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PM News Brief: Homeless Camps Cleared, Mosquito Pesticide Warning & Mike Lee On Gun Silencers

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Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wants to make it easier to obtain devices that make firearms quieter. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, April 14, 2021

State

COVID-19 Positivity Rate Up Slightly

Utah health officials reported 530 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, but no new deaths. Since April 4, the state’s test positivity rate has increased slightly from 3.4% to 3.8%. Hospitalizations in the state are also up slightly from last week with 148 people currently hospitalized for the disease. — Caroline Ballard

Teacher Retention Five-Year High, But Will It Last?

Despite concerns that the pandemic would drive many teachers away and exacerbate a longstanding teacher shortage in the state, more Utah teachers stayed in their jobs this year than they have over the last five years, according to data from the Utah State Board of Education. Between the 2019-20 and current school years, the retention rate was 93%, compared to 90-91% in previous years. Part of the reason more teachers stayed in the job is because they were unsure about finding something else as COVID-19 impacted the economy. Utah Education Association Heidi Matthews said, however, she questions the numbers and worries the situation could get worse as the economy recovers. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Northern Utah

Homeless Camps Cleared

Wednesday the Salt Lake County Health Department cleared away homeless camps located next to murals of victims killed by police at 300 West and 800 South in downtown Salt Lake City. The county said it provided multiple notices in advance. Health officials said they understand camp cleanups are not a solution, but the department is “charged with protecting public health.” They said they will continue to look for long-term solutions for people experiencing homelessness. — Ivana Martinez

Group Warns Against Mosquito Pesticide

The advocacy group Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment is warning about the dangers of mosquito pesticides being used in Northwest Salt Lake County. The area is the future location of the Utah State Prison, and it’s where the Inland Port is being developed. The group released a report Wednesday on the chemicals’ negative impacts, which they said harm brain development and can lead to infertility. The group’s president, Dr. Brian Moench, said the pesticides are also not effective at controlling mosquitoes. The Salt Lake Mosquito Abatement District said it uses the latest science to make informed decisions about mosquito control and the measures they use are fully compliant with EPA standards. — Jon Reed

Region/Nation

Mike Lee Sponsors Bill To Ease Restrictions On Silencers

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, wants to make it easier to obtain devices that make firearms quieter. Lee is one of three Republican senators sponsoring a bill to cut down on regulations for silencers. He said the approval process for buying the devices is too expensive and “onerous.” The process includes filling out two copies of a form, getting a certification from law enforcement, getting two copies of fingerprints and passport photos and a $200 fee. Lee said the entire process can take 9 months to a year to complete. — Sonja Hutson

Dangers of Wildfire Smoke

A new study from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is adding to the growing evidence that smoke from wildfire is more harmful to humans than pollution from other sources. The research looked at 14 years worth of hospital admissions data in Southern California and found hospital admissions related to respiratory health during wildfire season increased at a higher rate than when traffic or industrial emissions were at similar levels. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau