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AM News Brief: Population projections, poverty rates & COVID hitting record highs

A crowd in winter wear walks down the street.
Radiowest / KUER
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Utah’s population could increase by over two million by 2060. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Thursday morning, Jan. 20, 2022

State

Tackling large class sizes and staff shortages in schools

Utah’s public schools are getting close to a $250 million bump from last year’s budget, at least. Additional requests from groups like the Utah State Board of Education and governor’s office could add hundreds of millions more. But schools are looking at big challenges with staffing shortages and record inflation, so even though this seems to be a good budget year, costs are stacking up. While many budget requests could ease staffing issues by helping increase salaries and give teachers more paid time for preparation, Sen. Kathleen Riebe, D-Cottonwood Heights, said little is being done to address the biggest issues in schools — large class sizes. She said hiring more teachers would require more money than is politically feasible. But it’s something lawmakers need to address. Read the full story.Jon Reed

COVID is surging — but case rates could be nearing a peak

COVID cases are at an all-time high in Utah. University of Utah hospitals are at capacity — and around 80% of those hospitalized are unvaccinated. But some health officials are also offering a glimmer of hope. Erin Clouse, the strategic engagement manager at University of Utah Health, spoke at a press conference Wednesday. She said cases in other places started coming down around 20 days after the initial increase — and cases in Utah have been rising for about 20 days. But Clouse added that hospitalizations remain high and will continue to increase over the next couple of weeks. Health officials at the University of Utah advised people to remain cautious, and get vaccinated and boosted. — Leah Treidler

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Jobs and population in Utah are expected to surge unevenly

Utah’s population could increase by over two million by 2060 according to projections from new data released by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute Wednesday. Mallory Bateman, the institute’s director of demographic research, said not only will the population grow from 3.3 million to 5.5 million, it will get older too. The institute’s data also shows the fertility rate in Utah is decreasing and households are getting smaller. On the employment front, the state’s expected to gain 1.3 million jobs by 2060 — but that growth won’t be spread evenly throughout the state. Two-thirds of that increase will happen in Salt Lake and Utah counties — with little growth or decline everywhere else — especially in Emery County where two power plants are closing. The institute projects the construction sector will lead job growth, followed by the tech sector. — Pamela McCall & Leah Treidler

Poverty rates split along racial and gender lines

The poverty rate in Utah has been declining, but the difference between men and women remains stark — especially along racial lines. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the Utah Women and Leadership Project. According to the report, 9.6% of Utah women live in poverty compared to 8.2% of men. The study says one major reason is the wage gap. Utah men consistently earn more than women, even when women have achieved a higher level of education. But racial differences are much more pronounced — nearly 37% of Black women in Utah live in poverty compared to 8.5% of white women. — Leah Treidler

Northern Utah

UTA looks ahead to hydrogen cell electric buses

The Utah Transit Authority has joined the Hydrogen Fuel Cell Bus Council. The transit authority said the newly formed national council plans to expand the development and deployment of hydrogen cell electric buses. In a news release, UTA said the council will also provide education about the benefits of such technology. Additionally, the council will work with transit agencies like UTA and suppliers to advance the technology's applications to public transit. — Pamela McCall

Clinic for unsheltered people receives major donation

Intermountain Healthcare is donating $285,000 to the Fourth Street Clinic. The clinic provides medical services to Utah's unsheltered community — including helping people quarantining after being exposed to COVID-19. It also provides regular medical check-ins to monitor COVID symptoms. The donated money is earmarked for operational costs, including rent for the facility, medical supplies and food. — Leah Treidler

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