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AM News Brief: Quarantine guidelines update, COVID testing traffic jams & omicron on the Navajo Nation

010422 udoh covid_testing.jpg
Utah Department of Health
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Omicron is surging across the state and so is the number of people looking for a COVID test. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Tuesday morning, Jan. 4, 2022

State

Utah lawmakers will consider bill to ban vaccine mandates

A bill set to be considered by the Utah Legislature in the upcoming General Session would ban many vaccine mandates in the state. The legislation prevents all governmental entities from requiring people to be vaccinated to get a service — like an education or licenses. It also bars organizations from mandating vaccines for employment. Public colleges and universities, assisted living facilities and child care businesses would be allowed to require them. Healthcare facilities could ask for an employee’s vaccination status if they use it to make reasonable accommodations to that person’s work in order to limit the spread of disease. But employees couldn’t be forced to provide that information. Read the full story.Sonja Hutson

Governor selects new legislative director

Gov. Spencer Cox announced a new legislative director Monday. Neil Abercrombie will join Cox’s staff as the governor’s senior advisor of legislative affairs and policy. He’ll manage daily interactions with the Legislature and push to advance the administration’s priorities. Abercrombie has worked as the vice president of government relations for Utah State University since 2016. He’ll fill the position that Karen Peterson left in December after she was selected by House Republicans in a special election to represent House District 13. Former representative Paul Ray had vacated the seat earlier that month. Abercrombie will start his new role on Jan. 12. — Leah Treidler

Utah Department of Health shortens COVID quarantine requirement

Utahns can now return to daily life more quickly after a positive COVID test based on the Utah Department of Health’s updated quarantine guidelines. Now, officials say people should stay home for at least five days following a positive test. After that, if they haven’t had a fever for 24 hours without medicine and don’t have other symptoms, they can return to school or work. Before the change, the requirement was 10 days. The update is in line with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The change comes as the omicron variant sweeps across the state. The UDOH reported 3,123 new cases of COVID on Sunday. — Leah Treidler

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Surge in COVID testing creates testing site traffic jams

Omicron is surging across the state and so is the number of people looking for a COVID test. According to the most recent data from the Utah Department of Health, 30,112 tests were conducted on Dec. 30 — a 50% increase from just two weeks before. Officials said this is the highest testing demand they’ve seen in the state. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the higher demand has led to testing site traffic jams. Locals report hours-long waits in the post-holiday rush and many stood in lines that wrapped around the block. The UDOH said they’re aware of the issue and “making adjustments to staffing, and providing ‘at home’ testing options when possible.” — Kaitlyn Bancroft, The Salt Lake Tribune

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.

Region/Nation

First case of the omicron variant confirmed on the Navajo Nation

The Navajo Department of Health confirmed the first detected case of the omicron variant Monday based on a sample collected in mid-December. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said, “This is not a time to panic, but we must step up our efforts to take the necessary precautions to limit the spread of this new variant.” He added the best defense is vaccines and booster shots. On Monday, the NDOH reported 10 new cases and no new deaths. Nearly 1,600 people on the Navajo Nation have died from the virus. — Leah Treidler

Biden uses funds to support independent meat processors

The Biden administration is taking $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan to help small and independent meat processors. There were supply chain disruptions during the pandemic that cost both ranchers and consumers. But the few major processing companies that own a majority of the market still profited. This funding would increase loans, grants and support for smaller operations to modernize or open up shop. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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