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PM News Brief: Job Gains, Church Discipline & Overturned 'Energy Dominance' Policies

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Lee Hale / KUER
A sex therapist is facing disciplinary charges from local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, April 16, 2021


State Optimistic About Job Gains

About 46,600 Utahns were out of work in March according to the latest numbers from the Utah Department of Workforce Services. Compared to March 2020, the state added 13,800 jobs. The unemployment rate last month was 2.9%, about half the national average. Mark Knold is Chief Economist at the Department of Workforce Services. He said this was the first month where they could make comparisons to when the pandemic began in the U.S. He said he expects year-over-year job gains to look good in coming months because of that. — Caroline Ballard

COVID-19 By The Numbers

The Utah Department of Health reported two more deaths due to the coronavirus on Friday — a woman in Salt Lake County between the ages of 65 and 84 and a man in Weber County between 45 and 64. The state also reported 463 new cases of COVID-19. An average of 3.8% of tests on average are coming back positive — a slight increase over this time last week. — Elaine Clark

Honoring Lives Lost In Indianapolis Shooting

Gov. Spencer Cox has authorized lowering of the U.S. and Utah flags on state property to honor the eight people killed in a shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana Thursday. The flags will be lowered starting at sunset Friday evening through sunset April 20. President Joe Biden has also authorized the lowering of flags on federal property. — Caroline Ballard

Northern Utah

Sex Therapist Faces Church Discipline

A sex therapist is facing disciplinary charges from local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Natasha Helfer moved to Salt Lake City over a year ago, but the council in her former Kansas stake could decide to expel her from the Church according to a story from The Washington Post. Helfer has been outspoken in her views on masturbation, same sex marriage and pornography. Her views are not in line with Church teachings. She will face a leadership council on Sunday, and a decision on her membership status is expected soon after. — Lexi Peery

Former NBA Star Buys Into Utah Jazz

Former NBA star Dwayne Wade is now a part owner of the Utah Jazz. Wade spent much of his 16-year professional career with the Miami heat, retiring in 2019. The Utah Jazz changed ownership last year after more than three decades with the Miller family. Gail Miller sold the team to tech entrepreneur Ryan Smith for $1.66 billion. The ownership group did not release how much Wade paid for his stake in the team. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Does Nighttime Watering Make A Difference?

It’s been almost a month since Gov. Spencer Cox issued a state of emergency because of the drought in Utah. Now, municipalities across the state are introducing watering restrictions. St. George City implemented a time of day watering ordinance on Thursday, typical regulation for the area. Kelly Kopp, a professor of plants, soils and climate at Utah State University, is doing “mythbusting” research on time of day watering though. She said preliminary data are bringing the conventional wisdom of night time watering into question. Kopp said it’s more important for people to be aware of how much water their plants actually need and to wait later in the year to water. Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George


Interior Secretary Revokes “Energy Dominance” Policies

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland issued an order Friday revoking energy-friendly policies established under former President Donald Trump. The policies were part of a push to increase oil and gas development on public land under the Trump administration. But the order won’t have an immediate effect, due to an indefinite pause on oil and gas leasing issued earlier this year by President Joe Biden. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry says the Biden administration is killing jobs. “Many people have been unemployed for months, beginning when the pandemic hit and continuing now due to the inability to drill on the land that surrounds us,” said Roosevelt, Utah, Mayor J.R. Bird. He spoke during a forum held by republicans on the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Water Predictions Grim For Colorado River Reservoirs

The Colorado River’s biggest reservoirs are likely to drop to levels not seen since they were filled, prompting mandatory conservation by some of the river’s biggest users. Twenty-one years of warmer than average temperatures have left Lakes Mead and Powell at historically low levels. A first-ever official shortage declaration from the Department of the Interior is almost certain later this year. Top water officials in Arizona and southern California said they’re prepared for the coming cutbacks to their water supplies. If the dry conditions hold, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico could take increasingly steep cuts to what they’re allowed to divert from the river. Read the full story. — Luke Runyon, KUNC

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