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Utah Gov. Cox on error in reported vaccination milestone: 'We screwed up'

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said on Monday that the state “screwed up” last week when it inaccurately reported that Utah had hit its 70% vaccination goal.

On July 6, the governor’s office announced that the state had reached a “milestone worth celebrating” — over 70% of adults with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose — and thanked partnering businesses and partners for “encourag(ing) vaccinations for employees and their families.”

“Most of all, we’re grateful for all the nurses, doctors, health care workers, hospitals and volunteers … who continue to work tirelessly to get us all vaccinated!” the governor’s office wrote.

But on Monday, Cox took to social media to announce that “a mistake in the way we had counted federal doses” meant that the state actually fell short of the 70% vaccination milestone.

“When I became governor, I promised that I would hold myself and others in state government accountable and admit our mistakes,” the governor wrote. “When we were told by our data team that we had reached 70% of adult Utahns receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines, we were surprised and excited and a little skeptical. Rather than announcing it, we decided to wait a few days to double- and triple-check the numbers. Every report came back that the numbers were accurate and so we went with it.”

Cox went on to say that the state recently “learned that there was a mistake in the way we had counted federal doses” and that it “soon became clear that we had only reached 67.07%.”

“While federal data sharing has been extremely difficult, this one is on us,” said Cox. “Our data team is devastated and embarrassed. And so am I.”

The governor called the mistake “a result of a simple human error” and said “there is no evidence of any ethical breaches in this mistake.”

“Our data team at the Department of Health has been incredible throughout this pandemic,” he said. “At times working around the clock, these public servants have been recognized as one of the most thorough and transparent data teams in the country. While this miscalculation is inexcusable, they have re-examined processes to prevent this type of error from happening again.”

He continued, “Most importantly, this means we have even more work to get Utahns vaccinated. We will continue to do everything possible to make vaccinations easier and more accessible.”

Following the announcement, a number of officials praised Cox for being so transparent and accepting and acknowledging the error.

“I appreciate Gov. (Cox’s) transparency and dedication to sharing accurate information,” tweeted Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said that Cox’s “leadership and transparency, as well as the tireless and selfless efforts of our healthcare workers, continue to amaze me.”

“It is more important than ever to get vaccinated,” Wilson wrote on Twitter. “Let’s get to that 70%!”

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McWhinney starts the clock on revitalizing 300 West block of downtown Provo

By the end of spring next year Provo personnel will be moving into the new city building on 500 West and Center Street. The old city hall will be prepped for demolition.

What will take the place of the current block on 300 West between Center Street and 100 South is still somewhat in the dream stage. What is for sure is who is going to take on the responsibility for bringing something new to downtown.

McWhinney Real Estate Investment and Development Company out of Denver won the bid to do the project. The company is well known for its redesign of the Union Station in Denver that took it from a run-down train depot to a vibrant mixed-use development.

“The redevelopment of our existing City Hall block is a forward-thinking, once-in-a-generation opportunity for Provo,” said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi during a discussion on the economic pillars of Provo. “It will bring long-term economic vibrancy to downtown Provo while complementing the new Provo City Hall.”

“McWhinney is an active mixed-use real estate developer priding themselves on creating exceptional places for future generations,” Kaufusi said. “One example being the historic Union Station redevelopment, now affectionately known as ‘Denver’s Living Room.’”

Kaufusi goes on to say the old City Hall development is at least a 50-year decision and that is why it must be done right.

“Provo’s historic downtown is already an eclectic draw with 73 unique eating establishments representing culinary offerings from around the world,” Kaufusi said. “This redevelopment, with anticipated dining, boutique retail, residential, entertainment and social gathering spaces, will energize our community with even greater economic vibrancy.”

The excitement for the project goes both ways. Kirsty Greer, senior vice president of multi-family and urban mixed developments for McWhinney says the company is “all in” when it comes to the continued revitalization of downtown Provo.

“What we’ve learned is that we were selected because we were new to Provo,” Greer said.

The process of redeveloping the current Provo City Center site is going to be complex, but the opportunity to work with McWhinney and take a fresh look at 4.5 acres of prime downtown Provo real estate is exciting, according to Wayne Parker, Provo’s chief executive officer.

“The process for the developer is both aspirational and market-driven, and is responsive to the city’s desire to have an amazing product, meet parking needs for the development and the new City Hall, and anchor and set the standard for further redevelopment at the west end of downtown,” Parker said.

“McWhinney is a great partner, and we look forward to working with them through the development of their plans and the development agreement that will define the roles of the developer, the city and the Provo Redevelopment Agency,” Parker said.

Greer added they have been asked to tell the story not only of old Provo, but of the new, including its residents.

“We desire to not only see the progress of downtown Provo but also who lives there,” Greer said.

Greer said in the next year they will be getting a deeper and better understanding of Provo’s history, meet with residents and stakeholders in downtown and just walk the area neighborhoods and get a feel for the city.

“We submitted an 80-page report of our guiding principles and how we imagine it could be,” Greer said.

McWhinney is launching a website for the project. Find it at http://downtownciviccenter.com.

“This is our central idea, a ground floor with retail and public engagement. Residential demands and offices have a huge potential here, but with more authentic spaces,” Greer said.

The company will be asking residents in a downtown survey, “What’s missing from your downtown?”

For the next year, while the new city hall is completed, McWhinney will be hard at work finishing details and prepping for next summer when the 50-year old building on the corner of 300 West and Center comes down.

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Sean Petersen nominated to Fourth District Court vacancy; Senate seeks public comment

Gov. Spencer Cox has nominated Sean Petersen to fill a vacancy on the Fourth District Court, and Utah lawmakers are now seeking public comment on the judicial nomination.

Petersen currently serves as a court commissioner of Fourth District Court and previously worked as a personal injury and criminal defense attorney at Howard, Lewis and Peterson in Provo, and also as an attorney for Burt, Swanson, Lathan, Alexander and McCann in Oregon. He received his J.D. from Willamette University and a bachelor’s degree in history from Brigham Young University.

If his nomination is approved by the Utah State Senate, Petersen will replace Judge Darold J. McDade, who is retiring on Friday. Petersen was one of five nominees selected by the Fourth District Judicial Nominating Commission, including Shawn Howell and Douglas Thompson of the Utah County Public Defender Association, Lindon City Justice Court Judge Brook Sessions and Provo-based attorney Kara North.

In a press release on Thursday, Cox said Petersen’s “experience as both a court commissioner and an attorney in the private sector have prepared him well for this new responsibility on the bench.”

“I’m pleased that he is willing and able to serve the people of Utah in this way,” the governor said.

In a written statement, Petersen said he was “humbled by Gov. Cox’s appointment.”

“If confirmed, I commit to serve my community and the state of Utah with fidelity and respect,” the Fourth District Court judicial nominee said.

On Thursday, the Utah State Senate announced that the Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee is seeking public comment on Peterson’s nomination.

Those who wish to make public comments can contact Utah Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee staff Jerry Howe at the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel by 5 p.m on July 22.

Statements can be mailed to the Utah State Capitol, House Building, Suite W210, P.O. Box 145210, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84114. All statements should include the respondent’s name, telephone number and mailing address.

The Senate Judicial Confirmation Committee — which includes Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, Sen. David Hinkins, R-Orangeville, Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, Sen. Karen Mayne, D-West Valley City and Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton — plans to hold a public hearing and will then issue a recommendation to the full Senate.

Peterson has held his position as a court commissioner of the Fourth District Court since 2018, according to the governor’s office.

The Fourth District Court includes Utah, Wasatch, Juab and Millard counties.