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PM News Brief: College Students Return, COVID-19 Bells & Vaccination Appointments

Photo of a bus stop on the University of Utah campus.
Brian Albers
Utah’s colleges and universities have resumed in person classes for the semester. Last fall, the return of students led to a spike in the state’s COVID-19 cases. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, January 19, 2021


Opening Day For The Utah State Legislature

The Utah Legislature’s 2021 General Session started Tuesday. In his opening remarks, House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, reflected on the challenges of the past year. He also said this is a time of “great opportunity” and he wants to build on Utah’s economy by reviewing business regulations. In the Senate, President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he wanted to focus on the state’s mental health efforts. Republicans hold a supermajority in both chambers. Adams and Wilson each said they want a tax cut for Utahns this year. Read the full story. Emily Means

Healthcare Workers Brace For College Students Return To Campus

Utah’s colleges and universities have resumed in person classes for the semester. Last fall, the return of students led to a spike in the state’s COVID-19 cases. Dr. Brandon Webb, with Intermountain Healthcare, said healthcare workers are thankful for the social distancing and testing measures colleges have put in place. But “even with that, we need as a community to be really cautious as the university age group resumes both their schoolwork, but also their social activities,” Webb said. Utah’s health officials announced another 1,300 COVID-19 cases Monday and seven more people have died from the disease. — Ross Terrell

Social Worker Salary In Utah Forcing Workers To Get Two Jobs

Social worker salaries in Utah are so low that employees have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Some are even on welfare. That’s according to a Fox 13 news report. Gov. Spencer Cox's administration highlighted the issue in a scathing memo put out by his transition team. Department of Human Services Director Diane Moore said it’s a problem that has been building for years. She said it’s especially troubling considering the demands required of caseworkers who respond to families in crisis and investigate reports of child abuse. Cox's proposed budget would give a little more money to those employees. — Associated Press

Utah Rings Bells At The State Capitol To Honor COVID-19 Victims

Utah participated in a nationwide moment of silence Tuesday afternoon to remember those who have died from COVID-19. More than 1,500 Utahns have died from the disease. Bells at the state capitol rang 15 times to honor them. Nationwide, more than 400,000 people have lost their lives to the coronavirus. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Willie Grayeyes Admitted To Hospital Due To COVID-19

San Juan County commissioner Willie Grayeyes is being treated for COVID-19. The elderly Navajo man received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week and was admitted to a hospital in Arizona on Monday, according to San Juan County Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy. Maryboy said he spoke to Grayeyes on Tuesday afternoon and the commissioner was in “good spirits.” Maryboy and Grayeyes were both elected to the San Juan County commission in 2018, giving Navajos a majority in the county government for the first time in history. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Southwest Utah Vaccination Appointments Filled Through January

The Southwest Utah Public Health Department said all appointments to get the COVID-19 vaccine there are booked through the end of the month. In a tweet Tuesday, the agency said people will have to wait until Jan. 25 to schedule an appointment. At that point there should be openings for February. COVID-19 vaccines are currently available to Utahns over 70. The department said it receives limited vaccine shipments and with a relatively large population of seniors in that part of the state, it will take several weeks to get to everyone. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City Parents Get Their Day In Court

The Salt Lake City School District could soon vote on reopening middle and high schools for in-person classes beginning Feb. 8. The district voted earlier this month to open only when all teachers and staff have been vaccinated. But it has faced mounting pressure to do it earlier. The latest push is a lawsuit heard Tuesday, from parents suing the district to reopen as early as this week. — Jon Reed


Mobile Vaccination Clinics Could Help Rural Areas In The Mountain West

The Biden administration is promising to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccines in its first 100 days. President-elect Joe Biden has called the Trump administration’s vaccine rollout “a dismal failure thus far.” He also laid out some ambitious plans to turn the tide on the pandemic — including setting up mobile vaccination units in rural areas, like much of our region. Public health experts said this could significantly speed up the process and could make it much easier for communities that lack health care infrastructure like a hospital or a pharmacy. However, community outreach will be crucial, since rural residents are among the most hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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