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KUNR Today: Nevadans 65+ Will Be Eligible For Vaccine, Big Public Lands Bill Under Consideration

An image of a Nevada National Guard member in a parking lot.
Lucia Starbuck
This is Reno
A member of the Nevada National Guard helps direct traffic during a one-day COVID-19 testing site at Reed High School in Reno, Nev., on June 23, 2020. The Nevada National Guard has been helping administer vaccines.

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.

Nevadans 65 And Older Will Be Eligible For Vaccine, High School Contact Sports Can Soon Resume
By Olivia Ali

Beginning next week, everyone in Nevada who is 65 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. 

In a press conference Wednesday, Governor Steve Sisolak shared several COVID-19 updates, including the introduction of statewide vaccination rollouts for people over the age of 65.

“Some of Nevada’s counties have already begun vaccinating those 65 and older, but some of our larger counties have not. Beginning next week, the state will be opening immunization opportunities to Nevadans 65 and older through the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program in all counties,” Sisolak said.

This program will make vaccinations available to those 65 and older at private pharmacies only, unless the specific county has already made its vaccines available for this age group.

Sisolak also announced that full contact sports could resume across the state’s high schools once certain protocols are met by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association.

“In order to allow NIAA full contact sports to take place, the NIAA must develop a mandatory COVID-19 testing and mitigation plan that then must be adopted and followed by each school district and school intendent [sic] to allow full contact sports,” Sisolak said.

The NIAA plans must include weekly testing and social distancing, at a minimum.

Washoe COVID-19 Cases See Downward Trend Since Late November
By Lucia Starbuck

COVID-19 cases in Washoe County have been declining, and according to the head of the county health district Kevin Dick, cases have been on a downward trend since the end of November.

This is surprising, considering there have been major holidays since then. Dick breaks down what the county has seen since gatherings for Halloween and Nevada Day caused case spikes back in the fall.

“I think that helped get some people’s attention that these past practices of gatherings were not a good idea, and while we did see some leveling out, and maybe just a slight increase in our decline that occurred in December following Thanksgiving, it wasn't enough to cause a significant new spike,” Dick said.

There have been an average of about 51 new daily cases and two deaths per day over the last two weeks in Washoe County.

Statewide, there have been fewer than 500 new daily cases, on average, along with 14 deaths per day during that same period.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Washoe County Experiences Vaccine Delivery Delay Due To Weather
By Olivia Ali

Washoe County is experiencing a delay in some vaccine shipments due to extreme weather events across the country, including winter storms across the Midwest. Health District officer Kevin Dick said the delay is happening nationwide.

The health district received its scheduled Pfizer vaccine allotment on time; however, weather has delayed the county’s shipment of the Moderna vaccine.

Despite delays, the health district has begun vaccinating veterinarians, public transportation employees and other workers in the frontline community support category. To date, nearly 50,000 people in Washoe County have received the first dose of the vaccine. Almost 30,000 of them have received both doses.

Two Proposed Bills Would Change Nevada Day Observation, Preserve Dark Skies

As the 81st legislative session continues, two more bills have made their way to the Nevada legislature.

The first is a bill to change the observation date of Nevada Day. Nevada Day is officially on October 31, but is legally observed on the last Friday of October. The bill is proposing to change the observation to always be on the 31st, regardless of what day of the week it falls on, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

Carson City Nevada Day organizers are against the bill because they believe it would hurt attendance to Nevada Day activities and events.

The newspaper is also reporting on a second bill aimed at protecting the dark skies of Nevada. If passed, this bill would create a program to designate “dark sky” locations across the state. This would keep light pollution in these areas to a minimum.

Large Public Lands Bill Under Consideration
By Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

Next week, the U.S. House of Representatives will consider passing a massive public lands package. It’s called the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act.

It would create more than half a million acres of wilderness in Colorado. It would also permanently ban new oil and gas drilling across parts of the American West, and it would forever stop uranium mining near Grand Canyon National Park.

Arizona Democratic congressman Raul Grijalva has been pushing for that since 2008.

“It’s time to protect the Grand Canyon and the many tribal communities, Arizonans, and people across this nation who depend on the waters and who also see it as an irreplaceable landscape and as a monument to this country and to this world,” Grijalva said during a press conference about two years ago.

Some House Republicans are balking at the package. They call it a federal land grab that will hurt Western families who rely on the oil, gas and mining industries.

Nevada Rancher Sues To Block Lithium Mine Near Oregon Line
By The Associated Press

A longtime Nevada rancher is suing U.S. regulators over the approval of a lithium mine on federal rangeland he says would violate environmental laws. Edward Bartell says the project also will undermine changes he has made in his own livestock grazing practices to help threatened fish and wildlife. His Bartell Ranch says in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Reno last week that the Bureau of Land Management relied “entirely upon flawed and error-laden findings” in assessments prepared by the mine’s own contractor. The lawsuit says the mine proposed by Lithium Americas would lower the groundwater table, harm federally protected trout and sage grouse and transform private lands into barren desert.

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