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PM News Brief: Health Department Changes, Vaccinating Inmates & Massive Wildfires Burning

A photo of the Bear Fire in Carbon County.
Courtesy of Utah Fire Info
The Bear Fire in Carbon County has grown larger than 8,300 acres. No evacuations have been ordered, but it is causing delays on U.S. Highway 6. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, June 11, 2021

State

Analyzing Barriers To Students Applying To College

Cost is one of the biggest barriers high school students face going to college. But a recent report from the nonprofit group Envision Utah found another major challenge is a lack of clear information. The report found students often overestimated how much debt they’d be in. Less than half of people surveyed said they felt confident applying for school and financial aid. Jason Brown is with the organization. He said the findings suggest students don’t have what they need to make informed decisions. Brown said the state should prioritize getting more college advisors in every school. It could also do things like creating a common application for Utah colleges and universities. Read the full story. Jon Reed

More Leadership Changes Coming To The Utah Department Of Health

Leadership at the Utah Department of Health is getting another shakeup. The governor's office announced Friday the department’s Executive Director Rich Saunders is leaving. He’s moving on to be the state’s chief innovation officer. Saunders took the helm at UDOH less than a year ago. Nate Checketts will take over in the interim. He’s currently with the state’s Department of Human Services. Dr. Angela Dunn left her post as state epidemiologist last month. She had been the public face of the health department throughout the pandemic. There’s more change on the horizon, too. The state Legislature passed a bill earlier this year to combine the health department and the human services department. That is expected to be finalized by July 2022. — Sonja Hutson

Three Wildfires Burning More Than 4,000 Acres

Three wildfires in Utah are currently burning more than 4,000 acres each. The Bear Fire in Carbon County has grown larger than 8,300 acres. No evacuations have been ordered, but it is causing delays on U.S. Highway 6. Officials said it’s 5% contained. The Pack Creek fire continues to scorch nearly 5,000 acres just south of Moab. It’s still 0% contained. Three structures there have been destroyed. The Pack Creek community and two campgrounds in the area have been cleared out. In Utah County — the Bennion Creek fire rages on. It’s now 4,700 acres and is 0% containment. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Nomi Health Sending Mobile Vaccination Clinic To State Prison

Around 100 incoming inmates at the Utah State Prison are set to receive COVID-19 vaccines next week. Nomi Health is sending a mobile vaccination clinic to the Draper prison site. They’ll be administering the one-shot Johnson and Johnson variety. As of May 20, the Utah Department of Corrections reported nearly 60% of people in their care have received at least one vaccine dose. Last week, the department announced a total of 18 incarcerated people have died from COVID-19. — Emily Means

Region/Nation

Oil And Gas Drilling On Sage Grouse Lands

A federal district court ruling has pressed pause on new oil and gas drilling on 630 square miles of public lands in our region. Judge Ronald Bush said this week that the Bureau of Land Management must revisit leases in Wyoming and Montana because it failed to figure out how many sage grouse might be affected by drilling there. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

Yellowstone National Park Testing Driverless Electric Vehicles

Yellowstone National Park is testing driverless, electric vehicles for visitors. The Billings Gazette reported the park launched the $360,000 public experiment on Wednesday. They unveiled two cube-shaped vehicles that can hold eight passengers each. Park Superintendent Cam Sholly said the vehicles are expected to navigate the parking lot of Canyon Village through August 31. Each 3D-printed vehicle can carry over 1,300 pounds and has $300,000 worth of installed technology. — Associated Press