PM News Brief: Utah A COVID Redzone, 727 New Cases & Amazon Hiring 1,500 Workers | KUER 90.1

PM News Brief: Utah A COVID Redzone, 727 New Cases & Amazon Hiring 1,500 Workers

Jul 17, 2020

Friday evening, July 17, 2020

STATE

Utah Considered A COVID “Redzone”

Utah is one of 18 states identified by a report for the White House Coronavirus Task Force as a coronavirus "red zone." The document, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity and dated July 14, said the trend in Utah in recent days is "very concerning." It recommends that the state roll back some pieces of its reopening in hot spot counties: Salt Lake, Washington, Tooele, Millard and San Juan. The governor’s office said in a statement that the recommendations are in line with actions state and local health departments are already pursuing. — Sonja Hutson

Utah Has Second Lowest Unemployment Rate In The Country

Utah saw another big return for jobs in June and led the country in job growth. The Utah Department of Workforce Services reported Friday that there were about 43,000 fewer jobs in June than there were the same time last year. But the state’s unemployment rate is the second lowest in the country at 5.1% and about half of the job losses during the lowest point of the pandemic have come back in May and June. While many industries are showing strong signs of recovery — such as retail, health care and real estate — others such as airline travel, car sales and movie production are still significantly impacted. — Jon Reed

727 New COVID Cases Announced

Utah’s department of health reported 727 new cases of COVID-19 Friday. And the state’s seven-day positivity rate for new tests remains around 10%. There are also currently 198 people hospitalized as a result of the disease, which is one of the metrics health officials use to determine loosening pandemic restrictions. Gov. Gary Herbert has stated he would like the state to get below 500 average daily cases by Aug. 1. For the past week, Utah is averaging about 599 cases a day. — Ross Terrell

Follow KUER’s coverage of the coronavirus in Utah.

SOUTHERN UTAH

Moab Businesses Push Back On BLM Lease Sale

Moab businesses and elected officials are calling on the Bureau of Land Management to cancel a controversial oil and gas lease sale in Utah this fall. The lease sale includes 113,000 acres of public land, which were nominated by a company called Prairie Hills LLC. Over 80,000 acres surround Moab. The leases could also be subject to less environmental scrutiny after President Trump rolled back the National Environmental Policy Act earlier this week. The law is used to require federal agencies to analyze all potential impacts of their actions. That means the BLM would not have to analyze potential greenhouse gas emissions for this sale, which it was required to do in the past. Read the full story. — Kate Groetzinger, Bluff

NORTHERN UTAH

UAPB Protesting For Civilian Review Council

The advocacy group Utah Against Police Brutality has planned to protest Saturday at 7 p.m. at the governor’s mansion in an effort to overturn state law and establish a police accountability council. Right now, Utah law prohibits cities from having a board or committee with certain powers over the police chief, like overruling a hiring or vetoing certain policies. But UAPB wants that overturned in order to create the Salt Lake Civilian Police Accountability Council. It would comprise seven elected members and have the authority to direct the chief to discipline an officer and hear all cases of police misconduct. — Ross Terrell

Draper DMV Office Set To Reopen Monday

The Division of Motor Vehicles office in Draper will reopen Monday. It closed July 13 after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Crews deep cleaned and sterilized the building, and employees have been cleared to go back to work. It was the second time a Utah DMV office closed due to a positive COVID case from one of its workers. Customers are encouraged to check if their services can be done online before coming in, and those paying with cash should bring exact change. — Caroline Ballard

Amazon Fulfillment Center Hiring 1,500 Full Time Workers

The new West Jordan Amazon fulfillment center facility is now hiring 1,500 full time employees. That’s nearly double the number of jobs the center projected it would create when it was announced last year. Previous reporting by KUER and Reveal showed that worker injury rates at Amazon warehouses are nearly double the industry average. In a release about the new jobs, Amazon said it’s recommitting to safety and will be enforcing temperature screening, distributing masks and social distancing. — Caroline Ballard

REGION/NATION

Department Of Interior Looking To Privatize More Park Services 

The Department of Interior is proposing a rule change that could open the door for more private companies to operate within national parks. The proposed change would make it easier for the Park Service to expand commercial services inside parks — think Wi-Fi towers or food trucks. Supporters said it’s a move to modernize the park experience and could lead to reduced costs. But opponents said it could lead to higher park fees and a lower overall experience. — Noah Glick, Mountain West New Bureau