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PM News Brief: Salt Lake Cold Case, Masks For Students & Children’s Mental Health

A photo of an upset little girl holding a teddy bear.
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A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds the pandemic has hurt the mental health of children. This story and more in Friday evening's news brief.

Friday evening, Aug. 20, 2021

Northern Utah

Teacher Free Speech In The Classroom

A teacher in the Alpine School District is no longer working after a recording of her surfaced talking about the need for people to get vaccinated from COVID-19, her disdain of former president Donald Trump and telling students to “get out” if they don’t believe in climate change. Brad Asay, president of the Utah chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said the incident was unfortunate, but not representative of most teachers in the state. He said teachers are typically told to avoid expressing their personal beliefs in class. But it can be especially tricky in the current climate, where issues that are not political at their core have become hotly debated topics. Read the full story.Jon Reed

Salt Lake City Closes Oldest Missing Person Cold Case

The Salt Lake City Police Department has closed its oldest missing person cold case. The department said Friday DNA testing confirmed human remains found in Millard County were those of Sandra Matott. She disappeared more than 40 years ago — in July 1979. Salt Lake Police opened an investigation after Sandra’s husband — Warren — reported her missing. He said she was last seen at a bar in Salt Lake eight days prior. In a statement, Matott’s son said their family is happy about the recent development, but sad it took so long. No cause of death was ever determined for her. In 1984, serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing her, but it was never verified by detectives. — Ross Terrell

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall Issues Mask Mandate For K-12 Students 

Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall announced Friday she’s issuing a mask mandate for K-12 students in the city ahead of their return to class Tuesday. The Salt Lake School District declined to take an official stance, but in a statement, it said it strongly supports wearing masks as a protection for kids not eligible for the vaccine. Mendenhall said the issue has become politicized to the point that elected bodies worry about retribution if they take a public position. Last week, the county council voted down a mask mandate for K-6 students after it was recommended by the county health director. Mendenhall said it’s her responsibility to keep the city and school district from going down a “dangerous path,” by not requiring masks. She said she’d lift the order when COVID-19 cases go down. Salt Lake County is currently in the high transmission level for COVID cases. — Jon Reed

State

Utah’s July Unemployment Update

Utah’s unemployment rate continues to fare much better than most of the country. For the month of July, it was 2.6% in the state — nationally it was more than 5%. Over the past two years, the state has also added more than 65,000 jobs. State officials said Utah’s economy reverted back to pre-pandemic levels in late spring and while the labor market hasn’t rebounded as quickly, it is starting to return too. Since 2019, the construction and trade, transportation and utilities industries have seen some of the largest growth in the state. — Ross Terrell

COVID-19 Cases In Kids As They Return To School 

The school year is back in session for some students in Utah. And now, the state’s department of health is reporting the number of school age children who test positive for COVID. On Friday, 216 kids between 5 and 18 years old tested positive for the virus. That’s nearly 20% of all new cases reported Friday. Eighty-one were children 5 to 10 years old. — Caroline Ballard

Region/Nation

Pandemic’s Affect On Children’s Mental Health

A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds the pandemic has hurt the mental health of children. About four in ten parents report their children experienced at least one new mental health symptom in the past 12 months. Those symptoms included difficulty concentrating on schoolwork, nervousness or being easily scared, as well as trouble sleeping. The report comes as families are uncertain about what the upcoming school year will look like. Many are concerned about the Delta variant, and whether their school will require masks or other precautions. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau