’s “Project Safe Neighborhoods.” The program is part of an initiative to address the most pressing crime issues in communities across the U.S. Brown said violent crime is down 2.7%, and overall crime has dropped 15.5%. As a result of the city's program, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has charged 207 defendants, and seized 221 guns, 49 kilograms of methamphetamine and $220,000 in cash. According to Brown, 66% of defendants were on some sort of probation when arrested. — Leah Treidler

Region/Nation

US worker fatalities dropped in 2020

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, worker fatalities in the U.S. declined 11% in 2020. Bureau economist Matthew Insco said the trend is due to pandemic-related business closures and, in general, the economy of each state has the strongest influence. Transportation type incidents are typically the most common type of fatality. So if your people are driving more, you're gonna also probably have a higher rate as well,” he said. The rate of fatal injuries went up in many states, because the size of the labor force dropped. But Colorado, Nevada and Utah were at or below the national average. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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