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PM News Brief: New COVID guidance for schools, two teens killed & more water investments

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Utah health officials reported more than 3,000 COVID cases Thursday among school-aged children. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Thursday evening, Jan. 13, 2022

State

Utah environmental groups form new 30x30 coalition 

Environmental groups across Utah have formed a new coalition. They’re working toward President Joe Biden’s climate goal to conserve 30 percent of public land and water by 2030. The Utah 30x30 coalition estimates 12% of the state’s lands are already protected. They hope to meet federal goals in the next eight years and Olivia Juarez with Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance said that’s one way Utah can address the climate crisis. Mary O’Brien is with Project Eleven Hundred, a group that focuses on protecting native bees. She said how the Utah Legislature is approaching the crisis of the Great Salt Lake is an example of how they can address other environmental issues. Read the full story. — Lexi Peery

Utah water plan calls for more infrastructure investments

Gov. Spencer Cox released the first chapter of Utah’s coordinated water action plan Thursday. It addresses the need to invest in infrastructure — like converting agricultural land and increasing storage capacity for aquifers and reservoirs. In a statement, Cox said the state has benefited from storage decisions over the years and “now it’s our turn to ensure water security for future generations and this plan will do this.” The report also states “conversation must be prerequisite” to all projects. The state also outlined five action items that include analyzing water needs at a local level and streamlining infrastructure projects. — Lexi Peery

Nearly 13,000 COVID cases and new guidance for schools 

Utah health officials reported nearly 13,000 new COVID cases Thursday. A little more than 3,000 of those were school-aged children. Gov. Spencer Cox and other elected officials announced changes Thursday to help schools deal with the recent surge. Officials have suspended the state’s test to stay program. They said in a letter the rapid spread of omicron has made it hard to keep up and has put a strain on Utah’s testing capacity. The state has also relaxed rules for schools going to remote learning. Now, if cases meet a certain level, schools can decide to go remote over the next two weeks, but they must have a plan in place to safely return to in-person learning. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Northern Utah

Salt Lake County mayor frustrated and heartbroken by teen shooting

Two teenagers are dead and a third is critically injured after a shooting on a sidewalk in suburban Salt Lake City. Police say the shooting in West Valley City stemmed from a dispute between two groups of students associated with different high schools. More than one person was taken into custody. Hunter High School and three other schools were placed under shelter-in-place protocols because of the shooting. Those were later lifted. Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson said on Twitter she was “deeply saddened” to hear about the incident. She said “we must never accept the shooting of children as a norm.” — Associated Press & Ross Terrell

Region/Nation

Section 8 program in Nevada not keeping up with need 

Housing costs are rising fast in our region and a federal program that helps low-income renters is falling short. The Nevada Rural Housing Authority will start accepting applications for Housing Choice Vouchers next week. Due to high demand, qualified applicants will be put on a waitlist and it could be a year or more before they get help. The Section 8 program sends money to landlords every month to cover part of their tenant’s rent. But the number of vouchers each state receives hasn’t changed in decades. So Nevada has around 3 million residents, but gets fewer than 20,000 vouchers. — Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

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