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AM News Brief: Bridge Fire, Regional Drought & Honoring Fallen U.S. Capitol Officer

Photo of flags at the Utah State Capitol building
Cory Dinter
/
KUER
Gov. Spencer Cox has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at Utah government buildings Monday in honor of Brian Sicknick. He was the U.S. Capitol Police Officer who died as a result of the violent insurrection in Washington D.C. last week. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, January 11, 2021

State

Utah Honors Fallen U.S. Capitol Officer

Gov. Spencer Cox has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at Utah government buildings Monday in honor of Brian Sicknick. He was the U.S. Capitol Police Officer who died as a result of the violent insurrection in Washington D.C. last week. In a statement, Gov. Cox said, “officer Brian D. Sicknick gave his life trying to protect one of this nation’s most revered democratic institutions. We honor his life of dedicated public service.” A second Capitol police officer died over the weekend. — Sonja Hutson

Weekend COVID-19 Update

Utah health officials reported nearly 5,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend. Eleven more people have died of the disease. Over the past week, there has been an average of roughly 3,200 new cases each day, and nearly one in three people tested for the virus during that time has been positive. Health officials announced the state has now administered more than 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. — Sonja Hutson

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

State Prison Inmate Sues Over Coronavirus Protocols

A state prison inmate has sued the Utah Department of Corrections to stop the movement of inmates among buildings. The suit also alleges a lack of mask use by prison officials. Damon Crist, who is serving time for theft, said these and other practices contributed to COVID-19 outbreaks at the Draper facility, The Deseret News reports. Since October, more than 1,200 inmates have been infected and 12 have died. A department spokeswoman declined comment, citing pending litigation. The department previously said it consults health officials in moving inmates among buildings and quarantining those who test positive from the general prison population. — Associated Press

Advocacy Group Looks To Legislature For Utah Kids

Voices for Utah Children recently unveiled their legislative agenda for the 2021 session. One proposal calls for putting more money into extended-day kindergarten. Another calls for increasing health care coverage for kids. Jessie Mandle, a health policy analyst for the organization, said Utah has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the nation. That can impact how well they do in school. “They can’t get the glasses, the dental care, all those things that go into making a kid be able to grow and learn,” Mandle said. A fiscal analyst for the organization said state leaders should be able to fund some of the proposals because Utah has had a strong economic recovery during the pandemic. — Emily Means

Northern Utah

Avalanche Claims Life

Police said a Utah man who was snowboarding near Park City was caught in an avalanche in the backcountry and died. The Summit County Sheriff's Office said the 31-year-old man from Clinton, Utah, was with his girlfriend when he attempted to snowboard down steep backcountry terrain and triggered an avalanche Friday morning. The avalanche occurred in an area known as Dutch Draw. First responders found the man at about 2:30 p.m. approximately two feet below the snow's surface. The man's name is not being released at this time until family members have been notified of his death. — Associated Press

Railway Fire Worries Residents

Demolition began Monday on a railroad bridge that caught fire on the west side of Salt Lake City Thursday night. The 200-foot-long structure continued to smoke until midday Saturday. Officials said the fire was hard to put out because the wooden bridge had been treated with creosote, a coal-tar product that prevents water rot. It also smells bad when burned, alarming nearby residents near the fire over the weekend. The Salt Lake County Health Department said the smoke did not pose an acute health hazard to residents despite the foul odor. — David Fuchs

Southern Utah

St. George Vaccine Progress

Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital wants to give all its caregivers the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this week. So far, just over 2,000 St. George hospital workers have been vaccinated, and last week around 200 received their second dose, according to nurse administrator Natalie Ashby. She said distributing the vaccine has been a lot of work but she’s excited about the rollout. Gov. Spencer Cox has stressed the importance of vaccine distribution and also issued an executive order to streamline it. Healthcare workers and first responders are currently able to get vaccinated, and starting this week K-12 teachers across the state also can. So far, Utah has administered around 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Drought Grips Mountain West

The most severe drought in years continues its hold on the Mountain West region. The National Weather Service said this winter’s La Niña is deepening that drought and that there isn’t more rain or snow in the forecast. All that precipitation is getting detoured to British Columbia and Alaska by a stubborn high pressure system. This season is almost as bad as the drought in 2012 which dried up much of the southwestern United States. That could spell bad news for the coming wildfire season. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau