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KUNR Today: New COVID-19 Cases Trending Downward, Renaming Vegas Airport Up For Consideration

An image of passengers entering the airport in Las Vegas.
El Caganer
Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0

Here are your morning news headlines for Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021.

Nevada Sees Consistent Downward Trend Of COVID-19 Cases Since Mid-January
By Lucia Starbuck

Nevada health officials say the state has seen a consistent downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since mid-January.

The state’s Biostatistician Kyra Morgan said she’s optimistic.

“This is the first time we’ve seen what I would consider a sustained positive trend, positive being downward, trend in a long time, so we’re absolutely hopeful that that continues,” Morgan said.

Nevada is reporting fewer than 800 new daily cases of COVID-19 over the last two weeks. For comparison, the state was seeing an average of 1,500 about two weeks ago.

Cases in Washoe County have declined as well, and the county’s test positivity rate has dropped over 5 percent over the last few weeks, according to the head of the Washoe County Health District, Kevin Dick.

But, he said with the upcoming Super Bowl weekend, this is not the time to relax.

“While our numbers have decreased, they are still quite high, by all standards,” Dick said.

Washoe reported 95 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths on Wednesday.

Nevada Ramps Up Efforts To Distribute Vaccine
By Lucia Starbuck

The effort to vaccinate Nevadans is ramping up. About a month ago, the state had administered just 40% of the doses received. As of Tuesday, three-quarters of available doses have been put in arms.

Several factors have contributed to a speedier rollout, including additional help from federal agencies and assistance from the Nevada National Guard.

The state also recently cleared a backlog of 20,000 doses, which had slowed the inputting of data on how many people had been vaccinated.

County To Consider Renaming Vegas Airport After Harry Reid
By The Associated Press

Nevada officials will consider next month whether to rename McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas after former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada. The Las Vegas Sun reports the all-Democratic Clark County Commission is set to consider the proposal at a Feb. 16 meeting. Reid is a Democrat and the former Senate Majority Leader who retired from the Senate in 2016. There have been longstanding calls to rename the airport from its current namesake, former Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran. He served as one of Nevada’s senators from 1933 until his death in 1954, and was known for anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic views.

5 More In Vegas Area Reported With UK Coronavirus Variant
By The Associated Press

Health officials in Las Vegas say five more area residents have been found to have the contagious coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom. The Southern Nevada Health District said Tuesday that all five had close contact with the person whose first-in-the-state case was reported Jan. 25. Officials had said that woman was in her 30s, had no travel history and reported limited contact with people outside her household. Authorities say virus variants recently identified in Britain, South Africa and Brazil spread more quickly between people, and studies are looking at whether they are resistant to vaccines.

Nevada Lawmakers Considering Measures To Help Schools Navigate Pandemic
By Paul Boger

Senate Bill 83 would give the Nevada Department of Educaiton the ability to temporariliy waive standardized testing requirements. The department would only have that authority to skip end of the year tests whenever the federal government grants a similar waiver to states. The measure now heads to the full Senate for a floor vote.

Lawmakers are also considering a measure requiring districts to develop academic crisis plans. SB36 also adds a represtenative from county health districts to the committee that makes those plans for each school district.

Controversial Project For Reno’s Steamboat Ditch Put On Hold

Plans for a controversial project for the Steamboat Ditch in Reno have been stalled.

The Steamboat Ditch stretches 34 miles from the Nevada and California border to South Reno, supplying drinking and agricultural water from the Truckee River.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that every year or two, flooding causes damage to the irrigation canal and surrounding homes. The project proposes converting almost 15 miles to pipelines instead.

Last month, Reno residents submitted about 1,500 emails and 150 voicemails about their concerns. The adjacent roads to the ditch are popular for recreation, including biking, running and bird watching.

JUB Engineers Inc. is overseeing the environmental assets for the project, and a spokesperson said they will be taking a step back from the planning process to get a better understanding of what the need truly is.

California Has Few Specifics On New State Vaccination System
By The Associated Press

California continues to change up its coronavirus vaccine system with its top health officer on Tuesday suggesting revisions to who’s next in line for still-scarce doses. California health and human services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly also had few details on a new state distribution and data collection system that aims to deliver vaccines with speed and equity. The state of nearly 40 million residents has administered more than 3.5 million doses but still lags other U.S. states in delivering doses. Insurer Blue Shield will be responsible for boosting vaccinations and creating a new data platform. Officials did not disclose how much the program will cost or how Blue Shield was picked.

California Coronavirus Hospitalizations Are Plummeting
By The Associated Press

California hospitals, which weeks ago were on the verge of rationing care, are now seeing a rapid decline in new admissions that should cut coronavirus hospitalizations in half in another month. The state’s top health officer said Tuesday that intensive care capacity that had hovered at zero is now rebounding across the hardest hit areas. State officials had used plunging ICU capacities to issue stay-home orders for most of California during its worst surge. But California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says capacity is improving, while positivity rates and other indicators are also promising.

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