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PM News Brief: 2,292 COVID-19 Cases, Navajo Casinos & Early Voting Coming To An End

A photo of slot machines in a casino.
Benoit Dare
/
Unsplash
The Navajo Nation is weighing whether to reopen casinos on the reservation, which have been closed since March due to the pandemic. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, October 30, 2020

State

Utah Blows Out Previous COVID-19 Record With Nearly 2,300 Cases

Utah health officials announced 2,292 new COVID-19 cases Friday, just a week after setting its previous high mark. Utah surpassed its previous COVID-19 single day case record by about 330 and officials are concerned. Emergency alerts were sent to the phones of Utahns saying hospitals are nearly overwhelmed and reminding them masks are required in the 23 high transmission counties. There are currently 133 COVID-19 patients in the ICU for treatment — which is also a record high. And nearly three quarters of the state’s intensive care beds are in use. Gov. Gary Herbert released a statement saying “We must not become numb to what these numbers mean for our communities.” Herbert warned if people do, the state’s medical professionals will continue to feel an increased strain. The weeklong rolling average for new COVID-19 cases is now 1,622 cases a day. — Ross Terrell

A photo of an emergency alert about COVID-19.
Chelsea Naughton

Early Voting Ends Friday, Except For A Few Counties

In-person early voting ends Friday in most counties in Utah. But voters in Beaver, Garfield, Grand, Kane and Weber counties can cast their ballots early in-person on Monday as well. All counties are required to have at least one in-person polling location on Election Day, but officials are urging Utahns to use their mail-in ballots instead to avoid crowding on Tuesday. Mail ballots must be postmarked by Monday or dropped in a county drop box by 8 p.m. on Tuesday. — Sonja Hutson

Sen. Mike Lee Responds To Criticism Over Captain Moroni Comparisons

Sen. Mike Lee, R-UT, responded to criticism of his comments comparing President Donald Trump to Captain Moroni — an important figure from the Book of Mormon. Lee said on Facebook he did not mean to imply Trump is a prophet or should be revered as a religious leader, but instead that the president’s efforts to “drain the swamp” are equal to Moroni who “Sought not for power but to pull it down.” The senator said he did not intend for his comments to be distracting or offensive. — Ross Terrell

Going Trick Or Treating? Here’s Some Safety Tips

Utah announced a record breaking number of COVID-19 cases Friday and officials are warning Halloween activities could be high-risk events for spreading the virus. If you are trick or treating, the Red Cross said you should not wear a costume mask over a protective mask because it can restrict breathing. Instead costume face coverings should be made of two or more layers that cover the nose and mouth. They also advise trick or treaters to travel in one direction and houses should offer individually wrapped candy and bags. — Darienne DeBrule

Central/Southern Utah

Sanpete County Seeing Massive Increase Of In-Person Early Voting

Across Utah and around the country, voters are turning out in record numbers. The same holds true in Sanpete County, where more than 11,000 voters received misprinted ballots last week. County Clerk Sandy Neill said the issue has not resulted in a big rise in mail-in voting issues, but it has led nearly 500 more residents to vote in-person. About 90% of the county’s voters turned out for the last presidential election, and Neill said her county is on track to meet or exceed that number this year. — David Fuchs

Pandemic Has Pushed Navajo Casinos To The Brink Of Permanent Closures

The Navajo Nation is weighing whether to reopen casinos on the reservation, which have been closed since March due to the pandemic. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise operates four casinos and currently employs around 1,000 tribal members. It received $25 million from the Tribe earlier this year through the federal CARES Act, according to the Navajo-Hopi Observer. Legislation filed by tribal council members says the casinos could close permanently if they don’t reopen soon. The council has asked tribal members to comment on the legislation, which could come up for discussion in a special session on Monday. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region

Broadband Expansion Coming To Rural Parts Of Utah And Mountain West

Over 300 people in rural Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming will receive high-speed broadband through a government program. Two Utah-based telecom companies received $10.6 million through the United States Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, including Beehive Broadband. CEO Cameron Francis said they wouldn’t be able to serve rural homes, businesses and farms without the grant. The USDA has distributed over $1.3 billion through the program, which is no longer accepting applications. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff