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PM News Brief: Danger In Zion, Denouncing Hate & Mountain West Mass Shootings

A photo of Virgin River at Zion National Park.
Andrew Parlette
/
Flickr
Zion Park officials have issued a danger advisory for the North Fork of the Virgin River. It’s due to the presence of cyanobacteria which is harmful to humans and some animals. This story and more in Tuesday evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, March 23, 2021

State

Utah Department Of Health Joining Services With Department Of Human Services

Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill Tuesday to combine the Utah Department of Health with the state’s Department of Human Services. It also gives the Department of Workforce Services responsibility over the policy side of Medicaid eligibility. The governor’s office said the goal is to be more efficient and align services better. Also Tuesday, David Litvack and Nate Checketts were named as deputy directors for the Department of Human Services. Litvack has worked as a policy advisor in the Salt Lake City mayor’s office. Checketts has been the director of Utah’s Medicaid program for UDOH since 2016. — Ross Terrell

Utah COVID-19 Update

So far, more than 780,000 Utahns have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Starting Wednesday, everyone 16 and up is eligible to get vaccinated. It marks the largest group to become eligible since the rollout began earlier this year. People ages 25 to 44 have accounted for more than a third of all cases in the state. Health officials reported 383 new cases Tuesday and 15 more people have died from the disease. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Money Available To Convert Wood Stoves And Fireplaces To Gas

Salt Lake County homeowners could soon upgrade their wood burning stove or fireplace to gas using money from a state program. The Department of Environmental Quality will award funds to 250 households. It’s meant to help reduce wintertime air pollution. Smoke from burning wood can cause particulate matter in the air to rise. Low-income households can receive up to $4,000 in assistance. The money will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis at stoves.utah.gov. — Caroline Ballard

Salt Lake County Denounces Hate Against Asian American Community

Salt Lake County and state elected officials joined Tuesday to denounce hate against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, is Chinese American. She said concerns about violence toward her community have often gone unheard but it’s time for that to change. “We must continue to eliminate policies that are discriminatory,” Kwan said. “We must continue to speak out against Asian and Pacific Islander invisibility and anti-Asian hate. We must do this as a community. We must stand together.” Salt Lake County law enforcement urged people to report hate crimes when they happen. The county council is set to adopt an action plan Wednesday to guide how they address systemic racism through policy making. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Panguitch Innovation Hub Could Be Key To Keeping Workers In Community

Leaders in rural Utah often joke that the number one export in rural counties are kids, but Mike Sarles hopes the Panguitch Innovation Hub will start to change that. With funding from the state and city, people in Garfield County will be able to use the space for remote work and business start ups. The center will also have a full size commercial kitchen. Callie Ward is with Utah State University Extension and is overseeing the cooking space. She said the hub is where people can potentially monetize their hobbies. The ribbon cutting for the center is next Monday. Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George

Danger Advisory Issued For Cyanobacteria Found In Zion National Park Water

Zion Park officials have issued a danger advisory for the North Fork of the Virgin River. It’s due to the presence of cyanobacteria which is harmful to humans and some animals. Officials have been monitoring the tributaries in the park since a pet died there last July. They say the bacteria was present all winter but concentrations were low. This month levels increased. Park officials said people should avoid swimming or submerging their head in the water. Visitors are also advised not to filter any water from any streams in the park. A warning advisory has been issued for North Creek. And a health watch was issued for La Verkin creek. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Mass Shootings Frequently Happening In Mountain West

A mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado on Monday underscores the frequency of such incidents in the state. But when it comes to the Mountain West, Colorado isn’t alone. A 2019 analysis by the Denver Post shows New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada and Idaho each have some of the highest rates per capita of mass shootings in the country. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau