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AM News Brief: Avalanche Tragedy, COVID Cases Fall & Salt Lake Schools Go Hybrid

Avalanche Kills Four 4.jpg
Leah Hogsten/AP
/
The Salt Lake Tribune
(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake County Search and Rescue members await the Utah Department of Public Safety heli team to arrive in Mill Creek Canyon on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, to recover the bodies of four skiers died in an avalanche near Wilson Peak. The Unified Police Department has identified the skiers who died in the Saturday avalanche that swept away eight people in the Wilson Glade area of Mill Creek Canyon. The other four were able to dig themselves and others out. This story and more in the Monday morning news brief.

Monday morning, February 8, 2021

State

Weekend COVID Update

Utah’s COVID-19 cases continued to fall over the weekend. The rate of positive tests is still high, though, at nearly 16%. Between Saturday and Sunday, The Department of Health reported over 2,100 new cases of the disease and eight deaths. Another 31,000 Utahns have been vaccinated. As of Sunday, 329 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, and about 82% of all ICU beds are occupied. — Jon Reed

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Limiting The Party Switch

Utah lawmakers may make it harder for voters to switch party affiliation before a primary election. The proposed legislation is in response to more than 100,000 people changing their party affiliation in the lead up to last year’s Republican primary. Rep. Jordan Teuscher, R-South Jordan, is sponsoring the bill to require voters to register with a party before March 31 if they want to vote in that party’s primary, in order to prevent voters from "gaming the system." Critics of the bill, however, said it would disenfranchise voters. Read the full story.Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Avalanche Tragedy

Four backcountry skiers died on Saturday in one of the deadliest avalanches in Utah history. Unified Police Department officials said in a statement that four other people were also buried in the slide in Millcreek Canyon. Two were able to dig themselves out and then dug out the two others. None of the survivors suffered serious injuries. Police said all eight skiers were prepared with the necessary avalanche safety gear.

The four who died were identified as Sarah Moughamian, 29, of Sandy, Louis Holian, 26, of Salt Lake City, Stephanie Hopkins, 26, of Salt Lake City, and Thomas Louis Steinbrecher, 23, of Salt Lake City.

According to the Utah Avalanche Center, six people have now died in Utah avalanches this year. As of Monday morning, avalanche danger remains high across northern Utah and "considerable" in central Utah. — Associated Press & Elaine Clark

Salt Lake Middle And High School Students Start Hybrid Schedule

Salt Lake City School District middle and high schools open Monday for the first time since March of last year. Students will be on a hybrid schedule, and they have the option to attend in-person classes two days a week. The district has been facing intense public criticism for staying online for so long. Officials ultimately gave in to pressure from parents and state lawmakers who were pushing for reopening before all teachers could be vaccinated. Some parents are still pushing for the district to open four days a week. — Jon Reed

School Reverses Black History Month Opt-Out

A charter school in North Ogden has reversed its decision to let parents opt their kids out of Black History Month curriculum. On Friday, The Maria Montessori Academy announced that families had the right not to participate if they had so chosen. The school faced swift criticism, with some parents saying the choice enabled racism. On Saturday, Director Micah Hirokawa told the Standard-Examiner there would be no changes to their Black History Month lesson plans. He declined to say how many families had originally asked about opting out. — Associated Press & Elaine Clark

Jordan District Offers Online School Options For 2021-22

The Jordan School District is emerging from the pandemic with three new schools — all of them online. Beginning next year, the district is launching an online elementary, middle and high school. The new options have been in the works for a while — the district already had an online high school option for several years — but district officials said the pandemic has sped up the process. Online learning has been a challenge for many students across the country, but some preferred it because of the flexibility it offered. Online schools are likely to continue growing even after the pandemic. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Region/Nation

Gun Sales Spike In 2020

Gun sales have spiked during the pandemic, and retailers are running low on ammunition all around the country. According to a new survey by the COVID States Project, 97% of gun buyers already owned firearms and most bought them because they feared crime. About a third said they bought firearms because of COVID-19, lockdowns, the election or for protection against the government. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau