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AM News Brief: Free Vaccine Rides, School Sports Safety & The Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo

RSWestern-Yellow-Billed-Cuckoo-Leo-Shapiro-USGS-FPWC.jpg
Photo courtesy of Leo Shapiro, USGS
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Parts of Utah have been designated as a critical habitat for the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, April 21, 2021

Northern Utah

Utah Reacts To Chauvin Verdict

About a hundred people gathered outside the Salt Lake City Police Department Tuesday night to celebrate the guilty verdict for former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Chauvin murdered George Floyd last year after kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes. Protestors vowed to not give up fighting for justice for all people killed by police. Protestors also remembered Bernardo Palacios Carbajal who was killed by Salt Lake City Police last year, but all officers were cleared. — Sonja Hutson

Members of Salt Lake City’s Racial Equity in Policing Commission also responded. Commissioner Darlene McDonald. “Just to be able to say Black Lives Matter, and no one can kill Black people with impunity. There must be justice. This is step one in that,” she said. The commission was created in response to last year’s protests against police brutality and suggests policies to the mayor and city council. One of their recommendations so far is funding crisis intervention training for police officers. — Emily Means

Read more Utah reactions to the Chauvin verdict.

Latter-day Sex Therapists Respond To Church Discipline Of Collegue

Sex therapist Natasha Helfer is facing potential expulsion from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Local leaders have charged her with apostasy because of how she talks about things like pornography and same-sex marriage. Kristin B. Hodson, a licensed clinical social worker and certified sex therapist based in Salt Lake City, said she’s already come to terms with the possibility that she could also be kicked out of the Church for her work. She said she’s concerned about the precedent Helfer’s case could set for the profession. Others hope this may be an opportunity for the Church to change how it approaches sexual topics. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery

Southern/Central Utah

North Sanpete Schools To Get Cleaner Buses

North Sanpete School District in Utah is getting two new school buses to replace older diesel-powered ones. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the district $40,000 to upgrade the fleet Tuesday. It’s part of a $500,000 effort to replace 25 diesel powered buses in Utah, Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The new buses are meant to reduce pollution, protect health and air quality in these communities. The EPA did not provide details on what fuel each district’s new buses would use, though the grants can be used to purchase buses built after 2006 or those with alternative-fuels. — Ivana Martinez

Protecting The Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Parts of Utah have been designated as a critical habitat for the Western Yellow-billed Cuckoo. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday land in Uintah, Duchesne, Emery and Grand counties will be listed as critical habitat. The agency has also set aside nearly 300,000 total acres of protection across seven Western states. The designation prevents federal agencies from damaging or destroying the bird’s habitats in these areas. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo was placed on the endangered species list in 2014, and wildlife officials said there are only about 800 pairs remaining in the western U.S. — Ivana Martinez

State

Free Rides For Vaccine Appointments

United Way of Salt Lake and Utah 211 are offering free rides to and from COVID-19 vaccine appointments. It’s part of their ongoing “Ride United” program that helps people get to health appointments, job interviews or food pantries. The service will be offered in nine counties around the state. Rides for both doses can be scheduled up to a week in advance, and people can call 211 to make an appointment. — Ivana Martinez

Region/Nation

Youth Sports Still Require Pandemic Vigilance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed earlier this month that after-school activities are creating COVID-19 clusters and contributing to the rise in cases. Youth sports are resuming across the Mountain West, and Melissa Marx of Johns Hopkins University said she's not surprised by the COVID-19 clusters. Marx is also the head coach of her son’s soccer team, and she said while it’s important for kids to play sports, it’s also up to coaches and staff to create a safe environment for the players and their families. She recommends enforcing masks, and said if protocols are not taken seriously — the country could continue to see an increase in cases. — Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau