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PM News Brief: Ute Tribe lawsuit, Grand County school nurses & COVID conscious Christmas

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Rocio Hernandez
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KUER
Salt Lake City officials and service providers are asking the community to step up and help staff homeless shelters this winter. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, Dec. 23, 2021

Northern Utah

Salt Lake City looking for enough staffers to provide homeless services

Salt Lake City officials and service providers are asking the community to step up and help staff homeless shelters this winter. There are more than 100 vacant positions among organizations who serve homeless people. Nearly a third are for a winter overflow shelter in Salt Lake City. Mayor Erin Mendenhall said it can’t fully open until there are enough people to staff it. Michelle Flynn, the Road Home’s executive director, said social services are struggling to hire just like any other industry right now. Flynn said the shelter will open as early as possible in January. Read the full story. — Emily Means

Ute Tribe to continue with trespass count in federal lawsuit

A federal judge has ruled the Ute Indian Tribe can continue with its claim to more than 1.5 million acres of land on the Uncompahgre Reservation in Eastern Utah. That land is currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Tribal members do not benefit from it. The tribe sued the United States in 2018 on five counts. It said the government violated the 1880 Act that established the reservation. While most parts of the case have been thrown out, the judge ruled the trespass count can move forward. The U.S. sought to have the case dismissed on a technicality. It argued too much time has passed for it to be forced to comply with the act now. A Ute Uncompahgre Band Representative said the court order allowing the claim to proceed is long overdue. — Ross Terrell

Southern Utah

Grand County severely lacking in nurse to student ratio

Utah ranks near the bottom for school nurse to student ratios. In 2019, the Utah Department of Health reported nearly 4,000students to every nurse. Mary Frothingham is the only nurse for all of Utah’s Grand County School district — which has about 1,500 kids. The federal recommendation is one nurse for every 750 students. But Frothingham told KZMU in Moab that social factors like high rates of poverty and uninsured children should also be taken into account. She said the district really needs more than just one other nurse to join her. — Justin Higginbottom, KZMU, Moab

State

Christmas COVID update. Here’s your reminder to stay safe during the holiday

Heading into Christmas weekend, Utah has seen back-to-back days of more than 1,200 new COVID-19 cases. Health officials reported another 1,289 Thursday. Still, the state’s positivity rate continues to drop. It’s now 7.8% down from 9.2% a week ago. Hospitalizations and the average number of cases per day have also fallen compared to a week ago. Officials reported five more deaths Thursday. One person was younger than 45. — Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Utah and Colorado River basin states seeing snowpack starting to pick up

After an uneasy early season, snowpack numbers in many parts of the Colorado River basin are starting to tick up. A dry start to the season made for more than just sparse conditions on ski mountains. The snow that falls high in the Rockies also turns into the water supply for millions across the Southwest, and it’s starting to get closer to normal. After a particularly dry few months for Colorado, the state’s mountains are crawling up to about 75% of average snow. Utah and Wyoming are also seeing some minor increases, with most of those states seeing around 60 or 70% of average. Farther south, things are far drier, where Arizona and New Mexico are seeing many patches with less than a third of average snowpack. — Alex Hager, KUNC

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