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PM News Brief: Tobacco Report Card, Medical Cannabis Pharmacy & Hildale Education Center

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Utah will soon have half of its 14 medical cannabis pharmacies open. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, January 27, 2021

State

Utah Sees More Than 2,000 New COVID-19 Cases

The Utah Department of Health reported 2,009 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. New cases have generally been falling in recent weeks and the average percent of tests coming back positive is around 18.4%. Seven more people have died but vaccines continue to roll out. More than 37,000 Utahns are now fully vaccinated against the disease. — Caroline Ballard

Utah Receives Split Grades On Its Tobacco Report Card

Utah received a failing grade for its level of state taxes on tobacco products and for its efforts to end the sale of flavored ones. That’s according to the American Lung Association’s annual report: "State of Tobacco Control" which was released Wednesday. Utah scored the highest for funding prevention programs and for having strong smoke free workplace laws. Still, the report called for the state to increase taxes on tobacco products. It said that’s the most effective way to see reduced use of the drug. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Wasatch Back Medical Cannabis Pharmacy

Utah will soon have half of its 14 medical cannabis pharmacies open. Deseret Wellness held a ribbon cutting ceremony in Park City Wednesday ahead of its official opening early next month. It will be the Wasatch Back’s only cannabis pharmacy. In a briefing to state lawmakers, Richard Oborn, director of the state’s medical cannabis program, said more than 20,000 Utahns now have medical cannabis cards and almost 4% of eligible doctors have become licensed providers. While the program has been growing steadily, it’s not expected to become profitable until 2022, after all pharmacies are open and home delivery services ramp up. The remaining seven pharmacies are expected to open by April. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Senior Residents Frustrated With COVID-19 Vaccine Sign Up

COVID-19 vaccine appointments are filling up in a matter of minutes in southwest Utah, and that’s left many senior residents frustrated. Sign ups usually go live at 9 a.m. on Mondays. Elaine Cottam Stephens was waiting online to get one for her husband in Iron County, and she said she watched them all fill up in a minute or two. Dave Heaton, a spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department said he empathizes with those who are frustrated. And he said the issue is because of a lack of supplies. Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George

Dixie State University Opening Education Center In Hildale

Dixie State University is opening an education center in the rural town of Hildale. It’s meant to help the university increase learning opportunities there. The center is being funded by a $100,000 federal career and technical education grant and is set to open this fall. High school students will be able to take concurrent enrollment classes and community members will be able to get “career-ready certifications.” — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

President Joe Biden Signs Energy Leasing Moratorium

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday, pausing new energy leasing on federal public lands for an unspecified amount of time. It will remain in place while the government studies the leasing and permitting process and its effect on climate change. But a lengthy ban could spell trouble, according to John Ruple, an environmental law professor at the University of Utah. “The longer the moratorium stays in place, the more likely industry and others are to challenge the moratorium and say that it’s really an outright ban,” he said. Ruple said the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed similar moratoriums in the past. But the Biden administration will have to show progress on the impact study. Approximately 3 million acres of public land in Utah are currently leased to energy developers. They generated around $50 million in royalties for the state last year and will stay in effect. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

But That Moratorium Excludes Federal Lands

President Biden’s order issued Wednesday pausing new oil and gas development leasing on public lands and waters excludes tribal lands that are held in federal trust. This comes after the chairman of the Ute Indian Tribe said extending a leasing ban to tribal lands would be a “direct attack” on tribal tribal sovereignty and self-determination. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau