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PM News Brief: Dean Cox Dies, Major Rainfall Deficit & High COVID-19 Transmission

Photo of Welcome to Utah sign.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
Utah’s drought situation continues to worsen. The state’s water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. This story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, July 8, 2021

State

Utah Has Plan Approved For Spending COVID Relief Money On Education

Utah is one of the first states in the country to have its plan approved for how it will spend the latest round of federal COVID relief money on education. According to the plan, the priorities will be addressing mental health needs, finding students who didn’t show up over the last year and improving reading skills. But the state still has to do a full accounting of the impacts of the pandemic. A representative from the Utah State Board of Education said that data is being analyzed now, but won’t be ready until the fall. Read the full story.Jon Reed

Twelve Utah Counties Move Into High Transmission Level For COVID-19

Twelve counties in Utah are now in the high level of transmission for COVID-19. Last week, there was just one. It comes as health officials reported 668 new cases of COVID Thursday. It’s the most cases in a single day since mid-March. A year ago, officials announced 722 cases, which was a record at the time. The state’s positivity rate increased as well. It’s now 8%. The majority of cases in Utah continue to be fueled by the Delta variant. — Ross Terrell

Utah Needs 15 Inches Of Rain By The End Of September To Reach Normal Levels

Utah’s drought situation continues to worsen. The state’s water year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Officials said Utah usually gets 32 inches of rain during that time, but with less than three months left, we still need 15 inches. Water officials said it’s unlikely that deficit will be made up by the end of September. On average, Utah would only expect about five inches of rain by then. Almost all of Utah is experiencing extreme or exceptional drought conditions. However, there is some good news. The number of fire starts over the past week is down by more than a third compared to this time last year. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox Passes Away

Washington County is mourning the loss of former county commissioner Dean Cox. Cox had been sick with cancer and passed away Wednesday night. He was first elected to the county commission in 2016. All together, he worked for the county for over three decades in various roles, with a focus on emergency services. Cox resigned from his seat on the commission last month citing health reasons. He was 66 years old. — David Fuchs

Region/Nation

Drought Leading To More Human Interactions With Bears

The drought is bad news for bears. More specifically, biologists say during years of drought, the likelihood of conflicts between bears and humans often increases. Plants and root-like vegetation make up 90% of a black bear’s diet, but those natural food sources are vulnerable to drought. As for grizzly bears, the berry bushes they depend on don’t fare well in hot and dry conditions, either. When the quality and quantity of those food sources go down, bears go looking for food elsewhere and that’s when they run into humans. Wildlife officials are reminding the public to eliminate unnatural food sources from yards, like bird feeders, pet food or unsecured trash. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau