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KUNR Today: Nevada's COVID-19 Cases Trend Downward, Tahoe Casino Mementos Up For Auction

Creative Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Friday, Jan. 22, 2021.

Downward Trend Appears In Nevada’s New COVID Case Count
By Paul Boger

Health officials are "cautiously optimistic" the number of new coronavirus cases in Nevada may be moving in the right direction.

Nevada's two-week moving average of new COVID-19 daily cases hovered around 1,430 Thursday. That's down sharply from last month. State data shows hospitalizations have also steadily declined since late December, and that may soon translate to fewer COVID-19-related deaths.

“Based on the lesser impact of the holidays than what we anticipated it really is possible we’re at the worst point, right now, and we’ll maybe see some relief in the future,” said Kyra Morgan with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. “It’s a little bit too early to say that with certainty, but that’s my best guess based on the numbers.”

Despite recent spikes, the state's 14-day moving average of COVID-19 deaths has seen an overall decline over the last few weeks. Nevada's test positivity rate, however, remains high at 20.5%.

Statewide, more than 266,000 people have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic. 8,457 people have died.

In Washoe County, the health district reported nearly 700 recoveries and 176 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday. It also reported three additional deaths, bringing the area's total death count to 576.

More Vaccines Needed To Ramp-Up Inoculation Efforts in Washoe County
By Paul Boger

Washoe County health officials say they’re administering about 1,000 COVID-19 vaccinations a day, but more vaccines are needed to ramp-up those efforts.

At the current rate, it could take more than a year to get everyone in Washoe County inoculated from COVID.

That's why James English, the Regional Operation Chief for the COVID-19 Response, is urging residents to have patience. He says it may take weeks before health officials can offer the vaccine to anyone outside the state's current plan.

“We can be anywhere from three to five weeks out before we can really jump into that community support frontline unless the vaccine becomes more available,” English said.

According to English, public and private healthcare providers have administered more than 12,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in the county.

Changes Could Be Coming To Local Health District

Local leaders are moving forward with a plans to make changes to the Washoe County Health District, including changing the district's name, board leadership and appeals process.

As reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal, officials with the Washoe County Commission, as well as the Reno and Sparks city councils, have met to discuss what they see as a lack of communication and accountability from the health district. While nothing has been decided, all three governmental bodies made plans to hold future discussions with health district personnel.

When asked about possible changes, Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick said he has reservations about adding elected officials to the district's board. He also warned of the dangers of mixing politics with public health.

Audit: More Virus Money Should Have Gone To Small Counties
By The Associated Press

California's auditor says the state should have spent more money helping its smaller counties battle the coronavirus. Auditor Elaine Howle said the state's 16 most populous counties got nearly twice the amount per person than the 42 smaller counties. That's because the state decided to send some of its allocation to those large counties éven though they had already gotten direct funding from the federal government. The Department of Finance said the state Legislature approved the funding strategy. The audit was the first of Howle's reports looking at how the state is spending billions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid.

Domestic Terrorism Charge Coming?
By Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

Our region is home to dozens of far-right militia groups and extremists. Now, in the wake of the U.S. capitol riots, lawmakers are mulling how to protect our nation from domestic terrorism. There’s some talk of introducing a new domestic terrorism charge.

After 9/11, The Patriot Act included a definition of domestic terrorism under criminal law. But, under that law, you can’t be charged with that specific crime.

More than 100 civil rights groups want to keep it that way. Becky Monroe is with the nonprofit Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

“These kinds of charges can actually be used against black and brown communiteis and muslim communities," said Becky Moore with the nonprofit, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "Rather than making us safer, they could put more lives at risk.”

Monroe added that there are already robust, existing laws that the federal government can use to track and prosecute hate groups and militias.

City On Nevada/Utah Border Revitalizing Town

West Wendover, on the Nevada-Utah stateline, will receive a federal grant to help make improvements to the city's downtown.

Nevada's U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto, announced this week more than $1 million in federal funding for revitalization and infrastructure projects in the border city.

City officials say they plan to build an area for small shops and multi-family housing. The project is slated to break ground this summer in order to be ready for private development by next year.

Casino Mementos Up For Auction

Fans of the Lakeside Inn and Casino may soon be able to buy some mementos. The Stateline, Nev. casino announced last April that it would permanently cease operations. Now, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a third-party will host an online auction that includes almost all of the inn’s furniture and equipment, including slot machines and poker tables.

In most casino closures, all assets are usually sold to another company in bulk or scrapped.

Lakeside owners say they wanted to give the community a unique opportunity to keep memories of the casino. The auction will be held online in early March.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.