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AM News Brief: Avalanche Warning Rises, College COVID-19 Testing & Home Depot Fine

Photo of COVID Testing sign.
Tricia Bobeda
Utah health officials have scrapped a requirement for colleges and universities to test their students every two weeks, mainly because there aren’t enough tests. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, December 18, 2020


Protections For People With Disabilities And Preexisting Conditions

As hospitals in Utah are nearing capacity, there may come a time when doctors have to choose which patients receive care. But lawyers with the Disability Law Center say those decisions — which are based on the state’s crisis standards of care plan — can’t prioritize patients based on race, age or if they have a disability or pre-existing condition. In an information session Thursday, they also said patients have a right to know where they fall on the priority list and how doctors made their decision.If a patient thinks they were discriminated against, they can file an appeal with hospital staff or the department of health. They can also call the Disability Law Center or make a complaint to the state justice department. — Jon Reed

Changes To College COVID-19 Testing Guidelines

Utah health officials have scrapped a requirement for colleges and universities to test their students every two weeks, mainly because there aren’t enough tests. Instead, universities will be required to test students within 24 hours of developing symptoms and all their close contacts. They must also conduct randomized testing. Universities must also test all their students within 10 days of them arriving back on campus next semester. — Sonja Hutson

Home Depot Fined For Lead Paint Rule Violation

Home Depot will pay a nearly $21 million fine for failing to ensure that its contractors follow lead paint rules. Utah will receive $750,000 and two other states will also receive a chunk of the fine. The company reached a settlement with the federal government, which announced the deal Thursday. Utah joined the suit because it participates in the lead renovation, repair and painting program authorized by the Environmental Protection agency. The EPA said the penalty is the largest to date under the Toxic Substances Control Act. As proposed, Home Depot must implement a program to ensure that the firms and contractors it hires to perform home renovations are certified to use lead-safe work practices. — Associated Press

Northern Utah

Avalanche Warning Rises

The Utah Avalanche Center has issued an avalanche warning and forecasters say the danger is high on all aspects at mid and upper elevations, and moderate at low elevations. The warning is in place until 7 a.m. Saturday and applies to the Wasatch and western Uinta ranges, and the Manti-Skyline Plateau. Six avalanches were reported Thursday, including one on a 30 degree slope triggered remotely by an avalanche forecaster. Snowfall totals in the Wasatch range from 17 inches at Alta to 10 at Snowbasin and 7 1/2 in Alpine. — Diane Maggipinto

Southern Utah

What’s Next For Dixie State University?

The Board of Trustees at Dixie State University voted Monday to recommend a name change for the school, and this Friday, the Utah Board of Higher Education could also vote to recommend. This isn’t the first time a name change for DSU has been considered. In 2013, when the school switched from a college to a university, people debated about dropping “Dixie.” But Trisha Dugovic, a spokesperson for the board of higher education, said this time is different. But the decision for a new name ultimately lies with the legislature. Rep. Walt Brooks, R-St. George, said he’s against changing the name, but he thinks a bill will be introduced in the next general session. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Books Cliffs Highway Meeting

A coalition of rural Utah counties will decide Friday whether to halt a controversial highway project. The proposed road would run through the Book Cliffs in Grand County, connecting Vernal and Moab. Mike McKee, executive director of the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition, said he’s recommending the group suspend the project, because Grand County opposes it. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff


Mountain West COVID-19 Update

According to data available Thursday, the Mountain West diagnosed 12,711 new COVID-19 cases. The region reported 216 deaths. Meanwhile, more than 6,000 people are hospitalized with the virus. COVID-19 cases in our region have decreased in a number of states over the last two weeks. Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah have all seen a dip in cases. Idaho and Nevada, meanwhile, continue to see infections climb. Utah health officials announced Thursday 30 more people died from COVID-19— a new record for the state. Officials also reported another 3,203 new cases of the virus. But the seven day average of daily cases has been decreasing for about the past ten days. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Navajo Nation COVID-19 Cases

Officials on the Navajo Nation announced 287 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, along with one new additional death. Tribal officials said nearly all intensive care unit beds on the reservation are being used as cases surge. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez reminded residents that a public health emergency order is in effect that requires everyone to stay home except essential workers, those who tend livestock, for permitted wood gathering, and anyone who needs to get supplies such as food and medicine. Nez said the lockdown mandates that people remain on the reservation. — Diane Maggipinto

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