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AM News Brief: Cleaning up uranium mines, COVID testing mistakes & skier rescue

Tracks run into the entrance of an abandoned mine cut into red rock.
Matt Affolter
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Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10814931
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management is starting a project to clean up the physical hazards of abandoned uranium mines. That story and more in this morning's news brief.

Monday morning, Jan. 31, 2022

State

Contraception for inmates could become permanent

Utah Rep. Jen Dailey-Provost, D-Salt Lake City, wants to make a program providing contraceptives to inmates permanent. Contraceptive drugs can treat a number of medical conditions, including endometriosis, migraines and polycystic ovary syndrome. H.B. 77 passed its first committee hearing Friday and now heads to the full House. The Legislature approved the program in 2021, but only for a year. Legislative staff originally estimated it would cost about $88,500 per year. But it turns out, the program only costs the state about half of that. Read the full story. — Sonja Hutson

Residents rally for evidence-based responses to the pandemic

Community members and activists gathered at the Utah State Capitol Saturday — advocating for “evidence-based and compassionate” responses to the coronavirus pandemic. The rally was held after lawmakers recently voted to overturn local mask mandates. Republican legislators who supported the measure said it wasn’t the role of government to enforce personal health decisions. Chris Phillips, president of the Concerned Coalition which hosted the event, said, “COVID doesn’t care about the laws that we craft.” Phillips also said the Legislature has tied the hands of public health experts and school districts in responding to the virus — and that authority needs to be restored. — Emily Means

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

Northern Utah

Thousands may have received false COVID results

Around 174,000 people may have received incorrect COVID results. The Salt Lake Tribune reported an Orem lab used by TestUtah didn’t follow protocol when testing for the virus but failed to tell patients the results they received may have been inaccurate. Public officials knew about the hospital’s poor practices as early as May 2020, but the lab didn’t suspend testing until August that year. Dr. Robyn Atkinson-Dunn, former director of the Utah Public Health Laboratory, was demoted after expressing concerns about the lab. She said, “The ethical thing is to let people know the potential they were given bad health information.” — Andrew Becker, The Salt Lake Tribune

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aims to inform readers across the state.

Skier airlifted from a remote area of Wasatch Mountains

A hypothermic skier was hoisted out of a popular couloir called “The Needle” in Little Cottonwood Canyon Saturday. The Needle is a steep, narrow gully in a remote location in the Central Wasatch Mountains. The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Search and Rescue team sent a helicopter to extract the skier after they cliffed out on the mountain. ‘Cliffing out’ is when a person is stuck in an area they can't climb up or down from. The helicopter successfully lifted the skier, and the team brought them to the Snowbird parking lot to assess their health. Officials recommend backcountry skiers always bring essential gear — including enough to spend the night in the mountains if needed. — Leah Treidler

Region/Nation

New project to clean up dangerous uranium mines on the Navajo Nation

In the last century, companies dug millions of tons of uranium ore from the Navajo Nation. That left the region dotted with potentially dangerous abandoned mines — many close to residences or recreation areas. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management is starting a project to clean up the physical hazards, including open entrances and vertical shafts. KZMU in Moab reports the agency is working with the Navajo Nation to create a plan and hopes to have teams in the field this fall. — Justin Higginbottom, KZMU

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