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PM News Brief: Utah Breakfast Programs, New Unemployment Claims Drop & Weber County Suicide Attempt

 A photo of a half finished school lunch.
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Utah’s school breakfast program ranked last in the nation for the 2019 to 2020 school year. This story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, February 11, 2021

State

Controversial Transgender Athlete Sports Bill Clears First Legislative Hurdle

A controversial bill in Utah would ban transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams in public schools, or private schools that compete against public schools. It cleared its first legislative hurdle Thursday as the House Education Committee approved it 8-6. "While inclusion is important in sports, it will come at the cost of fairness,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Kera Birkeland, R-Morgan. Critics of the bill, however, said it's unfair and discriminatory to exclude transgender girls from sports. Read the full story.Sonja Hutson

Utah Launching Volunteer COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Program

Utah officials announced Thursday they are launching a statewide volunteer program to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines. Medical professionals and Utahns are encouraged to apply. More doses are expected to become available in March. Gov. Spencer Cox advised Utahns who have already received their first shot to get their second dose. “There is some immunity that comes from the first dose,” Cox said. “The full immunity only comes from getting that second dose as close to your scheduled time as possible. So please make sure that you're committed to getting that second dose.” Health officials announced more than 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. So far, 463,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered and nine more people have died from the disease. Officials estimate any Utahn who wants to get vaccinated will be able to do so by May. — Ivana Martinez

Utah Unemployment Numbers Decline For The First Time In Five Weeks

More than 38,000 Utahns received unemployment benefits last week. About 4,500 of them applied for the first time. That’s according to numbers released Thursday by the state’s Department of Workforce Services. But department officials said after five weeks of continued increases in claims, they finally dropped off. Just a little more than 1,600 Utahns ended their claims for unemployment. That’s also down compared to the week before. — Ross Terrell

Utah Ranks Last In The U.S. For School Breakfast Program

Utah’s school breakfast program ranked last in the nation for the 2019 to 2020 school year. That’s based on the annual report from the advocacy group Food Research & Action Center in Washington D.C. It found for every 100 Utah students receiving free and reduced lunch only about 40 were receiving breakfast. West Virginia ranked the highest in the country with 84 low income students getting breakfast for every 100 getting lunch. Utah also ranked in the bottom 10 in the country for the number of schools that offer lunch and breakfast programs but close to 90% do. In a press release, local advocacy group Utahns Against Hunger said the state has already taken steps to improve access to breakfast for students. They said parents need to be informed of the options that are available to them. — Ross Terrell

Interior Department Issues Order To Strengthen Land And Water Conservation Fund

The U.S. Department of the Interior rescinded a Trump administration policy they said weakened the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The new order signed Thursday overturns restrictions to use money from the conservation fund to acquire federal land and water. Last year, Congress approved $900 million in annual spending for the program. It uses offshore drilling money to purchase land for public recreation and environmental protection. Utah has received almost $200 million from the fund since it was created in 1965. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Weber County Deputies Prevent Inmate Suicide

Weber County deputies announced Thursday they stopped an attempted suicide at the county jail. Deputies said they noticed the inmate had blocked the view into their cell. Officials then gave commands for the person to clear the window. Deputies said the inmate never stopped breathing or lost consciousness. They were then able to intervene and provide medical assistance. The inmate suffered no serious injuries. If you or anyone you know needs help, call 800-273-8255. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Epidemiologists Warn Against Coronavirus Mutations

Nationwide, states are rolling back regulations to allow larger crowd sizes, more open schools and fewer mask requirements. That’s just as true in the Mountain West. However, this is happening as new strains of the virus are on the move. It appears new strains spread more easily too, which has many epidemiologists urging states to be cautious about reopening. Instead, they ask that states to consider what their earlier thresholds used to be and why they put them in place — to save lives. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West New Bureau