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AM News Brief: Holiday highway planning, Salt Lake County COVID & Herbert joins Nation’s Report Card board

southbound traffic I-15
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The Utah Department of Transportation is warning people to plan ahead for Thanksgiving traffic, especially on Wednesday and Sunday. This story and more in Tuesday morning's news brief.

Tuesday morning, Nov. 23, 2021

State

Proposed state agency to address Native American issues

Utah could have a new agency dedicated to American Indian-Alaska Native affairs, after a legislative committee gave the proposal the green light Monday. The office would be in the state’s Department of Health and Human Services and would focus on healthcare and social programs for Native Americans. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, said it merges and expands existing efforts. The office would also be required to consult with tribes when the Department of Health and Human Services is considering a decision that would impact a tribe’s sovereignty. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Expect highway delays Wednesday and Sunday

The Utah Department of Transportation is warning people to plan ahead for Thanksgiving traffic, especially on Wednesday and Sunday. UDOT said there will be 10 to 15 minute delays on southbound I-15 out of Salt Lake and Nephi and Northbound out of Davis County Wednesday afternoon. The longest delays on Sunday will be Northbound on I-15 through Saint George. High visitation is also expected at Utah’s National Parks and other outdoor recreation spots. Officials also cautioned people to wear their seatbelts. This week, the Utah Department of Public Safety reported that seat belt use in Utah is at a five-year low, and fatalities of people not wearing seat belts accounted for 45% of Utah’s vehicle roadway deaths over the same time period. — Elaine Clark

Gary Herbert appointed to board of the “Nation’s Report Card”

Former governor Gary Herbert is joining the board that oversees the Nation’s Report Card. The National Assessment of Educational Progress studies K-12 schools and issues report cards on how students are performing academically. U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona appointed Herbert to fill the seat set aside for a Republican governor. It’s a four year term, and Herbert has tapped his former education advisor Tami Pyfer to assist him. In the most recent report card, around 45% of Utah 4th graders were at or above proficient in math and science. Twenty percent were at or above proficient in writing. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County COVID Update

Salt Lake County has the 24th highest number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S since the start of the pandemic according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The area has now had more than 207,000 cases. Laine McCullough, epidemiologist with the county health department, suggested monoclonal antibody therapy for symptomatic patients because of the high case count. “That could really help decrease the severity of the illness and hopefully, keep our hospitals not as full,” he said. As of Monday, nearly 91% of all ICU beds are occupied statewide. Utah health officials also announced a three-day total of 3,829 new Covid cases. — Martha Harris

Region/Nation

Basque festival postponed

Boise's international Basque festival has been postponed until 2025 due to the pandemic. The festival is called Jaialdi, and it's typically held once every five years. It brings together Basque people from around the region and the world. Basque country is in an area of modern day Northern Spain and southern France, and residents of the region have immigrated to areas all around the Mountain West since the 19th century. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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