Kate Groetzinger | KUER 90.1

Kate Groetzinger

Reporter, Southeast Utah Bureau

Kate joined KUER from Austin, Texas, where she attended the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody School of Journalism. She has been an intern, fellow and reporter at Texas Monthly, the Texas Observer, Quartz, the Texas Standard and Voces, an oral history project. Kate began her public radio career at Austin’s NPR station, KUT, as a part-time reporter. Now, she is a corps member of Report For America, a public service program that partners with local newsrooms to bring reporters to undercovered areas across the country. She’s excited to be living in and reporting on San Juan County, one of the most beautiful — and interesting — parts of the United States.

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Photo of Tsosie standing next to posters of her classmates.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

MONUMENT VALLEY — It’s a bright and blustery day at Monument Valley High School, and the graduation decorations in the courtyard keep blowing away.

An aerial image shows two large ponds of uranium tailings with Sleeping Ute Mountain in the background.
Tim Peterson/LightHawk

When the White Mesa Mill was built in 1980, it was permitted to process domestic uranium ore for 15 years.

Two nurses wearing protective gowns talk to people in cars in a parking lot.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

BLANDING — While COVID-19 is ravaging the Navajo Nation in San Juan County, there have been fewer than 10 confirmed cases in Blanding, where less than 200 people have been tested for the disease. 

A woman in personal protective equipment stands in the driveway of a health clinic in Monument Valley.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

BLANDING – As a triage nurse in Monument Valley, Utah, Amber Rasmussen stands in the parking lot all day, testing people for COVID-19. 

On a typical day, she sees 20 to 30 patients, many of whom arrive at the Utah Navajo Health System clinic with severe COVID-19 symptoms. 

Photo of the arch
Jan Willem Broekema via Creative Commons

BLUFF — Business has completely dried up at Canyonlands Jeep Adventures in Moab. 

Picture of sign that says “La posada pintada,” with a small hotel and bluffs in the background.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

The Town of Bluff will remain under the red, high risk category in the Governor’s pandemic reopening plan. The state gave the town permission to continue implementing strict guidelines for businesses, as the rest of Utah moves from high to moderate risk. 

A winding river cuts through red rock canyons
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance courtesy photo

The Bureau of Land Management is considering leasing over 100,000 acres of public land around Moab to energy companies, raising concerns about effects on both tourism and conservation efforts. 

Photo of census forms mailed to residents
Arianna Pickard / KUER

The Census Bureau will resume counting homes across Utah in person this month, after pausing field operations in mid-March due to COVID-19. The Bureau originally planned to restart the count in June, but it deemed Utah one of 13 states where it’s safe to begin early. 

A young Navajo girl works on a laptop in a living room decorated with Native American weavings
Courtesy of Celia Black

Briana Lee is a junior at Monument Valley High School. She received her hotspot last week, and said it’s already helping her get more work done. But after three or four hours, she usually maxes out her daily data allotment. 

Photo of a red awning over a shop window that reads "Red rock bakery and cafe"
Courtesy of Howard Trenholm

It's been more than a month since Red Rocky Bakery owner Howard Trenholm closed his business in Moab because he wasn't making enough money. But now that tourists will be allowed to visit again, he's getting ready to reopen — reluctantly. 

A decorative road sign welcomes visitors to Moab.
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

COVID-19 has hit workers in Moab especially hard, since many are unemployed in the winter and go back to work in the spring. 

Photo of people wearing masks and standing outside
Sahar Khadjenoury / UNHS

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in San Juan County more than tripled in the past week — and most of those are on the Navajo Nation. The number of cases went from 11 on April 15 to 34 on Wednesday, and only two of those are off the reservation.

Monument Valley, Utah, is the desert backdrop for many famous old Western movies. And even today, kids in the valley are doing their homework the way they did in the 1950s: offline.

"There's a lot of kids that don't have even electricity at home," said Spencer Singer, principal at Monument Valley High School. "You know, for all intents and purposes we operate in a third world-type situation."

Photo of Goosenecks State Park
Creative Commons / cm195902

San Juan County relaxed its public health order restricting leisure travel on Thursday, one day before Gov. Gary Herbert announced Utahns can visit state parks outside of the county they live in. 

