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PM News Brief: Mask Mandate Extended, Dixie State Students & Childcare Costs

A photo of a sign that says 'Dixie State University' with pink and red flowers planted around it.
Ethan Deceuster
/
Flickr
Dixie State University students are rallying at the Utah state capitol Wednesday in favor of changing the name of their school. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, February 23, 2021

State

Childcare Costs Jump In Utah Due To The Pandemic

Since the start of the pandemic, the average cost of childcare has increased nearly 30% in Utah. That’s according to a study from the loan company Lending Tree. They looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau and from the Center for American Progress — a Washington D.C. based public policy group. In Utah, it’s gotten 20% more expensive for infant and toddler care. It’s gone up even more for 3 and 4-year-olds. Still, Utah ranked near the bottom of the pack for percentage of household income spent on child care. — Ross Terrell

Utah Voters Stayed Consistent During Primary Elections

Several prominent Utah Republicans argued voters were gaming the system in the 2020 primary election. They said results were skewed by a large number of Democrats registering as Republicans. But a study released Monday from Princeton University said that’s not true. The university’s Electoral Innovation Lab analyzed data of party registrations in Utah’s primary election last year. It found the vast majority of people who registered as Republicans were either new voters or had been unaffiliated and more than 91% of people who registered as Republicans remain registered with the party. Researchers said a large number of new registrations in a party is fairly common in competitive elections, like the one in 2020. A bill working its way through the state Legislature would bar people from changing their party affiliation within 80 days of an election. — Caroline Ballard

Utah’s Mask Mandate Extended

Utah’s statewide mask mandate has been extended through March 25. Masks are required indoors in public settings and outdoors when social distancing isn’t feasible. Health officials reported another 716 cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. Twelve more people have died from the disease but officials said seven of those deaths happened before the start of this month. So far, the state has administered nearly 624,000 vaccines. That includes first and second doses. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City Parents Frustrated With How School Return Has Gone

It’s been just over two weeks since students in the Salt Lake City School District returned for in-person classes. It had remained fully online for most of the year because of the pandemic. But some parents aren’t happy with how things are going. Melissa Hardy’s is a parent and said no one seems interested to be back. She also feels administrators aren’t communicating well with parents. A few teachers at her daughter’s school were out sick this week and there was no one to fill in, so students just sat in an auditorium. The district said the problem is they don’t have enough substitute teachers. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah

Dixie State University Students Rallying At State Capitol To Drop “Dixie”

Dixie State University students are rallying at the Utah state capitol Wednesday in favor of changing the name of their school. The event comes days after the bill to drop “Dixie” stalled in the Senate. Legislators said the bill is still being worked on. Katy Johnson is one of the students organizing the rally, and she said it was “devastating” to hear the bill may not be publicly debated. Johnson said they’re hoping senators will take time to hear the students’ concerns. The bill passed the House earlier this month 51-20. — Lexi Peery, St. George

St. George Man Sentenced To Federal Prison For Drug Trafficking

A St. George man has been sentenced to 150 months, or 12 and a half years, in federal prison after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges. Richard Barraza was charged with possessing heroin with intent to distribute and possession of a gun to aid in drug trafficking. Barraza was on parole after a 2017 conviction of being a felon in possession of a firearm. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

Deb Haaland Confirmation Hearing Begins

The confirmation hearing for Rep. Deb Haaland, D- New Mexico, to lead the Interior Department began Tuesday. If she’s confirmed she’ll be the nation’s first Indigenous cabinet secretary. She told senators her top priorities include pushing for more clean energy, getting broadband internet service to Indian Country and focusing on the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau