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PM News Brief: Fewer Than 1,000 COVID-19 Cases, R.S. 2477 Roads & Homeless Services Discussion

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David Fuchs
/
KUER
The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to allow conservation groups to participate in a legal battle over roads on public land in Utah. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, January 25, 2021

State

Three Utah Lawmakers Test Positive For COVID-19

At least three Utah legislators have COVID-19. State senate officials confirmed Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George and Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, both tested positive for the disease in the last few days. And a statement on Rep. Jon Hawkins’, R-Pleasant Grove, Facebook page said he is currently hospitalized with COVID-19. He will not participate in the 2021 session at all. Monday marked the first day the general public was allowed in-person at the capitol. There is regular COVID-19 testing of interns, staff and lawmakers at the capitol. But the Legislature said it will not be releasing any information on who or how many people test positive. — Caroline Ballard

Utah Reports Fewer Than 1,000 COVID-19 Cases

For the first time since late December, Utah health officials reported fewer than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases. Officials announced just 859 cases Monday. But testing was also way down. Utah has tested nearly 11,000 people a day on average since last Wednesday. However on Monday, the state’s health department reported about 4,100 tests. Two more people died from the disease. Both were Utah County residents. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Mobile Mental Health Teams Could Be On The Rise In Utah

The number of mobile mental health response teams in Utah could almost triple under a bill moving through the state Legislature. The teams are made up of therapists and social workers and go directly to someone who’s having a mental health crisis and try to help them on site. They can be a replacement for calling the police or going to the emergency room. The proposal costs more than $4 million. It passed the House Monday but still needs approval from the Senate. If it’s approved for that full amount, the state would be required to work with counties to make sure there are at least 14 mobile teams in Utah by next July. — Sonja Hutson

State Lawmakers Discuss Setting Up Homeless Council

On Monday, a Utah legislative committee discussed restructuring the state’s approach to homelessness by creating a statewide homeless council and a homeless services officer. The council would include representatives from state agencies, cities and one person with “lived experience.” Rep. Marsha Judkins, R-Provo, said she wants to see more people involved who know what it’s like to be homeless. She said it would keep the council from “overlooking some things that are obvious to them but not so obvious to us.” The new plan is based on recommendations from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. It would also create a statewide funding model. — Emily Means

Southern Utah

SCOTUS Weights In On R.S. 2477 Lawsuits

The U.S. Supreme Court decided Monday to allow conservation groups to participate in a legal battle over roads on public land in Utah. Since 2008, the state and individual counties have filed over 20 lawsuits to secure rights of way to around 36,000 miles of those roads in Utah. Some run through national parks and are often referred to as R.S. 2477 routes. Counties must show they were used continuously for a decade prior to 1976 in order to win their claim. The Supreme Court decision comes in response to a trial involving roads in Kane County. But Steve Bloch, an attorney with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said it will apply to many similar cases. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region/Nation

Confusion Over Vaccine Eligibility Is Running Rampant

Much of the Mountain West region has started vaccinating seniors against COVID-19. But there’s confusion about who’s eligible, among other things. Nearly 60% of unvaccinated Americans aged 65 and older don’t know when or where they can get the shot. That’s according to the latest batch of survey data from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s vaccine monitor. Researchers said the confusion is due in part to decentralization. For example, in New Mexico people over 75 are currently eligible. Seniors aren’t explicitly included in Idaho’s current vaccination phase. And in Wyoming, the protocol varies from county to county. Plus, some older adults may not be comfortable navigating apps and online portals to register for a vaccine. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau