Headlines August 12, 2021

Headlines August 12, 2021

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Colorado Vaccine Equity Task Force Urges Officials to Require Masks in Schools

The Colorado Vaccine Equity Task Force is urging Governor Jared Polis and state and local health departments to require all school age children and staff to wear masks regardless of vaccination status, and implement regular testing and other effective strategies known to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The task force points out that while emerging data shows even vaccinated individuals can transmit the Delta variant of the virus, overwhelming evidence demonstrates face coverings decrease COVID-19 transmission. The group further states unmasked individuals in school settings, even if vaccinated, pose a risk to those not yet vaccinated, especially those under the age of 12.

The group indicates that the CDC currently recommends that all unvaccinated students and staff wear masks in schools and the American Academy of Pediatrics and AAP-Colorado have gone a step further, recommending universal masking in all schools.

New Census Data to be Released Today

The U.S. Census Bureau will release a new round of data today. The data is based on the once-in-a-decade census that took place most recently in 2020. The information will influence the redrawing of districts, which could tip the balance of power in state and national legislative houses. Voting rights advocates have been calling on Congress to pass the For the People Act before states begin the redistricting process.

Colorado Department of Law Releases Report on Red Flag Law

The Colorado Department of Law released a report yesterday on the state’s red flag law that recommends continued education and outreach on how individuals can appropriately use it to help prevent gun violence.

Colorado’s Deputy Zackari Parrish III Violence Prevention Act commonly known as the “red flag” law, took effect on January 1, 2020. The Violence Prevention Act enables a judge to issue an Extreme Risk Protection Order that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms for up to 364 days. A judge needs to find that the individual poses a significant risk of causing personal injury to self or others by purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm.

During the first year of implementation, families, household members, and law enforcement successfully used the red flag law to intervene in cases where suicide, intimate partner, or mass violence were threatened.

Year-one data shows that of the 125 times the red flag law was requested, law enforcement had filed eighty-five percent of the petitions.

A review of 30 denied petitions showed that judges often found the requesters didn’t show credible threats, were too vague, made procedural errors or failed to provide all the required information.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said that increasing the education, awareness, and training efforts on the protection order process can help save lives. He hopes that using the red flag law will help prevent suicide and gun violence while protecting the rights of lawful gun owners.

Fairview High School Principal on Paid Leave

Boulder Valley School District officials announced yesterday Fairview High School Principal Don Stensrud has been placed on paid administrative leave as officials investigate Title IX lawsuit allegations against him and other school leaders.

As mentioned on Monday’s Morning Magazine, the Denver Post reports two former students filed a federal lawsuit last Friday asserting that the school district and Stensrud failed to investigate a lacrosse player accused of raping at least two other students during the 2016-2017 school year and that the students were not protected as they faced a hostile environment.

The lawsuit alleges school administrators and Stensrud “repeatedly turned a blind eye to rampant sexual harassment and abuse”. Friday’s lawsuit comes on the heals of the recent rape acquittal of Fairview’s former quarterback and the plea deal of the remaining charges against him.

Mapping Project Identifies Fences Stopping Wildlife Migration

Wildlife is being fenced in across the West, and researchers are now mapping these lines to understand how they affect animals. In some rural areas, fences outnumber roads, but they’re much harder to pinpoint and map. Simon Buzzard with the National Wildlife Federation is leading an effort to find fences, and overlay that information with movement data for pronghorns in southwest Montana. He says the project is prioritizing fences that can directly hamper the species’ migration patterns, and can find trouble spots. “Where we see a stark line – where, all of the sudden, all the animals move in a 90-degree angle – and we see there’s a fence there. We go out on the ground and take stock of what type of fence it is. Is the landowner interested in discussing opportunities for modification? Is it on public land?”

He says identifying fences on the landscape that can be more wildlife-friendly is important, not only for pronghorn, but other species – elk, mule deer, moose, as well as ground-nesting birds, like sage grouse. There are more than 77-thousand pronghorn in Colorado, according to the state Division of Wildlife.

Fences can be hard barriers for pronghorn to cross, since they’re not good jumpers and have to crawl underneath. Buzzard says even for species adept at jumping, juveniles can struggle and get caught in the barbed wire. But he notes a bigger problem is the indirect effect the barriers present.”As more fences get erected on the landscape, say with subdivision or with roads – as we build roads, we generally build fences – it’s possible for that increase in fence density to reduce the amount of available habitat.”

Buzzard says the effects of roads on wildlife are clear, as are solutions – such as crossings to maintain migration routes. But fence ecology is a burgeoning field.”On a landscape level, we haven’t really looked at fences well enough yet. We don’t have a lot of data on the cumulative impacts that fences have, when we know that they’re impacting wildlife movement for different species. And so this is just the beginning, I’d say, of this process in the West.”

He adds the project has partnerships at the state level in Montana, with the U-S Bureau of Land Management, nonprofits and the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which works with private landowners.

-Eric Tegethoff, Colorado News Connection

Ken Salazar Confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico

The Senate has unanimously confirmed Ken Salazar as the new U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

Salazar is a former U.S. Senator from Colorado and was the interior secretary under the Obama Administration.

The Denver Post reports Salazar is the first of President Joe Biden’s ambassador nominees to be confirmed.

Former Olympian Eli Bremer Will Run Against Bennett

Former Olympian and Air Force Veteran Eli Bremer from Colorado Springs announced Tuesday he will challenge Michael Bennet for the U.S. Senate seat in next year’s election.

According to the Denver Post, Bremer has never run for public office but was the El Paso County GOP chairman from 2011-2013.