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PM News Brief: Labyrinth Canyon Drilling, COVID-19 Testing & Mike Lee Captain Moroni Comparison

A photo of Labyrinth Canyon.
Steven Szabados
A Denver-based company could begin drilling for helium in the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness. This story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, October 29, 2020


So You Want To Get Tested For COVID-19

The spike in COVID-19 cases in Utah has coincided with an increase in testing for the virus, according to the state health department. But getting tested for COVID-19 can still be tricky. Right now, the state offers free testing through a program called Test Utah. But that’s only for people who have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who’s tested positive. Tom Hudachko with the state health department said it is trying to expand that program to test asymptomatic people as well. In the meantime, testing is available to people without symptoms at many clinics and hospitals throughout the state, but it may not be free. Read the full story. Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Back-To-Back Days Of 10 COVID-19 Deaths

For the second day in a row, Utah health officials announced Thursday 10 more people died from COVID-19. Seven of them were either hospitalized or in a long term care facility when they passed. This comes on the same day as another 1,837 cases of COVID-19 were reported — the second highest single day total since the start of the pandemic. There are 123 people in the ICU due to the disease — a new record for the state. — Ross Terrell

Mike Lee Compares President Donald Trump To Captain Moroni

Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, compared President Donald Trump to Captain Moroni, an important figure for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Lee made the comments during the president’s rally Wednesday in Arizona. Captain Moroni is a hero in the Book of Mormon who inspired ancient armies to fight for freedom and for God. Lee has been part of the effort by the Trump campaign to court Church members — and other religious groups — in Arizona, which is being considered a swing state. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Utah’s Fire Season Winding Down

There are three wildfires burning in Utah, and they won’t be considered “out” until there’s a significant amount of rain or snow, according to Kait Webb, a spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. The William, Range and East Fork fires are mostly burning in rugged, remote terrain. So far there have been nearly 1,500 wildfires in the state, and they have burned over 312,000 acres. Additionally, the fire season in Utah has been extended to Nov. 30 because of critically dry fuels. — Lexi Peery, St. George

More Than $1.5 Billion Paid Out In Unemployment Benefits

Just under 4,000 Utahns filed new unemployment claims last week, down about 6% compared to the week before. That’s according to numbers released Thursday by the state’s department of workforce services. Since March, when the pandemic began, Utah has paid out $1.6 billion in unemployment benefits. The department also announced about 4,000 people ended their claims. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Governor Gary Herbert And Angela Dunn Speak Against Protest At Her Home

Roughly a dozen people, toting American flags and maskless faces, gathered on the sidewalk across the street from the home of state epidemiologist Angela Dunn on Thursday morning. The gathering drew sharp criticism from Gov. Gary Herbert and Dunn, who said it was wrong to protest at the private residence of a state employee. The event comes in the midst of the deadliest days Utah has seen since the onset of the pandemic, with 10 people dying of the virus on both Wednesday and Thursday. Read the full story. David Fuchs

Ogden Considering Pulling Out Of Renewable Energy Agreement

Ogden may pull out of a commitment it made last year to transition to 100% net renewable energy over the next decade. The Standard Examiner reported city officials said they’re worried about high costs, which would be passed onto residents. Ogden adopted legislation last year that creates a legal framework to help cities and counties meet the goal. It also allows them to pull out after they study the potential costs. More than 20 other cities have made the commitment. Rocky Mountain Power said if more cities drop out, the entire process could become more expensive. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness Open For Helium Drilling

A Denver-based company could begin drilling for helium in the Labyrinth Canyon Wilderness. Congress designated it as wilderness last year, which means it should be protected from extraction. But the Bureau of Land Management approved the company’s lease just weeks before it was designated. The more than 54,000 acre area is bordered by the Green River, Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon Recreation Area. The BLM is accepting comments on the proposed drilling until Nov. 4. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

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