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AM News Brief: Redistricting Timeline, Buckling Up In Rural Utah & Vaccinating Hospital Employees

A photo of small bottles labeled 'COVID-19 Vaccine' and a needle.
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A growing number of hospitals are requiring their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the delta variant fuels a rise in cases. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, Aug. 11, 2021

State

Redistricting Timeline Moves Up

Utah’s Legislative Redistricting Committee is going to get an earlier start than they originally planned. Detailed census data were originally going to be released next week, but will instead be available Aug. 12. That in-depth information is what states use to redraw districts for Congress and the state school board, House and Senate. Utah’s Legislative Committee will meet this coming Monday to look at how districts have grown in relation to the state’s population. The data will also be uploaded to a map drawing tool so the public can weigh in, and lawmakers expect that to be ready by early September. — Elaine Clark

Leadership Changes For Black Lives Matter Utah

Last weekend, Lex Scott announced she was stepping down from both her positions as the president of Black Lives Matter Utah and the Utah Black History Museum because of safety concerns. Mario Mathis will take over as president of the museum and Rae Duckworth will be the new leader of the chapter. Duckworth began volunteering with Black Lives Matter a couple years ago shortly after her cousin, Bobby Duckworth, was shot and killed by police in 2019. She said the future of the organization won’t look too different. "We're going to continue to change the world,” Duckworth said. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez

Seat Belt Use Increases In Rural Utah Counties

An effort to get more people in rural Utah to wear seat belts appears to be working. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of people killed in car accidents in the U.S. didn’t have seat belts on. Usage is also generally lower in rural areas. The Utah Department of Public Safety launched its “Together for Life” project back in 2013, and seat belt use has since increased by 20% in the nine counties where the campaign was targeted. That’s compared to just a 7% rise in urban areas. DPS is relaunching the project website with tools, resources and new guidance for talking to people about buckling up. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County Health Director Asks For School Mask Mandate

Salt Lake County Health Director Angela Dunn is asking for a mask mandate for kids in schools under the age of 12. State law prevents districts from issuing a mandate, but local health departments can if they have approval from their county council. Mayor Jenny WIlson said she supports Dunn’s request and Wilson says she hopes the county council lets the order stand. If it does, it would take effect before class begins on Monday. It would include the same exemptions that are in the state's K-12 mandate from last year, and would only apply to indoor settings. The State Legislature could also step in to override it. — Jon Reed

Region/Nation

Some Western Hospitals Can’t Require Vaccines For Employees

A growing number of hospitals are requiring their employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the delta variant fuels a rise in cases. But some healthcare facilities in the Mountain West don’t have that option because of statewide restrictions. Executive orders in Idaho and Wyoming prevent state agencies including medical facilities from requiring the shot. A Montana state law goes one step further, blocking private employers from mandating COVID-19 vaccination. Meanwhile, hospitals in Utah are allowed to require their employees to get the vaccine. — Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau