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AM News Brief: Guns at airports, Utah County rail extension & fungus feasting on jack-o’-lanterns

Two whimsical jack-o-lanterns sit side by side on a stoop in front of a teal door.
Heather Brown
Halloween jack-o’-lanterns are tasty treats for microorganisms. Preventing moldy pumpkins and more in Friday morning's news brief.

Friday morning, Oct. 15, 2021


Substitute teacher shortage

In an effort to attract more people to try out substitute teaching — or return to it — the Jordan School District announced Thursday it was offering a $500 bonus for anyone who fills in for at least 30 days by Dec. 15. It’s an experiment they’re trying out until the end of the semester. Sandra Riesgraf, a spokesperson for the district, said there is more demand this year for subs, but fewer people available. It’s a problem for many districts in the state. The Canyons School District said it is also struggling with staffing shortages and has had to pull out staff from other departments to fill in for teachers and even bus drivers. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Southern Utah County rail extension

Utah Transit Authority is seeking public input on the extension of commuter rail in southern Utah County. The agency said a study has identified a ‘Locally Preferred Alternative’ that includes extending FrontRunner from Provo to Payson and adding a bus service from Payson to Santaquin. The proposed extension would connect to current commuter rail operations in Provo. UTA said it would provide southern Utah County residents with high-speed, frequent and reliable access to Salt Lake and Davis counties. An online public meeting on the Locally Preferred Alternative is scheduled for Oct. 21. — Pamela McCall

Northern Utah

Cache County Council rescinds school COVID rule

The Cache County Council voted Tuesday to end a classroom level Test to Stay program. The Bear River Health Department had issued an order allowing elementary schools in the county to test all students in a classroom for COVID-19 if three or more people test positive. That's in addition to the statewide version of the program, which applies to an entire school. Council members said because there have been low numbers of hospitalizations among elementary students, the order was no longer needed. The Bear River Health Department director said he would like to see the order remain in place. Bear River cases among 0 to 11-year-olds went up by 74% in the last week. — Jon Reed

Record-breaking year for guns at airports

The Transportation Security Administration said they have already reached a 20-year record for the number of guns found at airport security checkpoints in 2021. Nearly 4,500 were discovered in carry-on bags around the country as of Oct. 3. The Salt Lake City Airport has had 90 firearms detected at checkpoints. That’s tied for eighth highest in the nation with New Orleans. Atlanta has had the most. Guns are not allowed in airplane cabins, and there are civil penalties for trying to bring one through security. A traveler may bring an unloaded gun in checked luggage. They have to declare it to the airline, and the TSA said different airlines have different rules for firearms. They also suggested that gun owners be sure they know the gun laws of the place they are traveling to. — Elaine Clark

Fungus feasting on jack-o’-lanterns

For many, Halloween decorations include creatively carved jack-o’-lanterns on the front porch. Those pumpkins are also tasty treats for microorganisms. Nick Volesky, a researcher in pest management at Utah State University, said that when the inside of a pumpkin is exposed to air, it is also exposed to tiny fungus spores. That makes the gourds shrivel and go fuzzy. There are ways to prevent that mold, though. Pumpkins should be washed before they are cut with clean carving tools. It is also important to get all the guts out. A completed jack-o’-lantern can be dipped in a 10% bleach solution. Volesky also suggested using an artificial light inside the pumpkin, because the heat from a candle will make it spoil faster. — Elaine Clark

Updated: October 15, 2021 at 12:53 PM MDT
This news brief has been updated with a rescheduled date for Utah Transit Authority's public hearing on the Southern Utah County rail extension.
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