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PM News Brief: City Rents, Zion Graffiti & Herbert Announces Compact For Equity

A photo of graffiti at Zion National Park.
Zion National Park Facebook
Zion National Park officials said they have recently seen an increase in the amount of graffiti left by visitors to the Southwest Utah park. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, December 15, 2020

State

Tuesday COVID Update

Utah reported 1,915 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the second day in a row where cases have come in under 2,000. The state’s rolling 7-day average for the percent of laboratory tests that come back positive is about 23%, and 15 more people have died from the virus. There are currently 553 Utahns hospitalized due to COVID-19 and about 89% of ICU beds are filled statewide — down from 96% over the weekend. — David Fuchs

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Petitions Criticize, Praise Utah AG

After Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes signed onto a Texas lawsuit last week to keep votes from being counted in the presidential election, Utahns are responding with two online petitions. One calls for his impeachment and has more than 6,500 signatures. Meanwhile, the other petition said Reyes did the right thing in trying to “uphold constitutional rights.” More than 1,200 people have signed that one. Last week, Governor Gary Herbert and Governor-elect Spencer Cox expressed their disappointment in Reyes’ involvement and called the lawsuit a waste of taxpayer money. — Emily Means

State Compact Calls For Equity

Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday a new compact to set Utah on a path to a more equitable future. Herbert said it was spurred by protests against racial injustice this summer. Since then, he has signed a bill banning police chokeholds and said he and his staff have done training to understand oppression and racism. But Herbert said there’s more to be done. “It’s not good enough,” he said. “It’s significantly important to us as a society to find ways to root out bigotry and racism and make sure there’s equality for one and all.” The pledge has five actions to fight racial injustice, including creating policies that expand access to education, employment and other resources for communities of color. — Emily Means

Northern Utah

Wild Mink Found With Coronavirus

A wild mink in Utah has tested positive for the coronavirus, and it’s believed to be the first case confirmed in a free-ranging native animal, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Since August, Utah has been battling outbreaks of COVID-19 in mink farms. State veterinarian Dean Taylor said in November nearly 11,000 of them have died. Lori Ann Burd with the Center for Biological Diversity said the prospect of this virus spreading in the wild is terrifying. The state veterinarian was not available for comment on this latest development. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery

Only Slight Increase In Salt Lake City Rents

Salt Lake City’s average rent increased just 1.1% in the last year. A rented apartment in Salt Lake City cost around $1,258 in November, according to RentCafe.com, which surveys multi-family properties. That’s about $200 less than the national average, and rents in the city proper increased less than those in surrounding cities like West Valley City and West Jordan. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Zion Graffiti

Zion National Park officials said they have recently seen an increase in the amount of graffiti left by visitors to the Southwest Utah park. Painting, carving and otherwise directly damaging natural surfaces in the park is illegal. Depending on where graffiti is left, it could take hours to remove it, and sometimes areas are never able to be restored to their original state. As people have been unable to travel as much during the COVID-19 pandemic, more have turned to public lands for recreation. The park says those with information about who has been defacing park property can call their tip line at (888) 653-0009. — Caroline Ballard

Officials encourage talking about your visit or taking photos as a way to share your experience in the park.

Region

Solar Power Shining Through Pandemic

It’s been a tough year for gas and oil prices but solar power has kept a steady pace during this pandemic year. One reason for that success is federal tax credits but those are due to expire in a couple of years. It’s unclear yet whether congress will extend the program. Still tax credits aside, solar manufacturing is getting cheaper which is another plus. It’s also easier for the electricity industry to provide permits to providers because solar power is now a well-known quantity. — Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau