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PM News Brief: Vaccine Appointments Opening, Culture Specific Food & Charity Fraud

A photo of an elementary lunch tray.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
The Granite Education Foundation announced Thursday it’s launching a culture-specific food program for students in the district. This story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, March 4, 2021


Utah Governor Cites Enormous Success With Long-Term Care Facility Residents

Over 80% of long-term care facilities in Utah have had at least one COVID-19 outbreak. At the height of the pandemic, dozens of long-term care locations had more than 10 active cases. As a result, the state sent in “mobile strike teams” to help get outbreaks under control. Now, a few months after vaccines first arrived in Utah, Gov. Spencer Cox said the state has had “enormous success” with people in this group. Chad Szymanski owns a few assisted living centers in southwest Utah. He said second doses of vaccines have been available at his clinics since February and they’re close to returning to normal operations. Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George

Unemployment Claims In Utah Continue To Drop

Utah saw more than 3,000 new unemployment claims over the last week. That’s about 400 fewer than the week before, according to the state’s Department of Workforce Services. There were over 32,000 continued claims — also less than than the week before. Officials said they’ve seen drops in unemployment claims every week for nearly a month now. Some federal economic benefits put in place during the pandemic will end on March 13, including Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. — Caroline Ballard

Utah Opening Vaccine Appointments To Folks 50 And Up Starting Monday

Starting Monday, all Utahns over the age of 50 will be eligible to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines. Gov. Spencer Cox said Thursday newly eligible people need to wait until Monday to try to schedule an appointment. Cox also asked for people to be patient. “This is a huge addition to eligibility, which means that it's not going to be possible for everyone in these areas to get an appointment right away,” he said. So far, nearly 278,000 people have been fully vaccinated. Health officials also announced 611 new cases of COVID Thursday. Twelve more people have died from the virus but officials said seven occurred before mid-February. — Ross Terrell

Lawmakers Would Like To Limit Social Media Content Moderation

The Utah Legislature is considering a bill that would require social media companies to notify users when their post is taken down or moderated. People could then make a complaint to the Utah Attorney General’s office if that goes against the company’s terms of use. "The whole point of a platform is to allow that difference of opinion," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove. "It can absolutely take place on the stated terms of the platform. You can't have the platform state the terms, not adhere to their own terms and then not tell you why they didn't adhere to their own terms." Critics of the bill said it creates too much regulation on private businesses and could open the state up to an expensive lawsuit. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Joins Settlement To Shut Down Charity Fraud Scheme

Utah has joined a national settlement to shut down a charity fraud scheme. The state’s attorney general and Department of Commerce made the announcement Thursday. The case alleges Associated Community Services duped 67 million people via telefunding. The statement said the organization fundraised on behalf of groups that claimed to support homeless veterans and breast cancer patients among other causes. ACS kept up to 90 cents for every dollar they raised. The group collected more than $110 million total. Federal officials said people should check online about how to spot scams before giving to a charity. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Granite Education Foundation Launching Culture-Specific Food Program

The Granite Education Foundation announced Thursday it’s launching a culture-specific food program for students in the district. Granite School District covers parts of Salt Lake County. The foundation says 70% of the state’s refugee population lives within district boundaries. This new program is meant to adapt to those families’ religious and dietary needs. Five schools will be a part of the pilot — Granger, Millcreek, Moss and Pioneer elementary schools and Granite Park junior high. The foundation currently operates food pantries for students in 25 schools. — Ross Terrell


Facebook Slow To Flag Spanish Misinformation

Facebook is not flagging Spanish language misinformation at the same speed it works to track-down misinformation in English. Researchers with Avaaz, a human rights non-profit said in the beginning of the pandemic they found 70% of misinformation about politics or COVID-19 in Spanish was not removed or flagged by Facebook. It said preliminary data shows the social media giant is still not addressing this issue. — Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau

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