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PM News Brief: New Police K-9s, Georgia Senate Races & Utah Drought Conditions

A photo of a dry and burnt landscape.
Courtesy of Utah Fire Info
The majority of Utah is currently experiencing exceptional or extreme drought at levels not seen in decades. Wildfires are a contributing factor to these new levels. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, November 25, 2020

State

How Utahns Are Planning To Celebrate Thanksgiving Socially Distanced

Utah has been in the midst of a COVID-19 surge though new cases over the past four days have decreased, just in time for Thanksgiving. But some Utahns are still heeding the advice of medical professionals for the holiday, to celebrate only with people in their household. That means Shayne Scott, from Kaysville, will miss out on his mother’s homemade dressing “for the first time since his LDS mission.” Meanwhile, Chelsea Slade who works in a hospital, said her family will just be having a nice dinner at home. Read the full story.Ross Terrell

Mental Health A Focus For Healthcare Workers During Holiday Season

Utah doctors continue to warn about the dire situations hospitals are facing, even as new COVID-19 cases have started to show signs of slowing across the state. Dr. Travis Mickelson, a mental health specialist at Intermountain Healthcare, said the pandemic has also caused higher rates of depression and anxiety, but that doesn’t mean people should ignore public health recommendations, such as limiting Thanksgiving gatherings to household groups only. Instead, he said limiting physical interactions and wearing masks could be a way for people to feel more connected to each other, knowing they are doing something positive for the community. Mickelson encouraged people to reach out to family or friends who might be struggling and to spend more time outdoors. — Jon Reed

Rep. Chris Stewart To Get Involved In Georgia Senate Races

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, said he’ll match donations to two Georgia Senate runoff races, up to $10,000 total. Both seats are currently held by Republicans. If Democrats win each contest, the party will control the White House and both chambers of Congress. Stewart tweeted Tuesday “Our country is under attack and the Georgia Senate races are the last line of defense.” — Sonja Hutson

26 More Utahns Dead From COVID-19

Utah health officials reported 1,781 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the state’s lowest total since Nov. 16. But a record 26 more Utahns have died from the disease — 22 of them were over the age of 65. There will be no update to the state’s COVID-19 data Thursday. Health officials said most testing sites will be closed, but for more information on which locations will be open people can go to coronavirus.utah.gov. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utah Experiencing One Of Its Worst Droughts In Decades

The majority of Utah is currently experiencing exceptional or extreme drought at levels not seen in decades. According to the U.S. Drought monitor, last week was the most intense period of drought since its record keeping began in 2000. About 93% of Utah is experiencing severe drought or worse, and a little more than 40% of the state is in exceptional drought, which indicates widespread crop and pasture losses as well as water shortages. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City Police Add Two Bomb Sniffing K-9s

The Salt Lake City Police Department is adding two K-9 officers to its force. Kelly and Pongo are TSA-certified bomb sniffing dogs. The German Short-haired pointers will serve alongside four other dogs in the Salt Lake City airport’s explosive detection squad. In August, the Salt Lake City Police Department temporarily suspended its use of police dogs, after an officer ordered a K-9 to attack a Black man who was cooperating, and video of the incident prompted backlash. An audit of the department’s use of police dogs found more questionable incidents. — Caroline Ballard

Region

Rural Health Conference Tries To Address Pandemic Challenges

Nevada just hosted its annual rural health conference. The main focus was the many challenges the industry is facing across the Mountain West region amidst this pandemic. One solution that came up to address this shortage is cross jurisdictional sharing. This type of agreement allows counties to pull health resources from one another when in need. Idaho and Colorado are already participating. — Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau