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AM News Brief: Record COVID numbers, storm warning & illegal hunting

The back of a truck calls for the public to "Turn in a poacher." The UTiP hotline number is 1-800-662-3337.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reported 1,153 wild animals were illegally killed in Utah in 2021. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Jan. 6, 2022

State

Utah hits record number of new COVID cases

Utah reported a record 7,247 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday as the highly contagious omicron variant sweeps through the state. That shattered the previous high of daily cases — 4,706 in December 2020. Public health officials are urging people to get vaccinated, boosted, wear masks in public and consider postponing gatherings. But the so-called “endgame” law passed last year limits officials' ability to institute public health restrictions. Utah no longer meets the thresholds in the law that rolled back those restrictions, but there’s no mechanism to give officials that option again. State Epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen said the Utah Department of Health isn’t making a recommendation on whether that law should be changed now. — Sonja Hutson

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Utah’s attorney general pushes to improve competition in the meat processing market

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is urging the U.S. government to strengthen competition in the meat processing industry. In a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Reyes and 15 other attorneys general expressed major concerns about increasing consolidation in the industry. They said large corporations are pushing smaller farms out of the livestock industry, pointing out the four largest beef packers accounted for 85% of the market as of 2018. In 1977, they controlled only 25%. The attorney general noted decreasing competition also hurts consumers by allowing large corporations to charge higher prices. The letter offered solutions like investing in smaller enterprises and updating regulations — changes Reyes said would directly help Utah’s farmers and consumers. — Leah Treidler

Over 1,000 wild animals illegally hunted in Utah in 2021

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reported 1,153 wild animals were illegally killed in Utah in 2021 — about a 7% increase since 2020. The value of the poached animals totaled around $610,000 and included 180 deer, 113 elk and 17 cougars. Division of Wildlife Resources Capt. Chad Bettridge said illegal hunting hurts wildlife enthusiasts and Utah residents, adding, “Poachers steal our ability to enjoy Utah's wildlife.” He also called upon residents to report any suspicious behavior related to wildlife to the DWR. — Leah Treidler

Northern Utah

Storm warning issued in parts of northern Utah

The National Weather Service in Salt Lake City has issued a winter storm warning for parts of Utah. Heavy snow is expected in the Wasatch Mountains South of I-80, Wasatch Mountains I-80 North, the Western Uinta Mountains, Bear Lake and Bear River Valley. Additional snow accumulations of 1 to 4 inches is expected with winds gusting as high as 50 mph. I-80 in northeastern Utah along with Sardine and Logan Summits will be especially prone to blowing and drifting snow. — Pamela McCall

Environmentalists concerned about Utah Lake restoration project

A proposed restoration project on Utah Lake has some environmental groups speaking out in opposition. The project aims to dredge the body of water and build man-made islands. Ben Abbott, an ecology professor at Brigham Young University, has been raising awareness about the impact the project could have on the lake’s ecosystem. Abbott said the project could disrupt Utah Lake’s biodiversity and set back the lake’s progress. Provo City officials passed a joint resolution Tuesday night after learning of the growing concerns about the project. George Handley, city council member, said they felt like they needed to be leaders on this issue and show their concern. Read the full story.Ivana Martinez

Salt Lake City police chief asks residents to help end gun violence

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown called upon residents to end gun violence in the city. At a press conference Wednesday he said, “Put down your guns. Let's start 2022 anew.” Weapons-related offenses have increased 33% over the past 28 days. However, citywide crime was down about 11% in that same period. But Brown said that many residents don’t feel crime is improving, adding “the fear of future crime is likely at an all-time high.” — Leah Treidler

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