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AM News Brief: Respirators required in Salt Lake County, new Diné education superintendent & BASE jumping accident

A helicopter flies across snowy red rock mesas.
Grand County Sheriff's Office
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Utah officials said a 55-year-old man died in a BASE jumping accident near Moab Saturday. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Monday morning, Jan. 10, 2022

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County residents must use high quality masks

Cloth masks no longer make the cut in Salt Lake County. Health officials issued a mask mandate Friday requiring residents to wear respirators, which are high quality masks like N95s and KN95s. Cloth face coverings are acceptable until residents can acquire the higher quality masks. The county is offering respirators to those who can’t afford them at senior centers and libraries, and the state is giving them to students at K-12 schools. Officials chose to require the higher quality masks because omicron is far more contagious than any previous variant. — Leah Treidler

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

The Salt Lake County Council chair won’t call a meeting on the mask mandate

In a press release Sunday, Salt Lake County Council Chair Laurie Stringham said she won’t call a special session on the new mask mandate. Stringham said she doesn’t expect everyone to adhere to the mandate, but it “isn’t worth a fight or angry exchange to try and enforce compliance on someone else.” She wrote that one of the major issues facing the county is political division over the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding, “The ability to plan, discuss and work together no longer exists.” She also wrote that the omicron outbreak is creating dire staffing shortages and miles-long lines for COVID testing. — Leah Treidler

Southern Utah

Iron County water project is under review despite objections from neighbors

Iron County is looking to pipe water from aquifers north of them to be used for its growing population — despite opposition from neighboring counties. It’s called the Pine Valley Water Supply Project, and it involves a series of wells and a 70-mile pipeline. The water it would take is in Beaver County, but Commission Chair Mark Whitney said Iron County’s move will impact the entire Great Basin region. The water legally belongs to Iron County — they secured the rights after a lengthy legal battle. Paul Monroe with the Central Iron County Water Conservancy District said what they’re doing isn’t unusual. The Pine Valley Project draft environmental impact statement was recently released, and it’s open for public comment until Feb. 22. Read the full story.Lexi Peery, St. George

BASE jumper dies in accident in Grand County

Utah officials said a 55-year-old man died in a BASE jumping accident near Moab Saturday. The Grand County Sheriff Darrel Mecham told KUTV 2News that the man had hiked to the jump point with a group of other BASE jumpers and crashed while attempting a 1,100-foot jump. Search and rescue crews found the man, and he was pronounced dead at the scene. It took several hours to retrieve his body using a helicopter. Grand County Search and Rescue officials said this was the first accident of the year. — Associated Press

Region/Nation

Navajo Nation selects new Diné education superintendent

The Navajo Nation chose their new Diné superintendent of schools Friday. Harold Begay is a former school bus driver and Vietnam war veteran who’s worked in education and advocated for indigenous students for over 40 years. Chair Daniel Tso said the council chose Begay because he’ll hold state education departments accountable for outdated policies. Tso said, “Sovereignty in the classroom is the first step to protecting our future as Navajo people.” Begay said some of his top priorities are to ensure school facilities are safe and students have reliable access to the internet. — Leah Treidler

Phoenix will pitch in to support critical reservoir

The city of Phoenix has outlined what it will contribute voluntarily to a regional plan to shore up a reservoir that delivers Colorado River water. City officials said they'll leave some water in Lake Mead, which straddles the Arizona-Nevada border, instead of storing it underground as planned. The plan will be implemented as Arizona, Nevada and Mexico are forced to face their first ever mandatory cuts from the river. The river's water levels have dropped dramatically due to ongoing drought conditions. — Pamela McCall

Some Mountain West secretary of state candidates doubt the 2020 election results

An NPR analysis found at least 15 Republican candidates running for secretary of state are skeptical of President Joe Biden’s 2020 win — despite there being no evidence of election fraud. Election deniers in the Mountain West region include candidate David Winney in Colorado. His campaign website falsely alleges there’s “overwhelming evidence” of a stolen election. In New Mexico, candidate Audrey Trujillo has tweeted about voter fraud. Meanwhile, in Nevada, candidate Jim Marchant has also issued cries of a stolen election. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

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