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PM News Brief: Sharing Photo Evidence, 350,000 COVID-19 Cases & Rural Access To Vaccines

A photo of vaccine needles.
Courtesy Utah Navajo Health System
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President Joe Biden’s plan to extend the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to retail pharmacies will help but not solve the problem of rural access. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, February 3, 2021

State

Stricter Laws For Police Who Improperly Share Photo Evidence

Intimate images are sometimes submitted as evidence in criminal cases and sharing those pictures outside of their intended use could carry new penalties in Utah. That’s under a bill by Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy. He said initially he wanted penalties specifically for law enforcement officers but now the scope has broadened. “I’ve had prosecutors reach out to me and say ‘We should include prosecutors, we should include court personnel’ and I’ve had victims reach out to me and say ‘We should include defense attorneys.’“ Last summer, a Utah Department of Public Safety investigation found that an officer who was part of the Lauren McCluskey murder case showed explicit images of her to others not involved in the case. Stoddard’s bill would make that a misdemeanor. — Caroline Ballard

Intermountain Launching Massive DNA Mapping Project For Kids

A Utah children’s hospital is launching what it calls the largest DNA mapping projects ever done in kids. Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital wants to collect 50,000 DNA samples of children and their family members. It’s part of Heredigene: Population Study. The study aims to better understand genetic diseases researchers also want to create more effective personalized treatments. Participating in the project is free, voluntary and open to anyone –– not just patients. — Caroline Ballard

Two Bills In Utah Legislature Aimed At Raising Minimum Wage

Utah’s minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. Now, Rep. Clare Collard, D-Magna, wants to raise it to $12 an hour and she wants to do so by July 1. Collard’s bill also calls for wages to gradually increase to $15 an hour by 2026. Utah’s current rate is in line with federal requirements and it hasn’t increased though since 2008. Rep. Ashlee Matthews, D-Salt Lake City, is also running a liveable wage bill. Hers would set minimums based on whether a county is urban or rural. President Joe Biden’s administration has also discussed raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. — Ross Terrell

Utah Hits 350,000 COVID-19 Case Count

Utah has now had exactly 350,000 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. Officials reported nearly 1,600 new cases Wednesday and 352 people are currently hospitalized for the disease. That’s down from more than 450 a week ago. Twelve more people have died from the coronavirus but officials said three of them died before mid-January. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Making Sure Rural Communities Have Access To COVID-19 Vaccine

President Joe Biden’s plan to extend the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine to retail pharmacies will help but not solve the problem of rural access. Using retail pharmacies, like CVS, Walmart and Costco to distribute the vaccine to the greater public has always been the plan even under former President Donald Trump’s administration. Biden’s plan adds a couple more that specialize in serving long-term care facilities. But a recent analysis out of the University of Iowa found that almost 750 rural counties across the country don’t have access to one of these chain pharmacies. The researcher said we need to expand our ideas on who can actually give the vaccine — especially for the sake of those rural community members who don’t have access to a vehicle to drive themselves to a pharmacy hours away. — Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau