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AM News Brief: Masks In Schools, IDs For Homeless People & National Park App Brings Tatooine To Life

Trent Nelson
Salt Lake Tribune
Utah lawmakers are advancing a bill that would require the governor or the state or local health departments to consult with school districts about school mask mandates. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, February 19, 2021


Governor On Police Reform Steps

Gov. Spencer Cox commended state lawmakers Thursday on their progress on police reform. During his monthly news conference, he said stakeholders have come together to bring about some important changes, like better training for officers. He said he wasn’t sure though why some of the more progressive reform bills have stalled, such as a bill allowing cities to establish police oversight boards. Cox also noted progress has been made without legislation, including empathy training that corrections officers are now getting. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Making State ID Easier For Unsheltered People

A bill that would help unsheltered people get state identification passed a Utah legislative committee Thursday. It would let people use the address of homeless service providers they visit to apply for identification. Rep. Rosemary Lesser, D-Ogden, is sponsoring the proposal. “Things that seem so self-evident to us, ‘What is your address?’ is really problematic for a person who may have been recently released from prison or may have some sort of unstable living environment,” Lesser said. She said the state already waives ID fees for people who can prove they’re homeless. The bill now moves to the full House. — Emily Means

Masks In Schools

Utah lawmakers are advancing a bill that would require the governor or the state or local health departments to consult with school districts about school mask mandates. It passed its first committee Thursday afternoon. The bill originally allowed districts to opt out of the mask mandate, but sponsor Sen. Ronald Winterton, R-Roosevelt, said he watered the legislation down based on advice from the Utah Medical Association. Proponents said the bill could give school districts, especially small rural ones, more flexibility, but critics said kids need to wear masks in school to prevent the spread of COVID-19. — Sonja Hutson

State Park Visitation High In 2020

Utah state parks saw over 10.6 million visitors last year, an increase of 33% compared to 2019. Numbers dipped early in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the state’s Division of Parks and Recreation, but officials said Utahns and out-of-state visitors “flocked” to parks after public health restrictions were lifted. Officials expect visitation numbers to remain high through this year. They are also reminding people to continue practicing social distancing at parks and to keep an eye on capacity levels. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Southern Utah

Powell On The Colorado River

Renegotiations around the use of the Colorado River are on the horizon for seven western states, including Utah. On Thursday, scholars in the state held a panel to discuss how explorer John Wesley Powell would think about water and land policies today. He was interested in fully developing western resources, but backed up his reasoning with science, according to Robert Keiter, a law professor at the University of Utah. Robert Adler also teaches at the U. He said it’s hard to know exactly how the 19th century explorer would view the dwindling river’s current situation. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Utah Leaders Call For Legislative Solution For Bears Ears

Utah’s top leaders have asked President Joe Biden not to use an executive order to restore Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, state legislative leaders and U.S. congressional delegation all sent a letter to the President on Wednesday asking him to work with Congress to protect parts of the monuments. They said that would require consensus building, and argued it would also be a more permanent solution than using the Antiquities Act. Biden said on the campaign trail he would restore the monuments, and he announced a plan to review their boundaries on his first day in office. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff


Navajo Nation Exceeds February Vaccine Goal

Navajo Nation officials said they've already exceeded their goal of administering 100,000 vaccinations by the end of February. Tribal President Jonathan Nez said even those who've been fully vaccinated need to continue taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus. Nation health officials reported 43 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths Thursday. The latest numbers bring the total number of cases on the reservation to a little more than 29,000. There have been 1,127 deaths on the nation, which covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. — Bob Nelson

Park App To Offer Everything From Maps To Star Wars Tours

The National Parks Service dropped an early version of its new interactive app this month. Like most hiking apps for Android and Apple users, it feeds you trail and lodging information based on your location. Visitors can enhance their experience though by following along with the featured audio tours like one in Death Valley that guides you through seven Star Wars scenes filmed in and around the park. The app also has access to live webcams and an air quality tracker. In a written statement the National Parks Service Agency said for now they’re finalizing the content and testing features for its public release in a few months. — Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau

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