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AM News Brief: Schools move online, more electric vehicle charging stations & Utah House Majority’s legislative goals

An electric car sits at a row of charging stations.
Brian Albers
/
KUER
Rocky Mountain Power is aiming to more than double the number of ultra-fast electric vehicle charging stations in the state. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Jan. 13, 2022

Northern Utah

COVID forces emergency at-home school days

COVID surges in two Utah school districts have forced school officials to call emergency at-home learning days. Alpine and Canyons school districts will move online temporarily to minimize new infections and because significant student and staff absences have created mounting problems. The Canyons superintendent said on one day 17% of full-time employees were absent, leading to issues like hours-long bus route delays. Officials said that despite strict health measures like mask-wearing, testing and increased cleaning, cases are reaching new highs. Canyons School District will also implement a “Test to Stay” program because they’ve reached the case threshold under state law. — Leah Treidler

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Indefinite Pause on new homeless shelters voted down

The Salt Lake City Planning Commission voted against a proposal Wednesday that would block new permanent homeless shelters indefinitely. The commission recommended keeping a deadline on the current moratorium on new shelters, which expires in April. The city argues it’s not meant to be a permanent prohibition, but putting a hold on shelter requests allows for time to update city code to minimize the impacts of homeless resources. They also want to clarify the difference between permanent and temporary facilities. The commission, however, only makes recommendations to the city council. The council will likely take up the issue in February. Read the full story.Emily Means

State

Marking air pollution as a cause of death on death certificates

A Utah lawmaker introduced a new bill Wednesday that would allow health care professionals to state on a person's death certificate that air pollution partially led to that individual's death. Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, announced House Bill 109 Wednesday as another winter inversion settled in over Salt Lake City. The bill follows a summer of bad air — including a day when the city had the worst air quality in the world. According to U Health, air quality can cause major health issues like respiratory diseases and infections, and a Brigham Young University study showed that air pollution shortens Utahns’ life expectancy by two years on average. The study also found that state-level actions like increasing the efficiency of vehicles and investing in renewable energy could both reduce air pollution and improve the state’s economy. — Leah Treidler

New plan to double electric vehicle charging stations in the state

According to a press release Wednesday, Rocky Mountain Power is aiming to more than double the number of ultra-fast electric vehicle charging stations in the state. In the release, Breathe Utah’s executive director said vehicles are the biggest source of pollution in Utah, so it’s crucial for the state to expand infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles. She added, “Let's not let infrastructure be the thing that ‘kills’ the electric car." Officials at Rocky Mountain Power said they hope the added charging stations will make electric cars more accessible, which would push more Utahns to buy them. — Leah Treidler

Utah House Majority Caucus outlines goals for the upcoming general session

According to a release Wednesday, the Utah House Majority Caucus will focus on conserving water and making life affordable for Utahns in the upcoming general session. The caucus will also push for innovation in education and “promote sustainable growth, rather than rapid expansion.” The 45-day session will kick off on Jan. 18 and last through Mar. 4. — Leah Treidler

Region/Nation

Racist incidents pile up in the Mountain West

There are ongoing issues with racism in the Mountain West, and this week is no different. On Tuesday, the University of Utah’s Black Cultural Center had a bomb threat. It came after a wave of threats at other historically Black colleges. There was also a racist invitation to a school dance in Idaho. It copied others before it, saying, “If I was Black, I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white, so I’m picking you.” School administrators at both institutions condemned these actions, and a prominent civil rights group said racist acts, both large and small, need to be addressed. These actions come after parts of the region have seen more white supremacist and antisemitic flyers spread around neighborhoods. — Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

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