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PM News Brief: Romney Votes Against Trump, COVID-19 Hospitalizations & Alarming Wildfires

A photo of Mitt Romney.
KUER File Photo
Sen. Mitt Romney told CNN Wednesday, he did not vote for President Donald Trump this year. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, October 21, 2020

State

Intermountain Healthcare Launches PSA To Raise COVID-19 Awareness

Intermountain Healthcare is trying a new strategy to get people to take the coronavirus more seriously. It launched a media campaign Wednesday with public service announcements set to air on local TV stations and social media platforms depicting intensive care units and interviews with caregivers. Doctors and nurses with the hospital system said Utahns have dropped their guard as schools and businesses have reopened and some still think the virus isn’t real. But they’re hoping that by giving the public a behind the scenes look at what they're dealing with as hospitals fill up, the campaign will encourage people to mask up, keep their distance and stay home when sick. — Jon Reed

Mitt Romney Admits He Didn’t Vote For Trump This Year

Sen. Mitt Romney, R- UT, told CNN Wednesday, he did not vote for President Donald Trump this year. But the senator declined to say who he did vote for. Romney has been a long standing critic of Trump and was the sole Republican senator to vote to convict him on an impeachment charge in February. — Sonja Hutson

UDOH Lays Out COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Plan

The Utah Department of Health has developed a plan on how to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine once it becomes available. The first doses will go to healthcare workers at hospitals who are at the most risk. As more doses become available, other healthcare workers will be prioritized, then long term care facility residents, first responders and finally the general public. Rich Lakin, UDOH’s immunization director, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said to expect a vaccine between November and January. Lakin also said the Health Department is working with state and local governments to develop a public information campaign for when the vaccine is approved. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Sets New COVID-19 Hospitalization Records

Utah broke several COVID-19 records Wednesday. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the percent of tests coming back positive crested 15%. There are also a record number of hospitalizations for the disease with 314 people currently hospitalized, and 111 of them are in the ICU — also a new high. The state’s department of health reported 1,363 new cases of the disease Wednesday and six more people have died from COVID-19, including one between the ages of 25 and 44. — Caroline Ballard

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

30 Wildfire Starts In Utah In The Past Week

Over the past week, Utah saw 30 new fire starts, including the Range Fire which is burning near Provo Canyon. That’s according to data released Wednesday by state officials. Humans continue to be the main cause of fires this year. Of the 1,453 starts, people are responsible for about 80% of them. Even though Utah’s official fire season ends in 10 days, the risk of new events remains high, as much of the state is under a red flag warning due to gusty winds and low humidity. There are currently five fires burning across the state with the East Fork one scorching more than 86,000 acres. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of Utah’s 2020 Fire Season.

Northern Utah

Salt Lake Coalition Looking For Motel Beds To Shelter Homeless People

The Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness is still looking for more space to house people this winter. At the Salt Lake City Council meeting Tuesday, an advisor from the mayor’s office said one overflow shelter for men has already opened and the motel voucher program, which serves mostly women, has already started for the season. But the coalition says it’s still looking for another 150 motel beds. The group doesn’t want to open a congregate facility like last winter, with the Sugar House temporary shelter, due to COVID-19. The coalition’s goal is to have the overflow motel in place by Nov. 1. — Emily Means

Southern/Central Utah

Sanpete County Working To Correct Misprinted Ballot Issue

More than 11,000 voters in Sanpete County received ballots last week that were missing crucial voter affidavits and signature lines. The county clerk’s office said it will contact any voter who sends in a ballot without extra verification to request their signatures — either in-person, via postcards distributed by the printing company or a software provided by the state. The Rural Utah Project, a non-profit focused on civic engagement and voter registration, is calling for the clerk to find a way to count ballots returned without additional verification — a step that state’s election director Justin Lee says is not permissible under Utah State Code. Read the full story.David Fuchs

Region And Beyond

Scientists Alarmed At Size And Intensity Of Wildfires

Scientists say the size and intensity of wildfires that we’re seeing today is alarming because it’s what they were predicting would happen 30 years down the road. The number of scorched acres in California doubled from 2018. And for parts of the Mountain West, California’s megafires may be a bellwether. Colorado had never seen a 200,000 acre blaze before this year’s Cameron Peak Fire which is twice the size of the city and county of Denver and still burning. A large portion of our region is experiencing severe to extreme drought which is linked to an increased fire risk. — Beau Baker, Mountain West News Bureau