Photo of a ballot on a mailbox
Renee Bright / KUER

Utah’s primary elections in June could be held entirely through mail-in ballots, unless counties create drive-up polling options, under a bill passed by the Legislature Thursday. 

Photo showing two people wearing personal protective equipment are under a tent outside
Utah Navajo Health System for KUER

The Utah Department of Health has deployed a mobile COVID-19 testing task force to the Navajo Nation. It started in Navajo Mountain on Monday and will move on to Monument Valley on Thursday and Friday. So far all 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in San Juan County have been on the Navajo Nation. 

Two people load groceries into a truck in front of a grocery store
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

A 57-hour stay-at-home order will be in effect on the Navajo Nation this weekend to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Photo of Monument Valley High School Sign that reads
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah — Like most parents, Sheila Holiday is struggling to teach her three children math at home while schools are closed because of COVID-19. But unlike many other parents, she can’t just go online and watch a YouTube video to help explain calculus and fractions, because of where she lives. 

An elderly navajo lady wearing a turquoise necklace sits in a chair
Courtesy of Holly DeJolie

BLUFF — Holly DeJolie was getting worried. 

She hadn’t heard from her mother and brother for a week, despite calling them several times a day. The two lived together in a three-bedroom house on Cradleboard Mesa in Navajo Mountain, Utah—about a mile from the Arizona border. They had called her the week of March 8 to tell her they were both having chest pains, DeJolie said. 

woman in park rollerskating with mask
Elaine Clark / KUER

A Salt Lake City nursing home has Utah’s first confirmed incident of community transmission of COVID-19 at a care facility, state and local health officials announced Saturday, the day after officials confirmed the first case in the Department of Corrections.

Screengrab of a video of Phillip Francisco speaking while sitting behind a desk
Screengrab / Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer Facebook page

The Navajo Nation is stepping up enforcement of a curfew put in place earlier this week.

Screengrab showing Jonathan Nez sitting at a disk speaking into a microphone
Screengrab from video via Facebook

The Navajo Nation is imposing a nightly curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on all residents in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus. It went into effect on Monday at 8 p.m, but it’s not yet enforceable, according to the Navajo Nation police chief.

Photo of a tent in the foreground at a developed campsite by a lake with campers in the background
Carolyn Dailey for KUER

San Juan County’s health department announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19 Friday morning. Minutes later, the department issued an order to curb tourism in the county. 

Photo of the Sheraton Hotel in Salt Lake City
Wikimedia Commons

Erica Ridd worked at a restaurant called Punch Bowl Social in Salt Lake City until last Monday — when she got an email telling her she’d been laid off. 

Photo of census forms mailed to residents
Arianna Pickard / KUER

The Census Bureau has suspended field operations across the U.S. and moved operation deadlines back in response to the coronavirus outbreak. But the bureau is still encouraging all households to respond as soon as possible — online, by phone, or by mail. 

Photo of a sign welcoming people to the city of Bluff in Utah
Wikimedia Commons

BLUFF — Hotel owner Jen Davila normally staffs up in the spring, ahead of the busy tourist season. But this year nothing is normal. 

Screengrab of a man speaking in a recorded press conference
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer Facebook page

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez on Wednesday issued an executive order banning travel to the Navajo Nation. The move comes after two Navajo Nation residents on Tuesday tested positive for coronavirus, after traveling off the reservation. 

Photo of a road sign that welcomes visitors to moab
Kate Groetzinger / KUER

Hotels in Moab will not admit new visitors for the next 30 days because of coronavirus, health officials announced Tuesday. 

Photo of a line of cars at the entrance of Arches National Park.
KUER File Photo

Updated 9:11 a.m. MDT 3/17/2020

“Please. Do. More. Now.” 

That's the message Moab Regional Hospital sent yesterday to Gov. Gary Herbert. In a letter, the hospital’s leadership asked Herbert to close all non-essential businesses in Moab for two weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak. They wrote that Moab could see up to 6,000 visitors next weekend, based on current hotel bookings. 

Photo of a school bus
Tina Carter / Millard County School District

As schools and businesses gear up for closures, school districts in Utah are looking for ways to keep learning going outside the classroom.

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