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PM News Brief: University of Utah Rhodes Scholar, Omicron update & drilling on federal lands

Metal tower surrounded by heavy-duty equipment sticks up from the ground.
Eric Larson (FORGE Utah) via U.S. Department of Energy
A new report from the Biden administration recommends raising the costs of oil and gas drilling on federal lands. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Monday evening, Nov. 29, 2021


Utah post-Thanksgiving Covid Update 

Utah health officials reported nearly 2,500 new cases of Covid-19 Monday. That’s a three-day total dating back to Friday. But about 8,000 fewer people got tested since Thanksgiving compared to past weekends. Officials said more than 520 people are hospitalized for the virus and state data show about 91% of ICU beds in the state are occupied. Twenty-one more people have died from it. Three of them were younger than 45, and everyone else was older than 64. — Ross Terrell

When could the new Omicron variant show up in Utah?

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Sankar Swaminathan with University of Utah Health said the new Omicron Covid-19 variant could soon start circulating in Utah. During a press conference Monday, he said health officials don't yet know the effectiveness of vaccines against this new strain. He said laboratory data on vaccine efficacy should be released within the next couple of weeks. However, he said, it could take a few months to get data on how the variant actually spreads throughout communities with high vaccination rates. "I think the idea that our current protection would become immediately invalid is extremely unlikely," he said. Still, he encouraged people to get vaccinated if they haven’t already and to continue to wear masks in crowded settings. — Martha Harris

Northern Utah

Park City ski patrollers push for higher hourly wage

Earlier this year some ski resorts increased their wages to $15 an hour to help with labor shortages, but ski patrollers in Park City are saying it's not enough. Now, they are asking for a higher starting wage. Patrick Murphy, business manager for Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association, a union that advocates for workers rights, said that isn’t a “living wage” for their skill set or for the housing market. Murphy said most of the patrollers have to commute into the city, and that’s affecting employee retention rates. A representative for Park City Mountain Resort said in a statement to KUER they feel like they are close to coming to an agreement with the union. Read the full story. — Ivana Martinez 

University of Utah’s Sabah Sial named Rhodes Scholar

The University of Utah has its first Rhodes Scholar in 20 years. The U announced Sabah Sial has been named one of 32 people selected for the prestigious scholarship. Sial is from Sandy and is a senior majoring in finance. In a press release, she said she plans to study the intersection of finance, criminology and criminal justice. Sial said one of her goals is to make finance “more accessible for individuals, regardless of their socioeconomic or racial background.” She will pursue two master’s degrees during her time at Oxford. — Ross Terrell


Biden administration seeks to raise costs of oil and gas drilling on federal lands

A new report from the Biden administration recommends raising the costs of oil and gas drilling on federal lands. It said boosting royalty rates and leasing fees would bring in more revenues and decrease speculation, but a prominent industry group has voiced opposition to the rate hikes. — Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

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