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PM News Brief: Accepting Refugees, Drought Improvement & National Park Masks

A photo of Lower Falls at Yellowstone National Park.
Jerry and Pat Donaho
/
Flickr
As of this week, the National Park Service is implementing tougher mask requirements. Yellowstone National Park already started requiring masks late last month. This story and more in Wednesday evening's news brief.

Wednesday evening, Aug. 18, 2021

State

Gov. Spencer Cox Says Utah Open For Afghanistan Refugees

Gov. Spencer Cox sent a letter to President Joe Biden Tuesday saying Utah is eager to help refugees fleeing Afghanistan. The Taliban suddenly swept to power in recent days following the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Now, many people are seeking to leave the country. Cox said the state is especially ready to welcome Afghans who helped U.S. troops, diplomats or journalists over the past two decades. In his letter to Biden, the governor said Utah has a history of welcoming refugees as a state founded by people fleeing religious persecution. — Associated Press

Utah Reports Most Single Day COVID-19 Cases In Six Months 

Utah health officials reported 1,488 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday. That’s the most the state has seen in a single day since the first week of February. A year ago, officials reported just 263 new cases. The state’s seven day average of new cases has also topped 1,000 for the first time since early February. Compared to a week ago, the number of people currently hospitalized for the virus has increased, though the state’s positivity rate remains relatively unchanged. Officials said 12 more people have died due to COVID. That’s a two day total. One of them was between the ages of 25 and 44. — Ross Terrell 

Utah’s Drought Situation Sees Slight Improvement 

Even as thunderstorms and flooding hit most of Utah, over 98% of the state is still in extreme or exceptional drought. That’s a slight improvement compared to the week before. Officials said the state needs more than 11 inches of rain to reach average moisture levels for this time of year. A more positive trend officials are seeing is human-caused fires were below average this past week. Still the Parley’s Canyon Fire has burned 541 acres since it was started last weekend from a car’s catalytic converter. It’s now 40% contained. — Lexi Peery

Northern Utah

150 Homeless People Remembered In Memorial Service  

Salt Lake City community members and faith leaders held a memorial service for 150 people Tuesday. They were homeless when they died, and their remains had been uncollected by their families. Chaplain Shantel McBride organized a funeral service for them, with poetry, music and prayer. Around 50 people attended the service, which included reading the names of those who had passed out loud at The Cathedral of the Madeleine. A representative from the homeless outreach group Unsheltered Utah said they will be posting the names of the people who died online, in case loved ones are looking for closure. Read the full story.Emily Means

Utah Doctor Allegedly Wrote Illegal Opioid Prescriptions 

The U.S. Department of Justice is accusing a Utah physician of illegally writing prescriptions for powerful opioids. Dr. Sean Ponce is currently barred from writing prescriptions as the complaint filed in Utah’s U.S. District court moves forward. The complaint says Ponce would write them at the request of patients who were then selling the opioids for cash. It alleges that Ponce’s offices in Cottonwood Heights were mostly a front, and that he did not conduct legitimate examinations or have real doctor-patient relationships. The complaint has yet to move forward to a trial. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

Masks Required Again At National Park Facilities 

As of this week, the National Park Service is implementing tougher mask requirements. The new mask mandate will require everyone, regardless of vaccine status, to wear masks in national park facilities and in crowded outside areas. For example, if you’re at a scenic overlook and you’re packed onto a crowded platform where you can’t maintain a six-foot buffer, you’d need a mask. Yellowstone National Park already started requiring masks late last month. This new mandate comes as throngs of tourists from around the world continue to visit parks and while the delta variant of COVID-19 spreads. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau