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PM News Brief: Natasha Helfer’s Appeal, Child Hunger Increases & Masks In Smith’s Grocery Stores

A photo of a Smith's store.
Wikimedia Commons
Smith’s grocery stores will no longer require face masks. The chain is owned by Kroger and has dozens of locations throughout Utah. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, May 19, 2021

State

Utah Legislature Bans School Mask Mandates

The Utah Legislature passed a bill Wednesday preventing schools' from being able to issue their own mask requirement for the upcoming school year. It comes the week after Gov. Spencer Cox announced the statewide mask mandate in schools will end during the final week of the academic year. Rep. Melissa Ballard, R-Davis opposed the bill because it went against party standards. — Ivana Martinez

Smith’s No Longer Requiring Masks For Vaccinated Customers

Smith’s grocery stores will no longer require face masks. The chain is owned by Kroger and has dozens of locations throughout Utah. In a release, the company said the updated policy came after new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It applies to customers who are fully vaccinated and most of its vaccinated employees. Though, people working in the pharmacy and clinic locations will still need to wear a face covering. The store does request that unvaccinated people continue to wear masks. However, if there is a state or local mask mandate in effect, that takes precedence. Utah no longer has a statewide mask requirement. — Caroline Ballard

Natasha Helfer’s Excommunication Appeal Denied

Mental health and sex therapist Natasha Helfer said her excommunication appeal to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been denied. She posted on Facebook Tuesday that the First Presidency of the Church had affirmed the decision made last month by her former local leaders in Kansas. Helfer had her membership revoked on charges of apostasy. She has been outspoken about her views on pornography and LGBTQ rights which aren’t in line with the Church. Helfer said she sent a list of questions and concerns to top Church leaders about the decision but doesn’t expect an answer. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City Police Struggling To Keep Up With Calls

Salt Lake City police said they are having a hard time keeping up with calls for service. During a city council meeting Tuesday night, Police Chief Mike Brown said more than 80 positions remain unfilled. He said with an increase in calls for service, they’ve been unavailable to respond to a number of situations. Brown is also calling for six more social workers to be added to the force. Salt Lake City’s mayor has proposed a 5% increase in police funding to help cover overtime costs, among other things. The updates came during the first public hearing on the city’s budget. The next one is online on June 1. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Child Hunger In The Mountain West On The Rise

Child food insecurity rates in our region have sharply increased in the last year. Across the region in 2019, anywhere from 10 to more than 20% of kids were food-insecure with New Mexico and Nevada topping the list. Health experts said those numbers more than doubled last year as families faced new financial struggles precipitated by the pandemic. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Two Missionaries Die In Car Crash In Texas

Two missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died Tuesday in a car crash near Dallas, Texas. Church officials said Luke Carter of Springville, Utah and Eli Fowler of Pueblo West, Colorado were killed in a head-on collision. They were serving in the Texas-Fort Worth mission. The Church said the crash happened during a rainstorm and both missionaries were wearing a seatbelt at the time. The driver of the other vehicle is hospitalized. The incident is being investigated by local law enforcement. — Lexi Peery, St. George

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