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AM News Brief: Voter registration deadline, new drought predictions & the danger of misinformation

Renee Bright
Friday, Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. is the deadline to register to receive a mail-in ballot for next month’s municipal elections. Towns and cities across the state from St. George to Logan are holding elections Nov. 2. This story and more in Friday's news brief.

Friday morning, Oct. 22, 2021


Suicide deaths haven’t increased through pandemic

Suicides and drug overdoses among Utahns have not increased during the pandemic according to officials at the Utah Department of Health. Officials said that while the number of people in the state who have died by suicide is high — it has remained steady since 2015. The number of drug overdoses have also been unchanged compared to previous years. UDOH suicide prevention research coordinator Michael Staley said it will still take time to understand the long-term consequences of the pandemic on mental health. — Lexi Peery

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Voter registration deadline

Friday, Oct. 22 at 5 p.m. is the deadline to register to receive a mail-in ballot for next month’s municipal elections. Towns and cities across the state from St. George to Logan are holding elections Nov. 2. Utah residents can deliver paper registrations to their county clerk’s office today or go online to to sign up. Anyone who misses the deadline can register in person at early polling locations or at a polling location on election day, but that does require two forms of identification. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Historic chapel to reopen as ‘Art Castle’

The Utah Arts Alliance recently acquired a historic chapel on the west side of Salt Lake City. The Victorian gothic revival building in Poplar Grove was built in 1900 for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but it’s been closed to the public for years. Now it’s on its way to becoming a place for the west side community to gather again. It’s called the Art Castle. Derek Dyer, executive director of the Utah Arts Alliance, said he plans on building an immersive art exhibit, reviving a historic recording studio and opening a cafe. Dyer said he expects it will also bring economic growth to the area. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez


New drought measurements deliver a grim long-term forecast

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released its two-year look ahead at reservoir levels within the Colorado River basin. It reflects a trend of steadily dropping water supplies. Most of the river’s flow originates high in the Rockies, and this year brought an exceptionally dry spring to that area — leaving runoff into Lake Powell at a quarter of normal levels. That has sped up chances of the reservoir dropping too low to generate hydropower. Drought persists across much of the Colorado River watershed, but a weather phenomenon called an “atmospheric river” could bring significant amounts of rain through next week. The heaviest will fall in California, but significant precipitation is also expected in Nevada, Utah and Western Colorado. — Alex Hager, KUNC

Lack of language services leads to misinformation

The spread of dis- and mis-information spells trouble for everything from the public’s confidence in elections to vaccination rates. Claire Wardle is a researcher with the nonprofit First Draft News. She said the battle over fact and fiction is acute in the Mountain West, which could help to explain low vaccination rates among some ethnically diverse communities. “We have many diaspora communities where they don't necessarily have news outlets that are broadcasting in their own language,” Wardle said. “You have in these communities a reliance on WhatsApp and other kinds of close messaging apps. And unfortunately, these spaces can be rife with misinformation.” The National Health Law Program recently filed a federal complaint arguing government agencies don’t provide enough language services for COVID-19 testing, vaccines and treatment. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

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