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PM News Brief: Zion Shuttle Service, Utah Redistricting Commission & Quarantine Grant Extension

A photo of the shuttle buses at Zion National Park.
Michelle Callahan
/
Flickr
Starting next week, Zion National Park’s shuttle service will begin running on the weekends. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, February 1, 2021

State

Utah Lawmakers Name All Seven Redistricting Commission Members

Utah has put together its first ever independent redistricting commission. Monday, the governor and legislative leaders appointed all seven members. Voters approved a proposition in 2018 that created the commission. It will advise the state legislature on how to draw political districts. Gov. Spencer Cox appointed Brigham Young University professor Rex Facer as the chair. Republican legislative leadership picked former state Sen. Lyle Hillyard and former Congressman Rob Bishop. They also selected a Davis County digital mapper. Top democratic lawmakers named former Senate Minority leader Pat Jones and former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham to the committee. The commission will use 2020 census data to draw district maps. That information should come out over the summer. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Sees Lowest Number Of New COVID-19 Cases Since September

Utah saw its lowest number of new COVID-19 cases Monday since mid-September. Health officials reported just 584 cases. The state’s rolling week long average has been more than 1,400 a day. About 80% of Utah’s ICU beds are in use but hospitalizations are down compared to a week ago. Officials also announced Monday three more people have died from the disease. — Ross Terrell

Utah Extends Small Business Quarantined Employee Grant

Utah has extended a grant program that encourages small business employees to stay home if they’re sick. The state’s labor commission announced Monday the quarantined employee grant will last until all funds are exhausted or until there’s no longer a need for it. It uses federal CARES act money and helps reimburse small businesses that pay their workers who have to isolate or quarantine. It covers up to 40 hours a week for two weeks. So far, the program has approved about 2,000 grants. Eligible businesses must have less than 50 employees. — Ross Terrell

Children’s Mental Health Suffering During The Pandemic

Students have been remote learning for almost a year now because of the pandemic and being isolated from classmates and friends for so long is taking a mental toll on young people. The portion of children's emergency-room visits related to mental health ballooned in 2020. Now, more states are considering expanding opportunities for students to take mental health days. It's an effort to try to reduce stigma and youth suicide. Lawmakers here in Utah and in Arizona have proposed bills that would add mental or behavioral health to the list of reasons students can be absent from class. Similar laws have passed in Oregon, Maine, Colorado and Virginia in the past two years. — Associated Press

Southern Utah

Zion National Park Shuttle To Start Running On Weekends

Starting next week, Zion National Park’s shuttle service will begin running on the weekends. Daily shuttle service stopped in November except for during the holidays. Visitors wishing to hike in the park’s main canyon will need to buy $1 tickets online in advance. They went on sale Sunday. The shuttle will begin running daily on March 13. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Tens Of Thousands Of Court Cases In The Mountain West Are Backed Up

The pandemic continues to slow down the court system in the U.S. and in the Mountain West region, at least one state has compiled data on that backlog. According to an Idaho Supreme Court Justice, there are 40,000 cases waiting on findings in his state. The number of pending criminal cases increased 22% over last year. The National Center for State Courts shows that states nationwide are delaying jury trials, which are often required to happen in person. It found Idaho’s delay is nearly 300 days, while Wyoming and Utah’s delays are indefinite. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Here in Utah, most jury trials have been postponed until a district reaches the low coronavirus transmission level. According to Geoffrey Fattah of Utah State Courts, there was a pilot trial in Salt Lake last week. Everyone involved had to have a negative rapid COVID test and wear masks and socially distance in the courtroom. There's another pilot trial scheduled in Duchesne County on February 10. — Elaine Clark