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Nevada Sets New Grim COVID-19 Record, UNLV Retires Mascot But Will Keep Nickname

A close-up image of a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021.

Nevada Reports Grim Record Of COVID-19 Deaths, Breaking Previous Record Set Saturday
By Lucia Starbuck

Nevada reported another new grim milestone Wednesday, as 71 Nevadans lost their lives to COVID-19. This breaks Saturday’s previous record of 63 lives lost. There have been a total of over 3,800 COVID-19 deaths since March.

In Nevada, on average, there have been about 1,500 new daily cases over the last two weeks, along with 20 deaths daily during the same time period. There are more than 1,700 people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 statewide. More than 77% of staffed hospital beds are occupied.

The Washoe County Health District reported five additional COVID-19-related deaths Wednesday, bringing the county total to 573. The county also reported 68 additional cases Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Carson City Health and Human Services reported another death from COVID-19 Wednesday. 169 people have died across the Quad-Counties area that spans Carson City, and Douglas, Lyon and Storey Counties. In Elko County, new cases outnumbered recoveries yesterday, 14-13.

Washoe County Health District Vaccinating Educators And Small Law Enforcement Agencies
By Lucia Starbuck 

The Washoe County Health District has administered more than 11,000 COVID-19 vaccines. They’ve received more than 17,000 doses, meaning they’ve used up nearly 65% of the doses they have on hand.

The health district is currently prioritizing industries such as education, childcare facilities, tutoring centers, small law enforcement agencies and Nevada System of Higher Education staff. For seniors over the age of 70, Renown Health, Saint Mary’s, Smith’s and Walgreens are scheduling appointments for vaccinations.

'Hey Reb' Mascot Officially Retired, But UNLV Will Keep Nickname

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ mascot, “Hey Reb!,” has been retired, and there are no plans yet to introduce a new one, according to KRNV.

In a statement Tuesday, UNLV president Keith Whitfield said despite the change, the nickname, “Rebels,” is here to stay. He added that UNLV will join other universities who don’t have mascots. UNLV also didn’t have one in the mid-1970s. The statue of the mascot was removed last summer amid conversations on campus calling for racial justice.

The, “Hey Reb!” mascot has drawn criticism from different groups, for evoking imagery of the Confederacy. In 2019, UNLV’s Native American Association said the mascot represented violence toward Native Americans.

Biden's Immigration Plan In The Mountain West
By Stephanie Serrano, Mountain West News Bureau

President Joe Biden’s immigration plan will offer millions of undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, including an estimated 595,000 in our region. Are those plans are in reach across our region?

Biden's “US Citizenship Act of 2021” would grant citizenship to nearly 11 million people, including DACA recipients. That program currently grants immigrant children a temporary work permit and protection from deportation.

Josh Ryan is a political science professor at Utah State University. He said Biden’s plans are achievable but he'll need some help.

“Any immigration plan that he wants to get through Congress is going to require the support of Republicans, which means they’re going to have to get 60 senators to go along with his proposal,” Ryan said.

Ryan says Biden could pass executive orders to support his immigration reform priorities, like former President Obama did with the DACA program. But there’s a catch with that approach.

“If it comes to court cases that have to do with executive action on immigration, we might expect more consertive rulings than what the supreme court has issued in the past,” Ryan said.

Deal Offers More Banking Services For California Pot Firms
By The Associated Press

An agreement in California could open the way for more marijuana companies to access checking and other banking services. Broad legal pot sales got underway in California in 2018, but many banks remain reluctant to handle cannabis industry money. They fear it could expose them to legal trouble from the federal government, which still considers marijuana illegal. An agreement between the California Cannabis Industry Association and the North Bay Credit Union will make banking services available for the association's membership. The group says the deal will "alleviate the banking obstacles that cannabis operators face.”

Anti-Public Lands Activists Get Grazing Rights Reinstated
By Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

Just before leaving office, now former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt reinstated grazing permits for the ranching family that sparked a far-right standoff in eastern Oregon.

The Hammonds were arrested a few years ago after they illegally lit a fire on public rangelands. Because of that, they lost their grazing rights on those lands and were sentenced to five years in prison. This sparked a group of armed libertarian activists and militia members led by Ammond Bundy to illegally take over a nearby wildlife refuge.

However, the Trump administration was friendly to the Hammonds. The president gave them a pardon a couple years ago, and then this week Bernhardt gave the family back their grazing rights.

Erik Molvar is executive director of the environmental group Western Watersheds Project. He opposes the move and said it sends a message to far-right, anti-public lands activists.

“The Trump administration had their back to the very last gasp,” Molvar said.

Molvar said the Biden administration could revoke those grazing rights and that his group plans to file a legal response.