The Mountain West News Bureau

Matt Frank, Digital Editor, Missoula MT, Rae Bichell, Reporter Greeley CO, Nate Hegyi Reporter Salt Lake City UT, Kate Concannon Managing Editor, Seattle, WA Noah Glick Reporter, Reno, NV Ali Budner, Reporter, Colorado Springs CO, Maggie Mullen Reporter, Laramie WY and Amanda Peacher Reporter, Boise ID
Credit CREDIT MATT BLOOM, KUNC

  

In addition to a full news department serving just Wyoming, Wyoming Public Media is a founding partner in the Mountain West News Bureau, a partnership of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Wyoming, Colorado Idaho, Montana, and Utah. Our mission is to tell stories about the people, places, and issues of the Rocky Mountain West.

Many of these stories and issues are regional and affect all people living in the Mountain West. From land and water management to growth in the expanding West to our unique culture and heritage, the Bureau addresses issues that define us as a region. Part of the Bureau’s charge is to submit stories to NPR and other national and global distributors, thus sharing the Mountain West culture more broadly.

Contributing stations include Boise State Public RadioWyoming Public MediaKUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

The editor for the Mountain West News Bureau is Kate Concannon, a long-time NPR regional editor. Maggie Mullen is the lead Wyoming reporter for this partnership, with contributions from all Wyoming Public Media reporters. The partnership is overseen by news directors in all participating stations and networks.

The Mountain West News Bureau is supported in part by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Regional Journalism Center program. Matching or contributing donations for the support of this initiative or for general WPM reporting are welcome. For more information, contact Christina Kuzmych, Wyoming Public Media General Manager at ckuzmych@uwyo.edu.

Your Questions About COVID-19, Answered 

Our reporters are working hard to answer your questions about COVID-19. These responses are curated by the Mountain West News Bureau and our public media partners at America Amplified

Over the next few weeks, the Mountain West News Bureau is taking questions from listeners across the region about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a question, email us at mountainwestnewsbureau@gmail.com or give us a call at 208-352-2079 and leave us a message. This service is powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative. 

A few weeks ago, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak encouraged all nonessential businesses to close their doors. Then, a few days later, on March 20, he ordered them to do so.

“If your business is nonessential to providing sustenance and for the everyday safety, health and wellbeing of Nevadans, you must shut down,” Sisolak said.

But what’s an essential business? Beyond obvious ones such as hospitals and grocery stores, there’s no simple answer.

Imagine something like a velociraptor, but faster and stronger, and with feathers.

Researchers in the Mountain West are hoping to pioneer a new type of COVID-19 test that requires only a person’s saliva and can easily be done at home.

The Healthy Nevada Project is a community-based population health study, the largest of its kind in the world. Researchers behind the public-private partnership have collected DNA samples from the saliva of 50,000 Nevadans, with the goal of reaching a million samples statewide.

UntestedMontana.com

With COVID-19 tests still in short supply, a Montana computer programmer created websites intended to tally the number of people in Montana and Wyoming who self-report symptoms of the disease and haven't been able to get tested.

This story was powered by America Amplified, a public radio initiative. 

Sitting at his desk within the small office of the Sandpoint Reader, a weekly newspaper in northern Idaho, publisher Ben Olson is exhausted. 

As hospitals continue to fill up with COVID-19 patients, one major health care provider in the Mountain West announced it’s cutting pay for some of its medical staff.

Some of the nation's top polluters are now running on the honor system after the Environmental Protection Agency last week announced relaxed enforcement of environmental regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just being homeless puts you at greater risk for getting and spreading COVID-19. And several homeless residents have tested positive for the disease around the Mountain West, from Denver to Las Vegas. That’s forcing community leaders and shelter owners to take precautions.

 


U.S. Census Bureau

You probably got a letter in the mail recently from the U.S. Census Bureau asking you to fill out its survey. And maybe you're thinking, I don't have time for this! I just lost my job and I don't know how I'm going to pay my mortgage in the next couple of months! My kids are home and they're driving me crazy!

The U.S. sport climbing team’s hopes and aspirations are on pause after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed for a year due to the COVID–19 pandemic. 

As the U.S. Forest Service prepares for the wildfire season, it must also confront COVID-19.

Already the agency's put a stop to prescribed burning. And it says it will continue fire suppression and other activities with guidance from the CDC.

Jake Billington has worked at the livestock auction at the Twin Falls Livestock Commission in southern Idaho for 28 years.


https://www.westernaf.net/

The coronavirus pandemic has put an indefinite hold on live events, and musicians are among those losing out. So performers are turning to the internet as a virtual concert venue.

A proposed wind farm in southern Idaho could become one of the largest in the nation.

 


Main Street, looking south toward Canyonlands National Park, in Moab, Utah
Hurricanehink via CC BY-SA 3.0

Recreation-based counties are seeing higher rates of COVID-19 than other rural counties, according to an analysis from the Daily Yonder, a non-profit publication that focuses on rural issues.

“The snow’s going sideways, it’s swirling,” said Billy Barr, from the abandoned silver mine he lives in almost 10,000 feet up in the Rocky Mountains.

We’re all social distancing these days, and it’s unclear when exactly that will end. But Barr has been doing this for almost 50 years. He’s the only full-time resident of Gothic, Colorado. 

“I'm the mayor and chief of police,” he said. “I hold elections every year but I don't tell anybody when they are, so it works out really well.”

The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can eliminate the traditional insanity defense. Only four states don’t have one in the U.S., and three of those are in the Mountain West.

 


COVID-19 fears have forced a lot of bars and restaurants to close across the Mountain West. That leaves workers in a tough spot. But some communities have found a creative way for would-be customers to chip in.


Colorado became the 22nd state in the nation to abolish the death penalty when Gov. Jared Polis signed the legislature's repeal into law on Monday.

The death penalty is still on the books in every other state in the Mountain West except New Mexico. But University of Colorado-Boulder sociology professor Mike Radelet thinks that could change. 

On a recent cold and rainy morning at Zion National Park in Southern Utah, Andrew Smith and Blake Cubria throw a blue tarp on top of their tent to keep the water out. They’re in the midst of an impromptu vacation out West that began after they both lost their restaurant jobs in Chicago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is now threatening the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, following a number of high-profile sporting events that have already been postponed or canceled. These cancelations have some sportsbooks looking for different things to bet on.

San Miguel County in Colorado announced this week it plans to test everyone in the county for COVID-19. And they’ll be using a blood test rather than the usual nose-and-throat swabs. 

The test typically being used at this point involves a method called PCR, which looks for pieces of the virus’ RNA in a person’s nose and throat. It only shows if someone is actively fighting and shedding the virus.

The National Congress of American Indians warned reporters in a press conference Friday that COVID-19 is a “recipe for a disaster” for tribal nations. 

Amid the COVID-19 epidemic, blood drives on campuses and corporate offices across the Mountain West have been cancelled. That's led to a "severe blood shortage."

As the Mountain West braces for more coronavirus cases, one community service has become even more vital: Meals on Wheels.

The Interior Department has announced it’s temporarily waiving entrance fees for recreation areas, national monuments and national parks. Secretary David Bernhardt said he wanted to make it easier for people to recreate on public lands.

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing federal, state and local governments to take drastic measures. And in Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak did something never done before: he ordered all casinos in the state to shut down for 30 days.

wyomingmedicalcenter.org

State and local governments around our region are reacting to the coronavirus pandemic. A new analysis finds some are more aggressive than others. The Mountain West states got the least aggressive ranking, with Wyoming ranked dead last.

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