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KNAU's Morning Rundown: Friday, April 9


New AZ COVID-19 Variant Discovered, ASU Researchers Say

Researchers at Arizona State University say a new COVID-19 variant has been discovered with origins in Arizona. In a study published last week, ASU scientists reported the presence and functional details of the B.1.243.1 variant were not yet conclusive. The report documented 17 cases of the variant, 15 of which were discovered in Arizona; the most recent case was documented early March. ASU Prof. Efrem Lim told ABC15 treating the variant could be a challenge for healthcare workers. 


CCSO Reports Serious Injury After Off Highway Vehicle Accident

Coconino County Sheriff’s officials say an accident involving an off highway vehicle resulted in a serious injury north of Flagstaff earlier this week. The vehicle overturned in Cinder Hills north of Doney Park, leaving one individual trapped beneath the vehicle. Authorities say the 25-year-old Phoenix man suffered severe bleeding but survived the accident and was treated at the Flagstaff Medical Center. A county spokesperson says there’s been an increase in accidents and fatalities involving off highway vehicles and all-terrain vehicles or ATVs. 


The county also reported that in 2020 it dealt with “an unprecedented amount of visitation to public lands in Coconino County and OHV/ATV calls for service.”


The April 4 incident is under investigation, CCSO said.


Solar Generation Gearing Up On Navajo

A solar generation plant is slated for the Red Mesa community on Diné land; the area sits east of Dennehotso and near the Arizona-Utah border. Tribal officials say the project will take one year to complete and will establish about 300 jobs in the area. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority signed a lease for the project earlier this week; the facility is expected to produce 70MW of solar energy, which can power thousands of Arizona homes according to calculations from the Solar Energy Industries Association


Tribal officials say another project is slated in Cameron for 200MW of solar energy and will provide 400 jobs during construction.


New Law Cancels License Suspensions For Civil Traffic Violations 

Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday signed a bill into law that will restrict the state from suspending an individual’s driver license due to unpaid civil traffic violations. The protection applies to drivers with a non-commercial license. Senate Bill 1551 was proposed by State Sen. Paul Boyer and received bi-partisan support. Ducey’s office estimates about 31,000 licenses are currently suspended due to failure to pay a fine. The legislation allows those Arizonans to re-obtain their driver licenses if they’ve been suspended for a traffic violation alone.


Vaccine Blitz Saturday At Sacred Peaks

Tuba City Regional Healthcare is launching a vaccine blitz tomorrow at Flagstaff’s Sacred Peaks Health Center for Indigenous community members 16 and older. The event applies to beneficiaries of the Indian Health Service, along with former patients at Sacred Peaks, LeChee Clinic or Tuba City Hospital. Healthcare workers will administer the Pfizer vaccine at the drive-thru event; appointments can also be made for the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.


Sinema Introduces Bill For National Child Crisis Hotline

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has co-introduced a federal law that would create a federally funded Child Crisis Hotline. Sinema introduced the proposal with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. A National Child Abuse Hotline currently exists through ChildHelp, a non-profit based in the Phoenix area. Collins says it’s the only major national hotline that operates without federal funding. Sinema’s office says the legislation would allow the federal government to grant $2 million to an already-qualified non-profit to support a national hotline system.


ChildHelp also reported a notable increase in contacts about child abuse between fiscal years 2019 and 2020.

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