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AM News Brief: Business Aid On Pause, Biden Turns To Navajo Expert & Weekend COVID Numbers

Photo of the downtown salt lake city skyline
Wikimedia Commons
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The state Legislature is waiting on Congress to pass a coronavirus relief bill before it decides whether to help struggling businesses using state money.

Monday morning, November 30, 2020

State

Utah Seeing A Plateau In New COVID-19 Cases

Utah health officials reported 3,765 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend. New cases have recently plateaued as the state’s mask mandate has been in place now for three weeks. Some experts warn though that could be the result of a pre-holiday testing slump. Officials announced 19 more people have died from the disease. 564 are hospitalized, down from a record 573 on Saturday. Over the past week, about 21% of tests have come back positive, and Utah has seen an average of 2,354 new cases each day. — Sonja Hutson

Lawmaker To Propose Consent Bill

Utah Rep. Angela Romero, D-Salt Lake City, is pursuing a bill that would give survivors of sexual assault more opportunities to prosecute their perpetrators. The state Legislature passed a bill earlier this year that changed the legal definition of consent to allow for someone to withdraw their agreement to a sexual act after previously consenting to it. Under Romero’s new bill, if a person commits an act after consent is withdrawn that would be a third degree felony — which is a lesser offense than other forms of sexual assault. While Romero said it’s important to help survivors seek justice through the courts, she would also like to bring consent education into schools. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Pauses On Next Round Of Business Aid

Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said the state Legislature is waiting on Congress to pass a coronavirus relief bill before it decides whether to help struggling businesses using state money. Wilson said Utah used money it got from the federal CARES act on business grant programs and he expects to do the same with any more money coming from Washington, D.C. "We're still in a wait and see in terms of what our state money is going to look like, and I just think until we understand whether we're going to get federal money or not, what our state money looks like, it's too early to tell," Wilson said. — Sonja Hutson

Utahns At Heart Of Record Breaking Fire Season

The fire season in Utah has officially ended and it’s been a historic one. Humans caused a record-breaking 78% of fires and that was likely influenced by more people recreating outdoors. Equipment, debris burning and campfires were the top three reasons for human-caused fires this year, according to Kait Webb, a spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands. But she said this historic season wasn’t just because more people were outside. Even though it’s now technically the off-season for fires, Webb said the agency is working on educating people about prevention. Overall, there were more than 1,500 fires this year and the state spent around $60 million in suppression. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Southern Utah

Proposed Copper Mine Worries San Juan County Ranchers

A mining company is proposing a new form of copper mining in southern Utah, but people living nearby are concerned. The Salt Lake Tribune reports the in-situ method involves injecting diluted sulfuric acid into the ground to dissolve copper deposits. The process proposed in Lisbon Valley centers on mining in sandstone though, not harder rock layers. If allowed, it would be a first globally. Rancher Mike Wilcox said he worries new mining could affect the wells that provide water for his cattle and family. Lisbon Valley Mining Company president George Shaw said they don't believe the new process will have wide-ranging effects on the water. The Utah Division of Water Quality will accept public comment on the proposal until Dec. 4. — Associated Press

Region

Navajo Nation Doctor Named To Biden’s COVID-19 Board

Dr. Jill Jim, executive director of the Navajo Nation Department of Health, has been named to President-elect Joe Biden's COVID-19 advisory board. Jim was among the board members announced as part of a transition team preparing to implement the president-elect's coronavirus containment plans. The doctor's work has focused on preventing chronic diseases and addressing healthcare and health disparities involving Native Americans and Alaska Natives. Jim most recently served as a cabinet member in the administration of Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer. — Associated Press

Hunting Licenses — And Poaching — Spike

The pandemic is leading to a spike in hunting license sales as more people head into the forests and mountains this autumn. That’s also led to a rise in poaching and unethical hunting this year. Incidents include a spate of people illegally killing moose and leaving the animals to rot. The nonprofit Backcountry Hunters and Anglers put out a $1,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of someone who killed one of those moose in Montana. Advocates said it’s hard to tell whether the rise in poaching incidents are happening because there are more newbies in the woods or because there are simply more eyes in the woods spotting these dead animals. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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