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AM News Brief: Crisis Care, Volatile Tax Revenue & The Gray Wolf Delisted

Close up photo of gray wolf sitting in grass.
Wikimedia Commons
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the gray wolf off the endangered species list in the lower 48 states Thursday. This story and more in Friday morning's news brief.

Friday morning, October 30, 2020

State

Fear Of Testing Complicates School Contact Tracing
Schools across Utah are facing many challenges in trying to stay open for students, including collecting accurate and up to date information on coronavirus case counts. Much of the burden of contact tracing falls on school staff, who are overwhelmed and run into barriers from parents hesitant to test their kids and relay the results. A representative of the Salt Lake County Health Department said it happens a lot with sports teams, with parents not wanting to report a positive test because it could mean the team might not play. Read the full story. Jon Reed

State Says Crisis Care Response Is Looming

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and health officials said the state may soon need to implement crisis care protocols as hospitals reach a breaking point because of a surge in COVID-19 cases. Understaffing and a shortage of ICU beds could soon force Utah hospitals to shift to the protocols that dictate how patients will be treated when the system is overloaded. Health officials said residents must take public health guidelines and mask-wearing seriously to avoid the drastic measures. In the past week, the state's seven-day positivity average has increased from 15.5% to 18.1%. — Associated Press

Utah’s Volatile Tax Revenue

Utah has some of the most volatile tax revenue in the country, according to a new analysis from Pew Charitable Trusts. It found the coronavirus pandemic is causing big, unpredictable swings in tax collections, which has made it harder to balance state budgets. Utah lawmakers have suggested that tax overhaul is needed because of falling sales tax revenue, but the study found the increase in Utah’s volatility was mostly caused by growth in both personal income and sales taxes. — Jon Reed

Northern Utah

New Tool For Reducing Suicide In The Workplace

The Salt Lake Chamber has released a toolkit aimed at improving mental health in the workplace and reducing suicide. It encourages employers to provide mental health assessments and trains them on how to have difficult conversations around the issue. Utah ranks first in the country for depression and fifth for suicide rates for people ages 15 to 44 according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The toolkit also lays out resources for businesses and gives guidance on how employers should respond if suicide happens. If you or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 800-273-TALK (8255). — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Disaster Loans For Flood Damage

Businesses in Iron, Kane and Washington Counties are eligible for federal disaster loans due to severe storms and flooding that happened in late August. The funds are being made available through the Small Business Association. Companies and nonprofits can borrow up to $2 million for property damage. Homeowners can apply for up to $200,000 for real estate damage and can receive an additional $40,000 for personal property. Applications for property close Dec. 29, but people can apply for economic injury assistance until next July. — Darienne DeBrule

Region/Nation

Gray Wolf Removed From Endangered List

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the gray wolf off the endangered species list in the lower 48 states Thursday. The move doesn’t affect Wyoming, Montana or Idaho. Those states delisted the gray wolf a few years ago. But it could affect states where wolf numbers haven’t recovered, like Colorado, which has wolf reintroduction on its ballot this year. Before the decision, the gray wolf was protected across most of Utah apart from a small area which allowed hunting. The agency contends that states should be the ones to decide how to manage wolves, and that the animal’s recovery is sufficient to delist. Environmental groups don’t think wolves have rebounded enough, though, and will challenge the rule in court. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Navajo Nation Suing Over Illegal Hemp

The Navajo Nation is suing nearly three dozen people, accusing them of illegally growing hemp or marijuana on the reservation. The lawsuit filed earlier this week in the Shiprock District Court in northwestern New Mexico says the operations are contaminating the tribe's water, land and other natural resources. It's the second such lawsuit the tribe's Department of Justice has filed this year. The tribe does not have a regulatory system for industrial hemp on the vast reservation that spans parts of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. — Associated Press

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