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PM News Brief: Utah Senate overturns mask mandate, record COVID cases & more schools go remote

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The Utah Senate voted to overturn Salt Lake and Summit county mask mandates on Tuesday. That story and more in this evening's news brief.

Tuesday evening, Jan. 18, 2022


2022 General Legislature gets underway

The Utah Legislature convened Tuesday amid the largest surge of COVID-19 cases the state has seen and five days after Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said he tested positive for the virus. In his speech, Adams attacked government health mandates and pushed for COVID-19 treatments, which the Utah Department of Health has said are in short supply. Over in the House of Representatives, Speaker Brad Wilson didn’t wade into COVID-19 policy debates as directly and aggressively as Adams did. Wilson did speak generally, however, about how the state should approach the role of government. “The Utah Way is not … government overreach,” he said. “It is not a nanny state, and it surely is not high taxes or burdensome regulation that saps the energy of our industrious people.” Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

State reports another record-breaking COVID day

Utah reported nearly 40,000 new COVID 19 cases Tuesday — a four-day total that takes into account the long weekend. But even so, Friday’s number alone was a record breaking 13,551. More than a fifth of all the reported new cases were among school-aged children. The state also reported another 28 deaths due to the virus. Among them was a Salt Lake County man between the ages of 25 and 44. — Elaine Clark

Northern Utah

Utah Senate votes against county mask mandates

The Utah Senate voted Tuesday to overturn mask mandates in Salt Lake and Summit counties. S.J.R. 3 passed along party lines, though it still needs to be approved by the House. The resolution’s Republican sponsor, Sen. Dan McCay, is from Salt Lake County. He said it’s not the government’s role to make health-related decisions for people and that his constituents are upset about the mandate. Democrats said the Legislature should respect local control and the state needs this tool to deal with the massive surge of COVID-19. The Legislature passed a law last year that allows them to overturn local executive orders like mask requirements. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Davis County schools going remote

  • Bountiful High
  • Clearfield High
  • Davis High
  • Farmington High
  • Northridge High
  • Syracuse High
  • Centennial Junior High
  • Centerville Junior High
  • Fairfield Junior High
  • Farmington Junior High
  • Kaysville Junior High
  • Legacy Junior High
  • Millcreek Junior High
  • Mueller Park Junior High
  • North Davis Junior High
  • Shoreline Junior High
  • South Davis Junior High
  • Syracuse Junior High
  • West Point Junior High

Many Davis schools go remote

Nineteen schools in the Davis County district are going online starting tomorrow. Six high schools and 13 junior highs have had enough COVID cases to reach the state’s “test to stay” threshold. Under new guidance from the state, that means they are allowed to pivot to remote learning. The Davis County School District said those schools will stay remote through Friday. They should be back in person Monday, Jan. 24. — Elaine Clark

Child pornography guilty plea 

A former Salt Lake City school board member has pleaded guilty in federal court to felony child pornography charges. Joél-Léhi Organista was elected to the school board in November 2020. He resigned after he was arrested in June 2021. In his plea, he admitted to downloading images of minors to a Dropbox and soliciting kids to perform sex acts over Snapchat. Organista will be sentenced this May. Prosecutors are recommending 15 years in prison. — Caroline Ballard


Mayors and homelessness

Nearly a third of Western mayors say they don't have any goals in place to reduce homelessness, and only 4% percent say they have “a lot” of control in tackling the issue. That’s according to a new nationwide survey from Boston University. Many mayors also say police have at least some influence over their homelessness policies. Survey co-author Katherine Levine Einstein said that can be a problem, because it means those policies can often devolve into punitive actions. — Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

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