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AM News Brief: Utah’s high COVID numbers, warm hunting & opposing Utah Lake development

high mountain hunting lori iverson usfws.jfif
Lori Iverson
/
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Warming temperatures mean people must hunt at higher elevations in more difficult terrain. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Dec. 30, 2021

State

Utah’s highest COVID count since January

With just a few days left in 2021, Utah is seeing a spike in new COVID-19 cases. Health officials reported 3,303 cases Wednesday. That’s the most in a single day since early January of this year. Health officials said in a statement the large number is likely due to the omicron variant and holiday gatherings. They urged people to wear a mask if attending a large indoor event and get the COVID vaccines. About 94% of Utah’s ICU beds are in use. And seven more people have died from the virus. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Improving mental health care quality with AI

Researchers and clinicians in Utah are helping pioneer the use of artificial intelligence in psychotherapy. Darin Carver with Weber Human Services said while the conversation around mental health care is often about the lack of access, treatment quality needs to become more of a focus. On average, only about half of mental health patients in Utah see their symptoms improve, according to data from the Utah Department of Human Services. His organization started using software from a company called Lyssn as part of a larger effort to improve care. It can transcribe and analyze recordings of therapy sessions, measuring things like time spent listening and how empathetic therapists are during treatment. Lyssn co-founder Zac Imel, a University of Utah counseling psychology professor, said the technology can scale quality evaluation in psychotherapy. Read the full story. — Jon Reed

Utah flags to be lowered for Sen. Harry Reid

Gov. Spencer Cox has ordered flags in Utah to be flown at half-staff when the late Nevada Sen. Harry Reid is interred on Saturday, Jan. 8. Reid served as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate for three decades. He was Senate Majority leader from 2007 to 2015. Reid attended Southern Utah University and eventually graduated from Utah State University. He was also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He died Tuesday of pancreatic cancer at the age of 82. — Ross Terrell

Northern Utah

Opposing Utah Lake development

More than 100 environmental scientists and experts have signed a letter opposing development on Utah Lake. The letter is in response to a proposed project that would build 20,000 acres of artificial islands on the lake’s surface. Environmentalists say they are concerned about the potential impacts to the fish and other ecosystems near the body of water. They also say the project puts “enormous economic and environmental risk on Utahns.” The letter says the state Legislature has already allocated $10 million in loan guarantees for the project. Ross Terrell

Mask mandate at Vail’s Utah property

Park City Mountain Resort has issued a mask mandate for indoor areas including gondolas, restrooms and buses. Their website says masks are not required in lift lines or on chairlifts. Owner Vail Resorts has instituted the indoor mask mandate at all its resorts in North America. — Pamela McCall

Region/Nation

Higher temperatures impact hunting

Hunters in the Mountain West usually count on cold temperatures and snow to drive big game out of the higher elevations, but most of the region has seen very little of those ideal conditions this fall and winter. That means people must hunt at higher elevations in more difficult terrain and prepare mentally and physically for longer hunts. The dry and warmer conditions could also mean animals may come into the spring in poor condition due to a lack of hearty vegetation. — Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

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