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PM News Brief: 1,500 COVID-19 Cases, Mike Lee Tweet & Ended Unemployment Claims

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Brian Grimmett
Sen. Mike Lee came under fire Thursday morning for a late-night tweet that said “Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace and [prosperity] are.” This story and more in the Thursday evening news brief.

Thursday evening, October 8, 2020

State

Utah Sets New COVID-19 Record As Hospital Officials Make Emotional Plea

Utah health officials announced 1,501 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, setting a new record for the state. There are also now more people in the hospital due to the disease than at any other time in the pandemic. The state is on track to overwhelm its hospital capacity if Utahns don't change their behavior, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn. She said if that happens, they have contingency plans like turning regular hospital beds into intensive care beds, and opening an overflow facility for non-intensive care patients, but the care that people get under that model could be sub-par. Gov. Gary Herbert said he’s meeting with state leaders this week to discuss how to respond to the continued spike in cases. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Mike Lee Gets Criticized Over Tweet About Democracy

Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, came under fire Thursday morning for a late-night tweet that said “Democracy isn’t the objective; liberty, peace and [prosperity] are.” Democratic candidates across the state and country and others criticized Lee and the tweet, saying it undermines democracy and promotes fascism. A spokesperson for Lee said with talk of packing the Supreme Court and eliminating the Electoral College, Americans should read the Federalist Papers to learn about “republican checks on democratic passion.” In the past, Lee has called for a repeal of the 17th Amendment which gives voters the power to directly elect senators. In 2016, Lee was re-elected with almost 70% of the vote. — Emily Means

Close To 20,000 Utahns End Unemployment Claims, Most Since Pandemic Began

Nearly 20,000 Utahns ended their unemployment claims last week, the most in a single week since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, the number of people filing for new benefits remained steady around 4,500. That’s according to data released Thursday by the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The department said it expects new claims to increase over the next few months because of seasonal work changes, but the pandemic continues to be a factor. — Jon Reed

Northern Utah

Vice Presidential Debate Brings $7 Million To Salt Lake City

Income to Salt Lake City from the vice presidential debate could top $7 million from hotel bookings and shopping, according to the Downtown Alliance. Last year was record breaking for tourism spending in Utah and 2020 was on track to be another big year until COVID-19 hit, said Anna Loughridge, with the state’s Office of Tourism. Since the pandemic began in March, Salt Lake County has lost at least $339 million due to canceled events. Despite economic losses, Loughridge said Utah remains a popular spot for domestic tourism because of visitors’ access to the outdoors. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Salt Lake City Community Bail Fund Completes First Request

The Salt Lake Community Bail fund helped release a prisoner for the first time Wednesday. It’s part of an effort launched last month by the reform group Decarcerate Utah to end all pre-trial detention in Utah. The group says COVID-19 health concerns have made it even more urgent to release people being held simply because they can’t afford bail. The fund is crowd-sourced and activists said they have received a number of requests for bail in the last month, with their first three totaling $95,000. — Ross Terrell