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AM News Brief: Open Enrollment, Local E-Bike Public Land Rules & Police Prepare For Elections

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KUER File Photo
Americans bought a record number of guns this year. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies in the Mountain West are mobilizing for potential civil unrest around the election. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, November 2, 2020

State

Record Number Of Utahns Hospitalized With COVID

Utah health officials reported more than 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend. They also announced 13 more people died from the disease. Ten of them were over the age of 65; one, from Duchesne County, was between 25 and 44 years old. Utah’s hospital system continues to be strained. There are currently 342 people hospitalized from the disease — a new record for the state — and 74% of all intensive care unit beds throughout Utah are full. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

A Ballot’s Journey To Final Tally
Most Utahns will be voting by mail this election. But what happens after ballots get dropped off? Davis County Clerk Curtis Koch said he’s hired around 30 people to process ballots, including verifying signatures and scanning the forms. Clerks will keep counting them until the results are certified two weeks later, as long as they were postmarked by the day before the election. Meanwhile, county drop boxes are open until 8 p.m. Tuesday. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Police Prepare For Election Day
Americans bought a record number of guns this year. Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies in the Mountain West are mobilizing for potential civil unrest around the election. The Salt Lake City Police Department said it’s been planning with election officials for months on how to handle a variety of scenarios on election day. Its number one priority is to make polling places safe. U.S. firearm sales are approaching $17 million in 2020 and concerns over civil unrest prompted Walmart to pull guns and ammo from its sales floors across the country. The retail giant has since reversed course and guns are going back in their displays. — Beau Baker, Mountain West News Bureau

Open Enrollment Underway
Open enrollment for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act Marketplace started Sunday. Luis Rios with the Utah Health Policy Project said more Utahns are eligible this year because the state fully expanded Medicaid in January. Even if someone applied for Medicaid in the past and were denied, he advised they apply again. The Health Policy Project is offering free phone and online appointments to help people understand their eligibility and apply for programs. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Pellet Gun Fired At Health Department Office
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert says he's "disgusted" that someone shot at a state health department office in Millcreek. Herbert said the incident Friday with a pellet gun was an attempt to intimidate public health workers. A glass door and windows were damaged. No one was injured. Health Department spokeswoman Charla Haley said it's unknown if the shooting is related to recent anti-mask protests, including one at the Salt Lake home of the state epidemiologist. Herbert said “Targeting the selfless civil servants who work to keep our communities healthy is cruel and ridiculous.” — Associated Press

Uinta Basin Rail Impact
A proposed railroad in the Uinta Basin could permanently damage up to 9,000 acres of wildlife habitat. That’s according to a report by the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which found that no matter where the railroad is built, it will result in “significant environmental impacts.” A group of rural Utah counties called the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition proposed the project, which would help transport oil out of the Uinta Basin. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region/Nation

Coronavirus On The Navajo Nation
The Navajo Health Department reported 222 new COVID-19 cases and six additional deaths between Friday and Sunday. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says “The increases and reductions in new cases of COVID-19 is dependent on our own actions and the decisions we make each day.” The reservation spans parts of Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. — Diane Maggipinto

E-Bikes Subject To Local Control
The Bureau of Land Management has published its final rule on electric bikes. Unlike Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s 2019 order, it will be up to local BLM field offices to conduct an environmental review and then decide whether to allow e-bikes on certain trails. Several public lands groups still oppose it, including the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. It sued when the original order came out last year and that lawsuit is ongoing. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau