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AM News Brief: National Guard COVID Duty, Possible Reservation System For Arches & Red Means Testing For Utah Schools

Tech. Sgt. John Winn/151st Air Refueling Wing
The Utah National Guard has extended active duty orders for 100 service members as part of the state’s pandemic response. This story and more in the Wednesday morning news brief.

Wednesday morning, Sept. 15, 2021


Code Red Means Testing For Utah Schools

The Utah Department of Health has added a color-coding system to its COVID-19 reporting for schools. It’s based on what they call the “Test to Stay” metric, when schools have to test every student to stay open. For schools with 1,500 or more students, screening has to happen when 2% of the student body has tested positive in the past 2 weeks. For smaller schools, mandatory testing kicks in if 30 students have tested positive in that same time frame. Schools in the red have to “Test to Stay,” and yellow means they’re halfway to the threshold. The state’s dashboard lists two schools in the red right now — Syracuse and Antelope Elementary, both in the Davis School District. — Elaine Clark

Guard Extends COVID Duty

The Utah National Guard has extended active duty orders for 100 service members as part of the state’s pandemic response. Orders were going to expire at the end of the summer, but because of the surge in cases due to the COVID-19 Delta variant they’ll now go through Dec. 17. Since March of last year, the task force has helped with COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, contact tracing and at long-term care facilities. More than 630 Utah soldiers and airmen have served as part of this mission. — Elaine Clark

State Says Federal Support Not Enough For Water Infrastructure

Utah received $100 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding earlier this year to spend on water issues, but state officials say they need about 10 times that. Kim Shelley with the Department of Environmental Quality said rural and underserved communities need the most help. Republican House Speaker Brad Wilson said he wants some way to measure how effective the state’s investment in water is. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Northern Utah

Reconsidering Foothills Trail Plan

Construction work on the Foothills Trail System in Salt Lake City will be paused until at least June 1 of 2022. In the meantime, officials will work with consultants and stakeholders to re-evaluate work that has already been completed and future plans for the area. The city’s master plan would expand and improve the trail system in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains to the north and east of the city, including the Bonneville Shoreline trail. Community members raised issues with the plan, citing erosion concerns and saying they didn’t have a voice in the process. The city said it will also consult with tribal leaders and indigenous folks to develop appropriate land acknowledgment of the trail system. — Caroline Ballard

Southern Utah

Arches Considers New Approach To Long Lines

Crowding at Arches National Park has officials considering a reservation system. From 2009- 2019 visitation there ballooned, and the pandemic brought record-busting months forcing gate closures and long lines. The park looked at a congestion management plan back in 2015, but got push back from Moab business owners. Kaitlyn Thomas with the Southeast Utah Group of National Parks told community radio station KZMU they have more support now and hope they can make a difference this time around. They are looking to release a draft plan for dealing with traffic in the coming months. — Molly Marcello, KZMU


More Fires On Mountain Tops

Climate change is pushing wildfires into higher elevations, which used to be largely immune because of high moisture levels. The Dixie and Caldor fires in California are the first and second wildfires ever recorded crossing the Sierra Nevada crest. Researchers say that since there were hardly fires in high elevations before, an increase in blazes doesn’t have as much to do with forest management as it does with changing climate. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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