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AM News Brief: Budget surplus, ski resorts opening days & Friday’s lunar eclipse

lunar eclipse
NASA
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A near total eclipse of the moon will be visible over Utah early Friday morning. This story and more in Wednesday morning's news brief.

Wednesday morning, Nov. 17, 2021

State

Millions in state budget surplus

Utah lawmakers will have $614 million more to spend next year than anticipated. The governor’s office said that’s likely due to federal pandemic stimulus money and should be treated as an anomaly. In a statement, Gov. Spencer Cox and legislative leaders said the state’s economy is thriving and education funding is at an all time high. They attributed that to Utah’s economic policies and the state’s reopening efforts during the pandemic. Lawmakers said they’ll spend the money with an emphasis on fiscal responsibility. Some of it will likely go to infrastructure projects. — Sonja Hutson

At-home COVID-19 tests for rural areas

The Utah Department of Health announced Tuesday it’s adding a new option to its COVID-19 testing lineup: at-home swabs. The mail-based PCR tests are only available to Utahns living in rural areas and those unable to get to a community testing site. To qualify, an individual must have been exposed to COVID or have symptoms. It will take about four days to complete the process — from receiving supplies, taking a sample, sending it back and getting results. The tests are carried out by Fulgent Genetics, and people must register online to see if they qualify. Utah’s current test positivity rate is 11%. — Caroline Ballard

Lunar eclipse over Utah Friday morning

A near total eclipse of the moon will be visible over Utah early Friday morning. Utah’s NASA solar system ambassador Patrick Wiggins said observers will first notice a darkening on the edge of the moon a few minutes after midnight. That's when the moon enters the dark part of Earth's shadow known as the umbral shadow. By 2:02 a.m. Friday, the moon will be deep within the umbral shadow with about 97% of its surface covered and slowly exit it by 3:47 a.m. Wiggins notes that unlike solar eclipses that require special viewing equipment, lunar eclipses only require clear skies and the desire to look. — Pamela McCall

Northern Utah

Limiting water in new developments

The Salt Lake City Council is considering limiting the amount of water commercial and industrial developments can use. It’s part of the city’s strategy to address long-term water needs, especially with the ongoing drought. The cap would be set at 300,000 gallons per day. At a council work session Tuesday, planning staff said there have been inquiries from businesses that want to move to Salt Lake that could potentially use a lot of water, like bottling plants and data centers. Some city council members suggested pushing the restrictions even further. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Ski resorts delay opening

Solitude Mountain Resort is delaying the start of its ski season due to warm weather. The resort announced it will not be opening this Friday. Instead, it’s aiming for next Tuesday. Temperatures in Utah have been trending above average for this time of year, but the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City said there is a cold front expected to move through Northern Utah this week. Other ski resorts in Utah are also opening later this season — including Snowbasin, Park City, and Brian Head. — Martha Harris

Region/Nation

States react to mask and vaccine mandates

Colorado’s governor recently questioned the effectiveness of a mask order in the neighboring state of New Mexico as both states have seen recent spikes in the virus. Meanwhile, vaccine mandates remain controversial. Several legislatures in the region have held special sessions in an attempt to craft laws to oppose them. Tuesday, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill that carves out vaccine exemptions, allowing people to opt out of their employer’s vaccine requirements. Utah has also joined four other Republican states in a lawsuit against a federal vaccine mandate. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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