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AM News Brief: Bad Air Means Bad Grades, Sanford Health CEO Controversy & Rural Counties In The Red

Photo of bad air over valley.
Brian Albers / KUER
A new study from the University of Utah shows that spikes in air pollution may affect academic performance. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, November 25, 2020

Northern Utah

Higher Air Pollution, Lower Grades

A new study from the University of Utah shows that spikes in air pollution may affect academic performance. Researchers looked at local pollution data and test scores for every school in Salt Lake County. Overall, they found scores were lower at schools where there were more high pollution days. “A finding like that was really important for a place like Salt Lake County, where our air pollution really does vary through time and space, and no one is protected,” said lead author Casey Mullen. The researchers also found disadvantaged schools experienced more days with high levels of pollution. Mullen said more information is needed on the physical effect of acute pollution exposure, though existing research shows chronic exposure can cause swelling in the brain. — Kate Groetzinger

COVID Impacts More Football

Utah Utes football will play the University of Washington Huskies this weekend after both teams had games cancelled due to COVID-19. Their game is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MST Saturday in Seattle and will be broadcast on ESPN. Utah’s cancelled game against Arizona State hasn’t been rescheduled, nor has Washington’s cancelled game against Washington State. — Diane Maggipinto


Sanford Health CEO Retires Amidst Controversy

The head of Sanford Health stepped down Tuesday after telling employees that he had recovered from COVID-19 and was not wearing a mask around the office. Last month, Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare and Sanford announced plans to merge, and Kelby Krabbenhoft was slated to become president emeritus. The longtime executive helped expand Sanford from a community hospital into one of the largest rural nonprofit health systems in the country. In what company officials called a mutual separation, Krabbenhoft left his post after telling employees he thinks he's now immune to COVID-19, isn’t a threat to transmit the virus and that wearing a mask would just be for show. Sanford Health is based in South Dakota, where some of the country’s worst spread rates of the novel coronavirus is happening, according to The COVID Tracking Project. — Diane Maggipinto

Federal Assistance For Navajo Nation

About three-quarters of Navajos enrolled with the tribe have applied for financial assistance due to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 240,000 have applied for the approximate $90 million in relief money available through the Navajo Nation. The funds come from the tribe's share of a federal coronavirus relief package. Tribes across the country have until Dec. 30 to spend the money. The Navajo Department of Health reported 121 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths on Tuesday. — Associated Press

Wyoming Sees Record COVID-19 Deaths Monday

The Utah Department of Health recorded just over 2,700 new cases of COVID-19 Monday along with 11 more deaths. This comes as airports are seeing some of the highest numbers of travelers since the pandemic began in mid-March, despite warnings from public health officials of the dangers of gathering indoors for Thanksgiving. About 5,500 people are currently hospitalized across the Mountain West due to the novel coronavirus. According to the latest available data, the region reported about 14,000 new cases and 85 new deaths. Wyoming recorded its highest number of deaths on Monday, with nearly two dozen people perished in the country’s least populous state. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

Rural Counties In The Red

Nine out of every 10 rural counties in the nation have dangerously high COVID-19 infection rates, and there are only a handful of rural counties in the Mountain West that aren’t listed in the “red zone.” The designation from the White House Coronavirus Task Force means these counties have a high per capita infection rate. Most states in the region also have some of the highest per capita death rates in the country, including Montana, New Mexico, Idaho and Wyoming. Ninety-five percent of Utah’s rural counties are in the red zone. But on Monday, Gov. Gary Herbert lifted a two-week ban on casual social gatherings ahead of Thanksgiving. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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