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PM News Brief: Mike Lee SCOTUS, Recreational Marijuana & Indigenous People’s Day

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Photo of a Navajo man wearing a black cowboy hat stands in front of a sign that says "Indigenous People’s Day."
Kate Groetzinger
Utah State University-Blanding is holding its second annual Indigenous People's Day celebration Monday. This story and more in the Monday evening news brief.

Monday evening, October 12, 2020


Mike Lee Participates In Day 1 Of SCOTUS Confirmation Hearings

During the first day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett Monday morning, Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, lamented that the process has become too politicized. Lee pointed to protests outside the court and questions about how Barrett would rule on abortion cases and the Affordable Care Act. Lee, who attended the hearing in person, announced 10 days ago he tested positive for COVID-19. But he published a letter from the congressional physician Monday saying he no longer needed to isolate. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Missing And Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force

Moroni Benally is on a new Utah task force assigned to study the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis. He posted a video on Instagram Monday in honor of Indigenous People’s Day, in which he says traditional research methods have failed to capture the scope of the crisis in Utah. Benally’s group, Restoring Ancestral Winds, which works to combat violence against Native women and children in Utah, partnered with Rep. Angela Romero, D- Salt Lake City, to pass legislation this year creating the task force. Romero said she will seek an extension for the task force until 2023, which has not met yet because of the COVID-19 pandemic. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Utah COVID-19 Update

For the first time since last Tuesday, Utah health officials reported less than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases. Officials announced 988 Monday, but the state’s positivity rate remains right around 14%. Five more people have died due to the disease — four of them were living in long-term care facilities. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 570 of those locations have had at least one COVID-19 case and 219 long-term care facility residents have died. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utah Department Of Health Changes School Quarantine Guidelines

The Utah Department of Health has reduced the recommended time students and school staff should quarantine if exposed to the coronavirus at school — from 14 days to at least seven. Under the new guidelines, teachers and students can return earlier if they test negative for the virus, were wearing a mask at the time of exposure and don’t have any symptoms. In an email to administrators late last week, the Utah Board of Education said the change came at the request of superintendents and charter school directors. It said it hopes the new guidance will be an incentive for better mask compliance in the classroom and getting students back to school faster. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Southwest Utah Seeing “Definite Surge” In COVID-19 Cases

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department has reported 362 new cases of COVID-19 in the last week and the region’s positivity rate has been 13.2% over that time. The region’s health department spokesperson David Heaton said the area is seeing a “definite surge” in case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths. And he said it’s being driven by elderly people in long-term care facilities, with six of the area’s 11 deaths reported since Oct. 1 coming from these places. Heaton said there’s been an increase of out-of-state visitors to the area but that hasn’t led to more cases because people are mainly outdoors, and he said he hopes it stays that way. Since the start of the pandemic, the department has reported 4,925 cases and 45 deaths in the region. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery

Indigenous People’s Day Celebrations

Utah State University-Blanding is holding its second annual Indigenous People's Day celebration Monday. The festivities kicked off in the morning with a 5K run and will continue on Zoom at 8 p.m. USU has also uploaded videos to their website, including speeches, performances and workshops by Native artists and public figures. The majority of students who attend the university are Native American. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff


Savanna’s Act Signed Into Law

Landmark legislation addressing the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people was signed into law by President Trump over the weekend. Savanna’s Act will require the Department of Justice to begin tracking, for the first time ever, the number of native men and women who go missing or are murdered each year. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

Church Officials Urge Arizona Members To Vote Against Recreational Marijuana

Southwest leaders for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints urged Arizona members to vote against a ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana. In a letter recently sent to Church members in Arizona, leaders said the body is a gift from God and warned against the dangers of drug abuse. The Church updated its general handbook this summer to say members may use medical marijuana, if following a licensed physician’s orders. — Lexi Peery

Corrected: October 12, 2020 at 8:34 PM MDT
This story has been updated to reflect that Rep. Angela Romero will seek a two-year extension for the Utah Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women task force.
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