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AM News Brief: Coal Mine Lay-Offs, Protecting The Whitebark Pine & Vaccines To Arrive This Month

Whitebark Pine wikimedia commons.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed listing the whitebark pine as a threatened species. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, December 4, 2020

State

Staffing Crisis In Some Long Term Care Facilities

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Utah, the state is experiencing more outbreaks in long term care facilities. Some are now experiencing crisis staffing levels during outbreaks. The state health department team responsible for helping facilities respond to outbreaks is also stretched thin. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Vaccine To Arrive In Utah This Month

Utah's health department has placed the state's first order for coronavirus vaccines. They could arrive as early as mid-December. Hospital leaders said the first doses in Utah will go to front-line health care workers such as doctors and nurses in emergency departments. They will also be given to urgent care facilities and COVID-19 units as well as their housekeeping employees. Five hospitals that experienced the highest COVID-19 response will be first to receive doses. Each hospital is expecting to receive several thousand doses of Pfizer's vaccine. Officials did not say how many doses each hospital will receive. — Associated Press

Northern Utah

COVID-19 And The Ski Season

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said he is concerned about COVID-19 spreading at the state’s ski resorts. Herbert said people want to come here to recreate and Utah tends to be more open than neighboring states but that can be a double edged sword. “That's good news from the standpoint it helps our economy,” he said. “And the fact that we're doing something right, but also creates a challenge because they may be bringing some of the virus to our state.” Utah health officials announced 3,945 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and nearly 600 people are hospitalized for the disease. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Decision On Fourth St. George Bar Postponed

St. George City Council decided Thursday night to table a vote on an application for the fourth and final bar permit in the downtown area. This comes after the council voted last month to limit the number of bars in the arts district. City staff recommended approving the permit, but the council had concerns about parking since it’s in Ancestor Square — which already has several popular restaurants. The application will be considered again in two weeks. There are currently two bars in operation downtown and another one is in the works. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Coal Mine Lay-Offs

The South Jordan-based owner of a Montana coal mine has filed for bankruptcy and laid off nearly half of its workforce at the facility near the Wyoming border. The Casper Star-Tribune reports Lighthouse Resources Inc. has filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Utah company owns the Decker coal mine in Montana's Big Horn County. Lighthouse CEO Everett King says 76 workers have been laid off. He cited market conditions and other factors including the pandemic. — Associated Press

Protecting The Whitebark Pine

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week proposed listing the whitebark pine as a threatened species. It sits at high elevations in seven states and Canada and lives in areas where other conifer trees couldn’t survive. It’s also a keystone species. That means other species rely on it for their own health. But in recent years, the tree has declined by more than 50%. It’s threatened by several factors: an invasive fungus, the mountain pine beetle and climate change. The Trump administration has rolled back dozens of environmental rules. But people in federal agencies have been focused on protecting the whitebark pine for some time. This proposal could raise the visibility of those efforts. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

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