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PM News Brief: Ballet West’ Nutcracker, Ephraim Police & Hospitals COVID-19 Burden

A photo of an empty theater.
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Starting next week, Salt Lake County will close all of its arts and culture venues to the public through the end of the year to help limit the spread of COVID-19. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, November 18, 2020

State

Utah Health Officials Lay Out Plans To Distribute COVID-19 Vaccine When It’s Available

Utah state health officials expect the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to be distributed to hospital workers by the second week of December. The state health department expects to roll it out to long term care facilities after hospitals, then vulnerable populations — like people over the age of 65 — and people with moderate-risk jobs, and finally the general public in July. The time frames, though, may shift once the state gets more information on how many doses will be available and the timeframe. Read the full story. Sonja Hutson

Lawmakers Discuss Bill Aimed At Increasing Grand Jury Transparency

Utah lawmakers discussed a bill Wednesday that sponsors say would make investigations into law enforcement's use of force more transparent. It would require county attorneys to release their findings in police shootings if they rule them justified. Rep. Merrill Nelson, R-Grantsville, said the purpose of the bill is to restore public confidence in proceedings around police use of force, “especially when it involves racial issues.” The bill also says if the case goes to a grand jury, it would make the transcripts public if the jury doesn’t indict the officer. Ultimately, the committee decided not to vote on the bill. — Emily Means

Utah’s Hospitals Feeling The Strain Of COVID-19

Utah’s hospitals remain on the brink of being overwhelmed as a record 541 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19. State health officials announced another 3,071 cases Wednesday and nearly 85% of Utah’s ICU beds are in use. Nine more people have died from the disease, eight of them were over the age of 65. Since the start of the pandemic, 740 Utahns have died due to COVID-19. — Ross Terrell

Northern/Central Utah

Ephraim’s City Office Building And Police Department Closes Due To COVID-19

Ephraim’s city office building and police department have closed due to COVID-19 cases among staff. In Facebook posts Wednesday, the two departments, which share a building, said they have a tentative reopening date of Nov. 30. In the meantime the city will still be taking calls and payments can be made online or at the parking lot dropbox. The Police Department said if people require an officer, they should call Sanpete County Dispatch at 435-835-2345. — Caroline Ballard

Salt Lake City Elementary Schools Could Soon Return For In Person Learning

At a Salt Lake City School District meeting Tuesday night, board members voted to let elementary schools reopen for in person classes starting in late January. The decision comes with near record COVID-19 cases in the county, but middle and high schools will remain online. The district said elementary-age children don’t seem to be spreading the disease as much as their older peers. State health officials point to 15-24 year olds as driving the state’s recent surge in cases. Parents who do not want their kids to return to school will have the option of remaining online. — Jon Reed

Salt Lake County Arts Venues Closing And Ballet West Goes TV

Starting next week, Salt Lake County will close all of its arts and culture venues to the public through the end of the year to help limit the spread of COVID-19. Abravanel Hall, Capitol Theatre, Eccles Theater and the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center had been operating at around 20% capacity, with events scheduled through Dec. 31. People who have already bought tickets will be notified of what to do. In a release, Ballet West said its version of “The Nutcracker” will instead be broadcast on KSL on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. “The Nutcracker” is a crucial revenue generator for the company, which now says it will launch a major fundraising campaign. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

New Order Complicates Great American Outdoors Act

The bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act was celebrated over the summer for permanently authorizing the funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. That fund can be used to purchase land from willing private landowners for conservation projects, but a recent secretarial order from the Interior Department is now making several changes to how those sales can take place which critics say will make those sales difficult, if not impossible. — Cooper McKim, Mountain West News Bureau