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PM News Brief: Mask Mandate Extended, Vicky Chavez Lawsuit & Virtual General Conference

Men sit in seats in empty auditorium
Courtesy of Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will hold Spring conference virtually again this year. It’s a precaution because of the coronavirus pandemic. This story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, January 21, 2021

State

Gov. Spencer Cox Address State’s COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Local health departments, hospitals and Community Nursing Services have administered more than 90% of their vaccines that they’ve had for longer than a week. But pharmacies that got their doses directly from the federal government have only used 17% of their first doses that are more than a week old. Gov. Spencer Cox said the state plans to step in to fix that by taking some of the doses allocated to pharmacies and giving them to local health departments. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

American Bar Association Weighs In On Utah’s Troubled Teen Industry

Over the past few months, teen treatment centers in Utah have drawn a lot of attention. And now, the world’s largest voluntary association of lawyers is taking notice, too. The American Bar Association hosted a panel Thursday to talk about lax oversight of youth residential treatment programs and how to keep kids safe. Panelists included activists, celebrities, lawyers, a state senator and abuse victims and families. More teenagers are sent to Utah for treatment than any other state in the country. — David Fuchs

Utah’s Unemployment Claims On The Rise

Nearly 38,000 Utahns received unemployment benefits last week. That’s based on data released Thursday by the state’s Department of Workforce Services. The number of people who have continued to receive benefits has grown every week this month but fewer Utahns filed new claims last week compared to the week before. The number of people who stopped getting benefits is also down. Utah has paid out about $608 million in unemployment insurance since the start of the pandemic last March. — Ross Terrell

Utah Extends Statewide Mask Requirement

Utah health officials reported 2,089 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday and 30 more people have died of the disease. But officials said three of them died last year. Around 19% of tests are coming back positive and 529 people are hospitalized with the disease. The statewide mask requirement has been extended until Feb. 22. It was set to expire Jan. 21. Masks will also be required in school until June 15. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Lawsuit Filed Against ICE Includes Salt Lake City’s Vicky Chavez

Two advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit earlier this week against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It’s in response to fines by ICE targeting sanctuary leaders and asylum seekers. The lawsuit includes Vicky Chavez who’s from Honduras. She and her kids have been living in a Salt Lake City church for almost three years. “I don’t know what may happen tomorrow,” Chavez said. “If I sleep, I sleep thinking that at any moment they can interrupt the tranquility of living in the shelter to arrest me. Knowing they have fined me for taking refuge and protecting the life of my daughters.” Chavez and three other women face a $60,000 fine. But they claim the government has violated their rights. The case is currently in the Washington D.C. District Court. — Ivana Martinez

Salt Lake City Signs Amicus Brief In Favor Of Tighter Fuel Standards

Salt Lake City joined cities around the country Thursday to push back against a federal environmental rule. The SAFE rule came from the Trump administration and rolled back fuel efficiency standards for certain vehicles. Salt Lake signed on to an amicus brief saying the rule made it harder for them to reduce air pollution and fight climate change. The brief comes just one day after President Joe Biden ordered the rule to be overturned and instead, for tighter fuel standards to be put in place. — Ross Terrell

The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints To Hold April Conference Online

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will hold Spring conference virtually again this year. It’s a precaution because of the coronavirus pandemic. The twice yearly event is usually held in the Church’s Conference Center in Salt Lake City with an audience of around 20,000. Last year both the April and October conferences were held online. Earlier this week, eight of the highest ranking Church leaders received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. They all qualified because they’re over the age of 70. — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

Lawmakers Mulling Over Domestic Terrorism Legislation

The Mountain West region is home to dozens of far-right militia groups and extremists. But in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riots, lawmakers are now mulling how to protect the nation from domestic terrorism. There’s some talk of introducing a new domestic terrorism charge. However, more than 100 civil rights groups oppose that idea saying it could be twisted to hurt the victims of hate groups. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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