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AM News Brief: Gold drilling near Yellowstone, helping refugee farmers & telehealth expansion

Online doctor and telemedicine
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Telehealth has expanded dramatically over the last two years as people wanted to access medical professionals remotely. Now, federal and state governments are still grappling with what telehealth changes to keep in place. This story and more in Wednesday morning's news brief.

Wednesday morning, Nov. 24, 2021

State

U.S. sees improvement as second pandemic Thanksgiving arrives

The U.S. is in better shape approaching its second Thanksgiving of the pandemic, thanks to the vaccine. But some cold weather regions are reporting surges of COVID-19 cases. Those could get worse in the days ahead as families travel the country. Unvaccinated people in Utah are at a nearly 10 times greater risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who have gotten the vaccine. So far, 55% of all Utahns are fully vaccinated. State health officials reported more than 1,100 new cases Tuesday. School aged children account for around 230 of those. — Associated Press & Elaine Clark

Utah State receives grant to help refugee and Native American farmers 

Utah State University Extension has received a new grant to help refugee and Native American farmers. It comes from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The money will support the expansion of three incubator farms in Utah which give new farmers access to affordable parcels of land so they can learn the skills necessary to start their own business. It will also create two new farms. USU will also offer workshops and technical assistance as part of the grant program. — Elaine Clark 

Northern Utah

Utah farmers forced to raise prices 

Utah farmers have raised their prices on meat and produce because the cost to feed livestock has become more expensive. Julie Clifford has a small family farm in Provo. She sells eggs, meat and vegetables to local restaurants across the Wasatch Front. She said this year has been tough because they’ve had to scale back their production due to the pandemic, the labor shortage across Utah and the drought. Clifford typically grows her own hay but that wasn’t possible this year because there wasn’t enough water. As a result, her prices went up about 20-25%. Read the full story.Ivana Martinez 

Region/Nation

Keeping telehealth expanded 

Telehealth has expanded dramatically over the last two years as people wanted to access medical professionals remotely. Now, federal and state governments are still grappling with what telehealth changes to keep in place. A federal emergency declaration is set to expire at the end of this year, along with telehealth provisions like Medicare reimbursing for doctor visits over the phone. States are mixed on whether Medicaid should reimburse for audio visits, or not.  — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Exploratory gold drilling resumes near Yellowstone

A Canadian mining company can resume exploratory gold drilling in eastern Idaho. Excellon Idaho Gold is hoping to build an open-pit mine west of Yellowstone National Park. The U.S. Forest Service announced last week it had approved the project in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in Clark County. It had been stopped by federal court rulings in 2019 and 2020, over concerns of potential harm to Yellowstone cutthroat trout in a stream. The new drilling plan pulls water from a different stream officials say doesn't contain the fish. The company says the area contains about 825,000 ounces of gold. — Associated Press

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