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PM News Brief: Federal vaccine mandate, desert tortoise removal & high transmission counties

Photo of a desert tortoise at Joshua Tree National Park.
nps.gov
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Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding people to not remove desert tortoises from the wild. That story and more in Thursday evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, Nov. 4, 2021

State

Fighting President Biden’s vaccine mandate  

Utah’s elected officials continue to voice their displeasure with President Joe Biden’s Covid vaccine mandate. Biden announced Thursday companies with over 100 employees have until Jan. 4 to make sure their workers are fully vaccinated. People who refuse the vaccine must be tested weekly. Utah’s attorney general, auditor, house speaker and senate president issued a joint statement saying the mandate is a “blatant attempt to exceed well-established limitations on federal authority.” Gov. Spencer Cox and the lieutenant governor responded by saying the mandate is a serious mistake. They said they are committed to fighting it through every possible avenue. — Ross Terrell

Most of Utah remains in high transmission level for Covid

Almost every county in Utah is still in the high transmission level for COVID-19. Daggett and Wayne are the only two in the low level. Health officials reported nearly 2,300 new cases Thursday. Hospitalizations and the state’s positivity rate have each increased compared to a week ago, but the state’s seven day average of new cases is down. Fourteen more people have died from the virus. Half of them were between the ages of 45 and 64. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Illegal desert tortoise removal 

Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources is reminding people to not remove desert tortoises from the wild. There's been an increase of illegal activities surrounding the reptiles. Wildlife officials said they’ve investigated nine incidents already this year. Most of those have occurred in Washington County. The majority of tortoises in Utah live in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. Officials are also reminding folks it’s illegal to bring the animals into Utah without the proper certification. Tortoises were placed on the endangered species list in the 1990s. They're protected under state and federal law. — Martha Harris 

Northern Utah

Utah State Hospital dealing with major staffing shortages

Utah State Hospital is located in Provo and works with mentally ill patients. They've always dealt with staff shortages, but now with the pandemic and burn out as a result, it’s down 20% of its staff. That’s according to Dallas Earnshaw — the hospital’s superintendent. Earnshaw said retention and recruitment has been an issue, but as more people raise their wages, it’s hard to compete. He said he’s working with state leaders to secure more funding to raise pay, but nothing has been finalized yet. — Ivana Martinez 

Region/Nation

Could COP 26 affect the Mountain West?

The UN Climate Conference, also called COP 26, is underway in Glasgow, Scotland. The global discussion around climate change may affect Mountain West energy sources and trade in the long term. But in the short-term, the region likely won’t be affected by the conference. Instead, we’ll likely see more effects from agreements, announcements and new partnerships outside the conference doors, like the Biden administration’s announcement about new methane regulations. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau 

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