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PM News Brief: Rabid Bat, Power Restrictions & Obamacare Upheld

Photo of Welcome to Utah sign.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
Utah continues to face hot and dry conditions in the run-up to the 4th of July and Pioneer Day holidays. This story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, June 17, 2021

State

Gov. Spencer Cox Urges People To Not Use Fireworks

Utah continues to face hot and dry conditions in the run-up to the 4th of July and Pioneer Day holidays. Some people have been waiting for Gov. Spencer Cox to ban fireworks statewide. But Cox said the Attorney General’s office has informed him he doesn’t “have the authority to implement a statewide ban.” He said state statute also limits the kinds of policies cities can implement, though some have put restrictions in place. So, Cox is urging Utahns to take some personal responsibility and hold off on the fireworks this year. It’s illegal to use fireworks anywhere in Utah until July 2. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Utah Has It’s First Rabid Bat Of The Year

Utah public health officials confirmed the first rabid bat of the season Thursday. Infected bats may be flying around during the day or resting on the ground. They may also show no signs at all. Humans can contract the virus through a bite or a scratch. Officials said since a bat’s teeth and claws are so small it may not even be felt. People should keep a safe distance from wild animals. Bats are the primary carrier of rabies in Utah but they play an important role in the state’s ecosystem. If you see a suspected case, you can report it to your local health department or call 1-888-EPI- Utah. — Tess Roundy

Utah COVID-19 Situational Update

Utah health officials reported 369 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. The state’s positivity rate, average of new daily cases and hospitalizations are all up compared to this time last week. Right now, about 5% of COVID tests are coming back positive. It was under 4% to start the month of June. State data show nearly 80% of all ICU beds are full. Still, vaccinations continue to roll out. So far, almost 1.6 million Utahns have had at least one dose. — Ross Terrell

SCOTUS Upholds Obamacare For The Third Time

Utah health care advocates celebrated another ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday. For the third time, SCOTUS upheld, in a 7 to 2 ruling, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Utah was one of 17 states to join Texas in challenging the healthcare law — specifically the individual mandate clause, which requires people to have health insurance. That mandate no longer applies at the federal level. According to the Utah Health Policy Project, more than 200,000 people in the state enrolled in the ACA marketplace last year. Another 27,000 signed up this year alone when a special registration opened in February. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Fire And Power Use Restrictions Going Into Effect Around The State

Fire restrictions are going into effect Friday at Dinosaur National Monument and Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. That means campfires are not allowed outside of designated areas. Using machinery and smoking near dry vegetation is also prohibited. These restrictions are already in place for all state and unincorporated land as well as some other federal lands in Utah. Meanwhile in St. George, Dixie Power issued a “red alert” for the first time this year. They’re asking people to not use electrical appliances, avoid charging vehicles and to set the thermostat to at least 80 degrees. The power company says it’s due to triple digit temperatures and strains on the western power grid. — Lexi Peery, St. George

Region/Nation

Juneteenth Is A Federal Holiday But The Work Continues

Juneteenth celebrations are scheduled throughout the region this weekend. Advocates are celebrating its new designation as a federal holiday but they say that shouldn’t cloud the work ahead on civil rights matters in policing, voting and education. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau