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PM News Brief: John Sullivan Arrest, U.K. COVID-19 Strain In Utah & Utah State University Investigation

Photo of campus.
Courtesy Utah State University
A discrimination investigation into Utah State University President Noelle Cockett has cleared her of any wrongdoing. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, January 15, 2021

State

Utah Activist John Sullivan Arrested For Role In D.C. Riots

A left-wing activist from Utah was arrested in Provo Thursday for his involvement in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. John Sullivan recorded himself breaking into the Capitol and egging rioters on. Sullivan, who is black, participated in racial justice protests last year in Utah. But Black Lives Matter Utah founder Lex Scott said he had nothing to do with her group. “He has never been a part of our chapter,” Scott said.“He hasn’t helped with anything we are doing. And to go out there and say anything related to Black Lives Matter is an insult to the movement as a whole.” Last month, Sullivan told KUER he started a group called Insurgence USA to advocate for police reform. The group helped organize a protest in Provo last summer that ended in violence. It also spurred the creation of a right-wing group called Utah Citizen’s Alarm. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

U.K. COVID-19 Strain Found In Utah

The new, so called “U.K. variant” of COVID-19 has been found in Utah. A Salt Lake County man tested positive for the strain last month. Dr. Angela Dunn said Friday the virus has been changing every week since it was first identified. And this strain is more contagious. “This mutation has allowed it to be able to more readily attach to your cells and cause infection,” she said. “So it takes less effort for the virus to actually cause you to be ill and transmit it to others.” But Dunn said there is some good news. The U.K. variant doesn’t appear to be more deadly. And the current vaccines still work against it. — Ross Terrell

Utah COVID-19 Update

Utah health officials announced 2,543 new cases of COVID-19 Friday. The state’s week long average of new cases and its positivity rate continue to fall but that hasn’t done much to alleviate pressure on Utah’s hospitals. Nearly 93 % of the state’s ICU beds are full and 12 more people died from the disease. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City Post Office Taking Precautions Ahead Potential Riots

The U.S. Postal Service will temporarily remove certain collection boxes and close some locations early in Salt Lake City this weekend. It says it’s to protect property and workers in case there is civil unrest ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week. The FBI has warned of armed rioters demonstrating at state capitols on Sunday and the days leading up to the inauguration. The downtown Salt Lake City post office will close at noon on Saturday. Locations for the nearest drop boxes can be found at usps.com. — Caroline Ballard

Meds In Motion CEO Enters Guilty Plea Over Hydroxychloroquine

The CEO of a Utah-based pharmacy pleaded guilty Friday to receiving misbranded hydroxychloroquine from China. Daniel Richards oversees Meds in Motion. In April, the pharmacy received 50 kilograms of what was labeled “Boswellia Serrata Extract” but it was actually hydroxychloroquine. And it did not come from a Food and Drug Administration-approved manufacturer. Hydroxychloroquine was touted as a potential treatment for COVID-19 early in the pandemic but its effectiveness has been challenged. Now, the FDA cautions against using it without doctor supervision. Richards faces a maximum sentence of up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. — Caroline Ballard

Utah State University President Cleared Of Discrimination Allegations

A discrimination investigation into Utah State University President Noelle Cockett has cleared her of any wrongdoing. That finding was announced Friday at a Utah System of Higher Education meeting. The university decided to investigate Cockett in December after players alleged she raised concerns over how the interim football coach’s religion and race might affect recruitment of out-of-state players. Former coach Frank Maile is of Polynesian descent and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In December, the football team decided to sit out its last game of the season in protest. — David Fuchs

Southern Utah

Some Southeast Utah Residents Reluctant To Take COVID-19 Vaccine

All healthcare workers and teachers in Utah are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But public health directors in the southeast part of the state report around a third of them are opting out. Bradon Bradford directs the Southeast Utah Health Department, which includes Emery, Carbon and Grand Counties. He says only a little more than half of non-hospital healthcare workers opted to get the vaccine, and only 60-70% of teachers. In San Juan County, only around half of teachers surveyed by the school district said they would get the vaccine, according to public health director Kirk Benge. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region/Nation

Police More Likely To Engage With Left-wing Demonstrators

New data show police are less likely to target right-wing demonstrators. Police intervened in nearly 7% of left-wing protests versus 3% of right-wing demonstrations in the Mountain West last year. That’s according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project. Its data show that when police engaged, they used force against left wing protesters three quarters of the time versus one-quarter of the time with right-wing protesters. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau