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AM News Brief: Curtis On Cheney Vote, Logan Air Quality Attainment & The ‘Year of the Shorebird’

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Utah State University/Utah Division of Air Quality
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The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that the Logan and Cache County area has achieved Clean Air Act standards for fine particulate pollution for the first time since 2008. This story and more in the Thursday morning news brief.

Thursday morning, May 13, 2021

State

Will Ending Federal Pandemic Benefits Get People Back To Work?

Utah announced Wednesday it will opt out of federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits, joining Wyoming, Idaho and Montana in doing so. Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement "the market should not be competing with the government for workers." Jason Shogren, an economist at the University of Wyoming, said ending the extra $300 in assistance will no doubt encourage some people to go back to work, but it will make things more difficult for others like single parents who need childcare to return to jobs. Shogren said raising wages would also encourage more hiring, but would likely have other reverberations in the economy. Utah’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

Utah Recommends Pfizer Vaccine For Kids 12-15

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the green light Wednesday for the use of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 12-15. The Utah Department of Health said providers should start offering that to families as soon as possible. More than 23,000 Utah children in that age range have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 200 have had to be hospitalized. There have also been 14 Utah cases of MIS-C or multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a complication of COVID-19 that can lead to death. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Logan Reaches Air Quality Standards

The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that the Logan and Cache County area has achieved Clean Air Act standards for fine particulate pollution for the first time since 2008. The EPA also proposed approval of a detailed plan to ensure ongoing compliance with air quality standards. Meanwhile, the proposed redesignation of air quality status in Provo and Salt Lake City is still being evaluated. The EPA said a final determination on the status of those two areas is expected in the months ahead. — Pamela McCall

New Training For Indigenous Culture Curriculum

The University of Utah is launching a workshop this summer for teachers to update their curriculum around Indigenous people and culture. The lack of education about Indigenous history begins in elementary school, the program's leaders say, and has significant consequences for native communities today. That, in turn, translates into bad and sometimes illegal policies around tribal government authority, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. The 4-week workshop is geared towards current and future K-12 teachers. They’ll learn about the native people that have or had lived on lands they currently teach on, the lives of native people today and the legal status of tribal nations. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

The “Year of the Shorebird”

Gov. Spencer Cox has declared 2021 the “Year of the Shorebird” in Utah. It comes on the 30th anniversary of the Great Salt Lake being named a site of “hemispheric importance” for migratory shorebirds. The designation came from the Hemispheric Shorebird Reserve Network, a public private partnership working to protect habitat. The wetlands of the Great Salt Lake support nearly 10 million migratory birds — some 330 species — each year. Utah is in a state of emergency due to drought conditions, and right now, the Great Salt Lake is just a foot above it’s lowest recorded level. In a press release, state officials said the health of the lake’s ecosystem depends on water conservation. — Elaine Clark

Region/Nation

Curtis On The Cheney Vote

Rep. John Curtis, R-UT, voted Wednesday to remove Rep. Liz Cheney, R-WY, from her leadership post. But Curtis said it’s not because Cheney criticized former President Donald Trump. He told NPR’s All Things Considered it was because she was spending too much time talking about him instead of the party’s policy agenda. “I don't disagree with what she's saying,” Curtis said. “And I think Republicans in general should talk about it more. But when you are the team leader, that's not enough. You need to be leading us forward.” Curtis said he’s concerned about the perception that the vote to remove Cheney was a message that Republicans can’t criticize Trump. — Sonja Hutson

Stewart Suicide Prevention Act Passes House

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-UT, saw his suicide prevention act passed in the House Wednesday. The bipartisan effort with Rep. Doris Matsui, D-AZ, would authorize funding to improve surveillance of suicide attempts and other instances when people harm themselves. That effort would involve the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention partnering with state and local health departments. The bill would also provide funding for suicide prevention strategies in emergency departments for both health care providers and patients. — Pamela McCall

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