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PM News Brief: Unemployment Claims, Election Lawsuit A “Waste" & Utah’s Death Toll Surpasses 1,000

Photo illustration of unemployment application forms
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Thursday evening, December 10, 2020

State

Utah Surpasses 1,000 COVID-19 Deaths

More than 1,000 Utahns have now died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic in March. The state health department reported 21 more deaths Thursday, including two women between the ages of 25 and 44. Officials also reported 3,401 new cases of COVID-19 with 554 people hospitalized. The state’s positivity rate is at 26.2% percent. — Caroline Ballard

Teachers Prioritized In Utah’s Vaccination Plan

As Utah prepares to receive its first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Gary Herbert announced Thursday the state has changed its vaccination plan to give teachers higher priority than originally planned. Herbert estimated teachers should be able to get vaccinated by the end of December or early January. State officials also said that some people who test positive for the virus will be contacted by text instead of a phone call to complete contact tracing. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Jump In First Time Unemployment Claims

More than 4,750 Utahns applied for new unemployment benefits last week. That's a 35% increase from the week before. The state department of workforce services released the data Thursday. More than 27,000 people continued to receive benefits last week as well, while nearly 2,600 Utahns ended their unemployment claims during that same timespan. — Ross Terrell

Utah Leaders Call Election Lawsuit A “Waste Of Taxpayer Money”

Gov. Gary Herbert and Governor-elect Spencer Cox said Thursday the Utah Attorney General’s involvement in a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn Joe Biden’s win in four other states is a waste of money. Cox said Utah’s involvement in the case won’t impact it and he has yet to see any evidence of widespread voter fraud. "Confirmation bias is a hell of a drug," Cox said. "And we all want to be proven right. I get it. But it can also be dangerous." Attorney General Sean Reyes said in a statement Wednesday without the Supreme Court getting involved there will “always be questions regarding election integrity.” — Sonja Hutson

Montana and more than a dozen other states have joined that longshot legal battle. Thomas Zeitzoff is a professor at American University and studies political psychology. He said the president's ongoing election challenges are sewing doubt in the democratic system and that movements in the Mountain West have helped fuel mistrust in American institutions. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau