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PM News Brief: Drought Emergency, Tanner Ainge Leaving & Wildfire’s Air Quality Impact

Photo of burning pinyon and juniper beside Toquerville sign.
David Fuchs / KUER
/
Air quality improved across the U.S. thanks to fewer cars on the road from about March to July — that of course was because of the pandemic. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, March 17, 2021

State

Utah’s Asian American Community Reacts To Atlanta Shootings

On Tuesday night eight people were killed in a series of spa shootings around Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian women. Utah’s Asian American community condemned the shootings. Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, said incidents of Anti-Asian hate in the state are severely underreported. “We’re not immune to it,” Iwamoto said. “We don’t have statistical reports of hate crimes but a lot of people are scared to come forward.” Local leaders from the community released a joint statement Tuesday saying these types of incidents can be traced back to when the pandemic first started. Read the full story.Ivana Martinez

Gov. Spencer Cox Declares State Of Emergency Due To Drought Conditions

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox has declared a state of emergency due to the state’s drought conditions. All of Utah is in a moderate drought and about 90% of the state is experiencing an extreme one. A large chunk is seeing exceptional drought conditions. The governor’s office said the past summer and fall have been historically dry. This year’s winter snowpack is about 70% of average. The last time a state of emergency was issued because of drought was in 2018. Cox said people should reduce water usage by doing little things. That can be taking shorter showers, fixing leaks and turning off water while brushing their teeth. — Ross Terrell

Highest Number Of New COVID-19 Cases Since Early March

Utah health officials reported 699 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. It’s the most cases in a single day in the past two weeks. More than 700 cases were reported on March 3. There are currently 180 people hospitalized from the virus. That’s up compared to last week at this time. Five more people have died from COVID but officials said four of those deaths happened at least a month ago. Nationally, there have been more than 29.5 million coronavirus cases. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Tanner Ainge Leaving Utah County Commission

Republican Tanner Ainge is resigning from the Utah County Commission. He’s leaving to join the board of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Ainge is the most moderate member of the all-Republican three-person Utah County Commission. He told the Daily Herald the county’s financial situation has improved during his time on the commission and he’s proud of the work he’s done. He still needs to be confirmed by the state Senate for his new role. — Sonja Hutson

Southern Utah

Rural Counties Get A Chance To Better Spend Hotel Tax Revenue

Rural counties in Utah with national parks and recreation areas have to pay for services and infrastructure for millions of tourists, but they have small tax bases. That’s becoming a problem as more people visit the southern part of the state, according to Rep. Carl Albrecht, R-Richfield. He passed a bill that allows rural counties with a national park or recreation area to spend around 60% of their hotel tax revenue on services and around 40% on tourism promotion. The current law requires a roughly 50-50 split. Grand County administrator Chris Baird said the bill isn’t perfect, but it’s a good compromise with the tourism industry. Read the full story.Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Region/Nation

Wildfire Smoke Worsening Air Quality Across The U.S.

Air quality improved across the U.S. thanks to fewer cars on the road from about March to July — that of course was because of the pandemic. But those gains were quickly lost when wildfire season struck with historic magnitude. That’s according to the World Air Quality Report released this week. Last summer saw the largest wildfires in both California and Colorado’s histories. The report found that average air pollution levels across the country were actually higher in 2020 than in the previous two years. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

Arizona Authorities Want Stiffest Sentence For Adoption Scheme

Authorities in Arizona are seeking the stiffest possible sentence against former Maricopa County Assessor Paul Petersen. He's convicted of fraud for running an illegal adoption scheme in three states involving women from the Marshall Islands. This Friday is Petersen's second of three sentencing hearings. Prosecutors haven't specified the number of years in prison they're hoping for. Petersen is serving a six-year sentence for a conviction in Arkansas. Arizona prosecutors are seeking consecutive aggravated punishments — that could mean 18 years in prison. Petersen wants five years or less and to be allowed to serve the sentence while he does time for the Arkansas case. — Associated Press