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AM News Brief: COVID Numbers Climb, Money For Rural Counties & Grim Outlook For Yellowstone Climate

Photo of Yellowstone Entrance Sign.
Maggie Mullen
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A new Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment is projecting less snowfall and more hot days for the area, including all of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding ecosystem including Jackson, Wyoming, and Bozeman, Montana. This story and more in the Friday morning news brief.

Friday morning, June 25, 2021

State

COVID Positivity Rate Growing

Thursday marked the second day in a row Utah health officials reported more than 450 new COVID-19 cases. The state’s positivity rate also grew to 5.9% — almost 2% higher than where it was to start the month. Almost all new COVID-19 incidents are from unvaccinated people. So far, more than 1.3 million Utahns have been fully vaccinated for at least two weeks. That accounts for 40% of the state’s population. Out of those people, there have been a total of 1,331 positive, or breakthrough, COVID-19 cases. Officials say while no vaccine is 100% effective, this data show vaccines have worked in protecting people. — Ross Terrell

Utah Counties See Federal Funding Increase

The Interior Department announced Thursday it will pay counties in Utah with public land a total of $42.4 million this year. The federal government makes these annual payments since the counties can’t collect taxes on public land. The money is meant to help counties provide infrastructure and services, like law enforcement. The payment amounts are based on a formula set by Congress that includes population and public land acreage. Utah’s annual payment has increased by an average of 2% each year since 2015. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

Northern Utah

New Housing For Homeless People

A new permanent supportive housing complex for people experiencing homelessness opened in downtown Salt Lake City Thursday. The Magnolia has 65 units for singles or couples and built-in case management for its future residents — all of whom will have experienced chronic homelessness. At the same time, city and county officials shut down a large homeless encampment across town. Holly Lowe, one of the people who was displaced, said she wants to see a better plan from the government for addressing homelessness — one that includes more deeply affordable housing. Salt Lake’s winter overflow shelters close this month, and officials expect around 300 people will be looking for a place to stay. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Receives Settlement

The police chief in the Salt Lake City suburb of Cottonwood Heights has accepted a monetary settlement after filing a lawsuit claiming the city had planned to wrongfully terminate him. Chief Robby Russo has been paid $70,000, which KUTV reports came from the Utah Local Government Trust. The trust is funded by premiums made by cities in part to settle claims. An attorney for Russo said the legal fight had become expensive and the settlement makes sense. A councilwoman he sued alongside the city has denied the allegations and continues to pursue her own claims. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Grim Outlook For Yellowstone Climate

A new Greater Yellowstone Climate Assessment is projecting less snowfall and more hot days for the area, including all of Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding ecosystem including Jackson, Wyoming, and Bozeman, Montana. The projections suggest a slight increase in total precipitation, but in the form of rain instead of snow. Experts say that means more runoff and evaporation, which could have a devastating effect on the West’s water supply. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau