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AM News Brief: Teacher “Test-Out” Day, Utahn Threatens Senator & Biden's Promises To Tribal Nations

Photo of road on Navajo reservation.
iStock.com / lorcel
Indigenous voters in our region helped deliver a victory for President-elect Joe Biden. Now, they’re watching to see if he honors promises made to them on the campaign trail. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, November 12, 2020

State

Mink And COVID-19 In Utah

Danish authorities recently walked back a plan to cull the country’s 17 million farmed mink after finding that a mutated form of COVID-19 had spread from the animals to humans. The concern that the animals could become vectors of the virus has particular resonance in Utah. The state is the second-largest producer of mink fur in the country and has seen COVID-19 spread among its farmed mink population since August. Read the full story. — David Fuchs

Group Calls For A Teacher’s “Test-Out” Day

Two teacher support groups are asking teachers across Utah to get tested for COVID-19 Thursday even if it means taking the day off. Steve Phelps, a teacher and organizer with Safe Utah Schools, said it’s partly in response to the state’s new restrictions which limit some extracurricular activities, but allow class to continue in person. Phelps said teachers in Utah often have large class sizes and are more susceptible to the virus than their younger students. Many are also in high risk groups and could face serious complications. Over one thousand teachers have contracted the virus, with nearly a quarter of them testing positive in the last two weeks. — Jon Reed

Northern Utah

Man Arrested Following Threat Against U.S. Senator

A Cottonwood Heights man who claimed he was headed to Missouri to kill former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was arrested in Utah Wednesday. Court documents show George William Stahl made several threats against McCaskill and told authorities that he was going to kill her. Utah Highway Patrol officers saw Stahl speeding in Summit County and arrested him. Stahl was medically evaluated at a fire station and then taken to the Summit County Jail. — Associated Press

Counting Continues In Utah’s 4th Congressional Race

Republican Burgess Owens’ lead shrunk by about 80 votes in the race for Utah’s 4th Congressional District based on Wednesday night’s update. Owens has 47.5% of the vote, while the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Ben McAdams, has 47%. That’s a difference of nearly 1,700 votes, and the race is still too close to call. In 2018, it took two weeks to be decided. — Sonja Hutson

Region/Nation

Navajo Leaders Warn Of “Uncontrolled Spread” Of Virus

The Navajo Department of Health issued an advisory Wednesday warning of uncontrolled community spread of COVID-19 across the reservation that spans Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. The health advisory draws on data from Oct. 23 through Nov. 5 and will remain in place until the risk and case count decline. Officials said people should follow the mask mandate, daily curfew, social distancing and the weekend lockdown that starts Friday night. The health department also says “there should be no family gatherings due to the risks of the viru.” Wednesday the Navajo Nation reported 98 new cases of COVID-19 and one death. — Diane Maggipinto

Biden’s Plan For Tribal Nations

Indigenous voters in our region helped deliver a victory for President-elect Joe Biden. Now, they’re watching to see if he honors promises made to them on the campaign trail. Biden’s ambitious Plan for Tribal Nations pledges to remedy chronic budget shortfalls within Indian programs and protect Indigenous sacred sites. This week, Biden’s team also announced it would restore the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference, which was launched under President Obama but suspended under President Trump. That event gives tribal leaders an audience with high-ranking government officials. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau