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AM News Brief: Vaccinating Rural Communities, Bryan Pena Valencia Lawsuit & School Mask Uproar

A photo that indicates where the lines for COVID-19 vaccinations begins.
Brian Albers
The share of adults in the Mountain West region that have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine ranges between 45- 65%. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, May 6, 2021

Northern Utah

First Lady Jill Biden Visits Salt Lake City

First Lady Jill Biden paid Salt Lake City a visit Wednesday and met with teachers, students, community health workers and several elected officials. Her message to teachers and community health workers was simple: Thank you, your president has your back. Biden touted funding for personal protective equipment that schools got through the federal COVID relief passed earlier this year. She also visited a vaccination site run by Comunidades Unidas. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Creating A Safe Space For The LGBTQ Community Via A Bookstore

Kaitlyn Mahoney wants to bring a “queer little bookstore” to Salt Lake City that’s meant to be a safe space where the LGBTQ community can gather. Mahoney has raised more than $53,000 to start her Under the Umbrella bookstore. She said most LGBTQ places, like bars, aren’t accessible to everyone, so she hopes the bookshop can be a place where the queer community can gather. Mahoney is still finalizing a location for the bookstore. Once it opens, it will feature a shelf honoring the late husband of one of her donors. Read the full story.Ivana Martinez

Family Of Bryan Peña Valencia FIles Lawsuit Against Unified Police Department

The family of a Utah man shot and killed by police has filed a federal lawsuit claiming his constitutional rights were violated. Bryan Peña Valencia was killed in Taylorsville in March of last year. The lawsuit said Unified Police Officer Omar Flores used excessive force when he shot Peña Valencia six times, alleging five of those shots came after he fell to the ground. The family is seeking $2 million in damages. Earlier this year, the Salt Lake County District Attorney ruled the officer was not justified in shooting Pena Valencia, but he said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him. — Emily Means

Uproar Over Masks At School Board Meeting Prompts A Call To Police

An uproar over masks at a Granite School District meeting Tuesday prompted officials to call in the police. KUTV reported parents were incensed that children would still have to wear masks in schools even though face coverings are no longer required elsewhere. A spokesperson for the district said police were called to de-escalate the tension. Angry parents voiced outrage over the school mask order during the public comment period. School board members frantically adjourned the meeting. The mask order remains in place until June 15 even though Utah met criteria allowing other public health orders to expire. — Associated Press


President Biden’s Administration Shifting Vaccine Focus To Rural Communities

The share of adults in the Mountain West region that have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine ranges between 45- 65%. But President Joe Biden’s administration has announced a goal to raise that number to 70% by July 4. They plan on paying extra attention to rural communities. In the announcement, the White House said it wants to make vaccinations more convenient. That includes pushing walk-in appointments at local pharmacies and redirecting FEMA resources to support more pop-up clinics and smaller community vaccination sites. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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