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PM News Brief: Utah’s (Corrected) Vaccination Stats, Bangerter Stoplights & Wildfire Deaths

Traffic on Utah highway.
Istock.com / wsfurlan
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The Utah Department of Transportation is doing environmental studies along Bangerter Highway over the next two years to look at the potential impact of changes to frontage roads and interchanges. This story and more in Monday evening's news brief.

Monday evening, July 12, 2021

State

State’s Vaccination Rate Lower Than Announced

Gov. Spencer Cox said the state “screwed up” last week when officials announced Utah had reached a new milestone in the number of adults who had gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Monday in a press release, Cox said the state made a mistake interpreting federal vaccination data, and he apologized. Just over 67% of eligible adults in Utah have received at least one dose — about 3% percent less than what was reported last week.

The state also reported Monday more than 1,200 new cases — and six deaths — since Friday. The state’s test positivity rate stands at 8.2% — nearly twice what it was this time last month. — Caroline Ballard

Free Speech, Hate Crimes And Protecting Police

An alleged crime in Garfield County is renewing a debate over whether Utah should protect law enforcement officers under hate crime laws. The case involves a woman who was charged with a hate crime for allegedly destroying a “Back the Blue” sign in front of a Garfield County Sheriff’s deputy. The American Civil Liberties Union of Utah argues that the state’s hate crime laws could chill free speech targeting police officers. But the floor sponsor of one of those laws said free speech doesn’t apply when you commit a crime. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Next Step In Eliminating Stoplights On Bangerter Highway

The Utah Department of Transportation is doing environmental studies along Bangerter Highway over the next two years to look at the potential impact of changes to frontage roads and interchanges. It’s part of an effort to eliminate stoplights on the Bangerter and make it more like a freeway. The agency said the goal is to speed up drive times and reduce the number of crashes. The public is invited to comment on the plans at public open houses over the next several weeks. — Caroline Ballard

Arrests Made In Shooting Death Of 7-Year-Old

Authorities said three men have been arrested in connection with the death of a 7-year-old girl who was hit by a stray bullet inside her home in Heber City Friday night. The Wasatch County Sheriff's Office said the girl, whose name has not been released, died at a hospital. Deputies said 34-year-old Christopher O'Connell was arrested Saturday on suspicion of manslaughter and is facing other drugs and weapons charges. Two other men were arrested for alleged crimes not directly related to the girl's death. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Two Wildland Firefighters Die In Arizona

Two firefighting veterans died in a plane crash while surveying the Cedar Basin wildfire in northwestern Arizona over the weekend. They were 48-year-old pilot Matt Miller and 62-year-old U.S. Forest Service employee Jeff Piechura. Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Dolores Garcia says bad weather may have played a role. The crash is being investigated by multiple federal agencies. Last month a Montana-based smokejumper died in New Mexico. Record breaking heat and high winds across the West are fueling one of the most severe and earliest wildfire seasons in a decade. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau