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AM News Brief: U president’s response to racist incident, COVID update & "middle housing" for Utah’s home crisis

A row of townhomes painted in blue, beige, maroon and tan.
Wikimedia Commons
According to a recent study released by the Utah Foundation, middle-sized, multi-family houses like townhomes could help solve Utah’s housing problem. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Wednesday morning, Jan. 12, 2022

Northern Utah

University of Utah president upset by another racist incident

University of Utah President Taylor Randall said he’s upset by yet another racist incident at the university. On Tuesday, a self-proclaimed neo-Nazi called in a bomb threat against the Black Cultural Center on campus. University officials said the caller does not seem to be a student, and at least eight historically Black colleges received similar threats last Tuesday. Police officers searched the building and found no bomb, but Randall said it took an emotional toll on the campus community. In a video released Tuesday, he said, “I think what is frustrating here is this is the third or fourth such statement that we have had to make, and it’s difficult to find the cowards that perpetrate these acts.” Randall’s statement follows a series of unrelated racist events at the university and a student protest last week to demand more urgency in responses by school officials. — Leah Treidler

Republican-led Salt Lake County Council will vote on the mask mandate

After more than two hours of public comment, the Salt Lake County Council — where Republicans hold a majority — moved to revisit a new public health order as early as Wednesday or Thursday. The mask mandate was issued Jan. 7 in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the highly transmissible omicron variant. Some council members tried to overturn it during their meeting Tuesday, but they didn’t have enough votes. There were additional administrative hurdles because Council Chair Laurie Stringham had declined to put it on the agenda. The Council will likely reconvene before the end of the week to vote on the mandate. If they don’t overturn it, the order will expire on Feb. 7. Read the full story.Emily Means

State

COVID cases continue to surge

The number of COVID cases in Utah is escalating — shattering previous records. According to the Utah Department of Health, the state reached 10,104 cases on Monday alone — 10 times the daily rate just one month before. Tuesday, 579 people remained in the hospital for COVID-19, and the state reported that 15 more people have died. Testing demand is also reaching new highs, and health departments are struggling to keep up, leading to hours-long waits at sites across the state. Nearly all of Utah remains at a very high rate of transmission. — Leah Treidler

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

“Middle housing” could solve Utah’s housing crisis

According to a recent study released by the Utah Foundation, middle-sized, multi-family houses like townhomes could help solve Utah’s housing problem. The foundation’s president said it’s critical to widen avenues to entry-level ownership, but the costs of houses and rents are skyrocketing in the state. The report shows that “middle housing” could be the answer. The median price of a townhome is about 29% lower than the cost of a single-family home. So the foundation said increasing this kind of housing could provide better economic opportunities and help solve Utah’s housing gap. — Leah Treidler

Region/Nation

Federal officials met about the West’s hydropower crisis

Federal officials and lawmakers sounded the alarm about what a deepening drought could mean for Western electricity during a Senate Energy committee meeting Tuesday. Over the next five years, hydropower at Hoover Dam at Lake Mead is likely to decline up to 2.5% from year to year, but Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell faces greater challenges. Recent forecasts show Lake Powell could drop to just 35 feet above what’s needed to generate power by February. The dams provide power to millions in the West, and the Bureau of Reclamation is adjusting monthly releases of water. It’s also studying how the dams will operate with low water. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Navajo Nation declares trafficking awareness month

The Navajo Nation hopes to identify and prevent human trafficking within the Navajo Nation and beyond. It declared January “Navajo Nation Human Trafficking Prevention and Awareness Month.” In a release, the tribal officials said human trafficking represents a threat to peace and security for all societies — including the Navajo Nation. President Jonathan Nez said, “Human trafficking is a serious issue worldwide and for Indigenous peoples.” He added that it's important to learn more about human trafficking and to start educating children about it. — Pamela McCall

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