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PM News Brief: General Handbook Changes, Worsening COVID-19 Situation & Reviving Native Languages

Photo of Salt Lake temple.
Lee Hale / KUER
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Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have released an updated general handbook for its members. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, Aug. 4, 2021

State

Utah’s COVID-19 Situation Worsens

Utah’s COVID-19 situation continues to worsen. State health officials reported 1,050 new cases Wednesday. In fact, Utah has seen more than 800 cases five days of the past week. The state’s positivity rate has also increased. Eight more people have died from the virus. Half of them were younger than 45, including one man between the ages of 15 and 24. So far, just 46.5% of all Utahns are fully vaccinated. — Ross Terrell

Updates On Utah’s Wildfire And Drought Situation

Despite recent heavy rain that caused flash flooding, Utah is still parched. Nearly all of the state is in extreme or exceptional drought, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources. The department’s executive director said the state mainly relies on snowpack for its water, though the rain did improve stream flows, soil moisture and reduce wildfire risk. Utah saw 116 new wildfire starts over the last week. The majority of those were caused by lightning. — Caroline Ballard

The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints Updates General Handbook

Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have released an updated general handbook for its members. Changes include guidance on how to treat refugees and immigrants as well as keeping politics out of church meetings. Members are encouraged to care for refugees and are expected to have the “same welcoming attitude to immigrants.” The handbook now notes that though the Church may take political stances, members who are elected officials aren’t asked to vote a certain way. They also do not speak for the Church. It also states political topics shouldn’t be discussed in meetings. Sections on privacy, temple marriage and businesses were also part of the latest changes. — Lexi Peery

Replacing Utah’s Elections Director

Utah Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson recently announced State Elections Director Justin Lee will be stepping down. He’s been in that role since 2017, and he said his responsibilities changed with the false narrative around voter fraud. He said it’s the elections officials’ job to explain how the process works, and that it’s “safe, that it is secure, that the vote totals are what the vote totals really are, and that those certified vote totals are, in fact, accurate.” Henderson said trust in the elections process — and voter access — is important to her as she looks for a new director. She said a search for the position will start soon and she hopes to have it filled in a couple months. Read the full story. Emily Means

Region/Nation

U.S. Senate Committee Advances Bills To Revive Indigenous Languages

U.S. lawmakers have advanced two bills to shore up federal support for revitalizing Indigenous languages. The pandemic has taken a toll on the work of Indigenous language programs. Many lacked the resources to move to online instruction. In some communities, fluent speakers were lost to COVID-19. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs unanimously approved the bills. One would ensure continued federal grant funding for these programs, the other would create a national resource center to support them. Both bills can now be considered by the full U.S. Senate. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau