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AM News Brief: Winter Storm, Automated COVID Notifications & Utah Navajo Voting Deal Extended

SLC Public Works Truck Winter Storm CN.jpg
Chelsea Naughton
/
KUER
The National Weather Service has a winter storm warning for the Salt Lake and Tooele Valleys in effect until 5 p.m. This story and more in the Wednesday Morning News Brief.

Wednesday morning, February 17, 2021

State

Winter Storm

The National Weather Service has a winter storm warning for the Salt Lake and Tooele Valleys in effect until 5 p.m. There could be 8 inches of new snow in the valley — a foot of snow on the benches. Roads may be slippery, and officials recommend caution during periods of low visibility. — Roddy Nikpour

COVID-19 Cases Are Down, But Why?

After reaching record heights at the tail end of 2020, Utah’s rate of new COVID-19 cases have been on the decline over the last few weeks. The reasons why aren’t exactly clear, but Dr. Brandon Webb with Intermountain Healthcare said part of the reason for the drop seems to be growing herd immunity to the virus. He said about 20% of the state is immune, either because they’ve had COVID already or they’ve gotten vaccinated. Another reason could be that more people are getting tested, including asymptomatic people, who can then take the proper precautions to prevent spreading the virus to others. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Automating COVID Exposure Notifications

Starting Wednesday, Utahns can receive smartphone notifications about potential exposures to COVID-19. It’s an opt-in system that assigns each person an encrypted, anonymous token. When people pass one another, they swap tokens via Bluetooth, and the interaction is logged for 14 days. Then, if one of them reports a positive test, it notifies each person. Officials are emphasizing the anonymity of the service, and say if more people opt-in, it will save lives. The notifications are available for Apple and Android devices. — Roddy Nikpour

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Native Mascot Resolution Fails

The Utah House voted against a resolution that would have encouraged schools to retire Native American mascots. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, several conservative lawmakers spoke against the resolution. House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, rhetorically asked if a similar resolution about animal mascots would be next. Lawmakers defeated the measure mostly along party lines with just a few Republicans voting against it. The nonbinding resolution would not have forced schools to retire their mascots. Sponsor Rep. Elizabeth Weight, D-Salt Lake City, said it was meant to start conversations about the hurtful use of Indigenous imagery. — Associated Press

No-Knock Warrants Bill Stalled

Tuesday, a Utah House Committee voted for the second time to hold a bill to ban law enforcement from using "no-knock" and "knock and announce" warrants. Opponents of the bill argued that if officers have to announce themselves, suspects have time to destroy evidence. No-knock warrants came under scrutiny last year after police in Louisville shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her sleep. — Emily Means

Another Step For Colorado River Authority of Utah

A bill passed the state House of Representatives Tuesday that establishes the Colorado River Authority of Utah. The authority would oversee negotiations related to use of the Colorado River.

The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Brad Wilson, was approved with a vote of 61-12. The latest version was amended to clarify when the authority could hold meetings behind closed doors. It now goes to the Senate, where President Stuart Adams, is running the bill. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Southern Utah

COVID Hits Kane County Jail

Since the beginning of February, about 15% of inmates at Kane County’s jail have tested positive for COVID-19. Dan Watson, Kane County Jail Commander, said he doesn’t know how the virus made its way into the facility. He said it’s “disheartening” to find COVID-19 in the jail since they had no cases among inmates over the past 11 months. He said staff was “well prepared” for the outbreak. They’ve isolated the positive inmates, and there have been no severe cases. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Utah Navajo Voting Settlement Extended

The San Juan County Commission voted Tuesday to extend a voting rights settlement with the Navajo Nation. The agreement requires the county to provide polling locations on the reservation with Navajo language interpreters. Navajo President Jonathan Nez spoke in support of the settlement. “We want our people to understand that it’s very important to continue our Navajo language,” especially in terms of elections,” he said. The county entered into the settlement in 2018 after the tribe sued San Juan for switching to voting by-mail. Both parties agreed to extend the deal through 2024, but a judge still has to sign off on it. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff