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AM News Brief: Opioid Lawsuit, Burn Ban & Western Governors Call For Fire Restoration Plan

Winter Inversion Salt Lake Valley Air Quality
Chelsea Naughton
/
KUER
Restrictions are now in place because of poor air quality in Salt Lake County. This story and more in the Tuesday morning news brief.

Tuesday morning, December 8, 2020

State

Changes To Bill That Would Protect Drivers Who Hit Protesters

A controversial bill approved by a Utah legislative committee in November would have given legal protections to drivers who hit protesters. Lex Scott, founder of Utah’s Black Lives Matter chapter, announced on Facebook live Monday that the bill will be modified following a conversation with the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jon Hawkins, R-Pleasant Grove. Hawkins said when he introduced the bill he was trying to strike a balance between protecting protesters and those caught up in them. And he was surprised by the response the bill got. The bill could be considered by the state Legislature during January’s general session, if Hawkins chooses to bring it forward. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery

Rising COVID Cases Strains Utah Contact Tracing

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, health officials usually call people who they came into contact with and let them know to quarantine and get tested. But that process, known as contact tracing, is changing around Utah as new cases continue to number in the thousands each day. Now, instead of calling everyone who comes into contact with a positive case, most health departments just call the person who has COVID-19 and ask them to reach out to anyone they recently encountered. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger

Northern Utah

Air Quality Restrictions In Salt Lake County

Restrictions are now in place because of poor air quality in Salt Lake County. The county prohibits burning solid fuel in fireplaces or wood burning stoves and bans outdoor fires such as bonfires, patio pit fires and charcoal grill fires on days that the State of Utah designates as no-burn days. The air quality forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday is orange in Salt Lake County. That is unhealthy for most people. — Diane Maggipinto

Pharmacy Sued Over Opioid Sales

Federal prosecutors are suing a pharmacy in Morgan, alleging employees filled hundreds of opioid prescriptions for members of the same family. The U.S. attorney's office filed a civil enforcement action against Ridley's Family Markets Inc. and Ridley's Food Corp. following an investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The lawsuit asks for an order to stop the pharmacy from violating federal controlled substances laws and demands monetary penalties against the companies. The companies denied the allegations and said they will fight any legal action. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Uncontrolled Virus Spread Continues Across Navajo Nation

Monday’s figures from the Navajo Department of Health shows 213 new COVID-19 cases and 15 more deaths. Health officials said the uncontrolled community spread now stretches across 77 communities based on data from Nov. 20 through Dec. 3. They said nearly all intensive care unit beds on the reservation are filled and warn that the tribe is nearing a point where health care workers will have to make difficult decisions about providing care with limited hospital resources. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said there are few options to transport patients to other regional hospitals as they are also near full capacity. — Associated Press

Governor’s Call For Comprehensive Fire Restoration Plan

Governor’s across the West are asking for federal support to ensure that wildfire restoration becomes a priority the same way suppression and mitigation efforts are. The Western Governors Association said federal, state and local agencies collaborate on wildfires, but there isn’t a system in place for post-fire response. The association pointed to an unprecedented number of wildfires that have created unbalanced ecosystems throughout the west with no comprehensive plans to restore them. It notes that wildfires are a crucial part of the ecosystem but that all agencies need to work together on restoring the habitat afterwards. That’s an important step towards the area becoming resilient to future fires. — Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau