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KUNR Today: Washoe County Drops To 5% Test Positivity Rate, Report Shows Wildfire Risk For Homes

An image of a home with a large plume of wildfire smoke in the background.
Natalie Van Hoozer
KUNR Public Radio
Last year's Rock Farm Fire threatened homes in south Reno.

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Thursday, Mar. 11, 2021.

Washoe County Reaches 140,000 Vaccinations
By Olivia Ali

Health officials estimate that as much as 18% of Washoe County’s residents are now fully vaccinated.

According to Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick, the county has put more than 140,000 shots into arms as of this week.

Currently, health officials are working to vaccinate people 65 and older.

But, Dick said the county has been able to expand vaccinations to some essential workers such as grocery store, agricultural, food processing, delivery and manufacturing employees.

The county has also seen a decline in demand for tests. Last week, the county averaged around 1,000 tests per day. That’s down about 300 tests a day from the previous week.

Washoe County’s COVID-19 Test Positivity Rate Falls To 5%
By Paul Boger

Washoe County’s COVID-19 test positivity rate fell to 5% Wednesday. It’s a key metric for determining whether businesses, governments and schools can fully reopen.

The World Health Organization recommends a test positivity rate of 5% or less for 14 days before communities consider lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

This is the first time Washoe County has reached the goal since last June.

Statewide, the test positivity rate is at 6% — a steep decline from mid-January, when more than 21% of all COVID-19 tests were coming back positive.

The two-week rolling average of new daily cases continues to fall as well, with the state averaging 237 new cases a day.

According to the latest data, about 9.5% of the state’s population is now fully vaccinated.

State health officials reported 325 new coronavirus cases and 13 additional deaths Wednesday. More than 297,000 Nevadans have contracted the virus since last March, and 5,067 people have died.

There were 47 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths in Washoe County Wednesday. There are 2,858 active cases countywide, and 651 people in Washoe County have died from COVID-19.

Recovery Bill Has $4B For Nevada Cities, Counties, Schools
By The Associated Press

The $1.9 trillion economic recovery package approved by Congress includes about $4 billion for Nevada, with funds for the state, counties, cities, schools and transportation. Congresswoman Dina Titus says the state government will get $2.9 billion, Clark County is expected to see $439 million and the city of Las Vegas was allocated $130 million. Clark County schools are expected to get more than $835 million. President Joe Biden pushed for the coronavirus recovery bill, and has said he will sign it Friday.

Lawsuit Against Reno Over Home Flooding Moving To U.S. Court
By The Associated Press

Dozens of residents who are suing the city of Reno after their homes flooded in 2017 are moving to federal court in a complex case that could cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The move reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal comes as the city recently appealed the case to the Nevada Supreme Court. Lemmon Valley residents filed a class-action lawsuit and won a 2019 jury verdict that determined the city was responsible for the flooding. The residents' lawyer decided to take their case to U.S. court after a county judge later removed class-action status. That means they must file individual claims.

New Report Could Help Analyze Home Wildfire Risk
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

The nonprofit Headwaters Economics put together the new report using data from Montana research company Pyrologix and Forest Service offices.

You can use it to look at the percentage of homes directly or indirectly exposed to wildfire dangers in your city or county. Kimiko Barrett leads Headwaters Economics wildfire research. She said indirect exposure refers to things like flying embers.

“Embers, in fact, are the primary culprit behind home loss in a wildfire disaster, accounting for 90% of all wildfire structures that are destroyed,” she said.

So, even if your house or neighborhood isn’t near the woods, Barrett said it could still be at risk. The report also highlights vulnerable populations — for example, low-income households — that could face the worst consequences of the fires.

According to Headwaters Economics, 41% of Nevada homes are either directly or indirectly at risk from wildfires.

Northern Nevada Medical Center Discharges Last COVID-19 Patients
By Olivia Ali

The Northern Nevada Medical Center discharged their last two COVID-19 patients this week. It’s the first time in nearly a year the center has had no hospitalized coronavirus patients.

Due to the recent discharges, the hospital has been able to loosen visitation restrictions. Patients are now allowed one visitor between 2-6 p.m.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
Madelyn Beck is a regional Illinois reporter, based in Galesburg. On top of her work for Harvest Public Media, she also contributes to WVIK, Tri-States Public Radio and the Illinois Newsroom collaborative.
Olivia Ali is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno majoring in journalism and minoring in history. She is also the editor-in-chief of The Nevada Sagebrush. Prior to working at KUNR, she interned at the Reno Gazette Journal as a reporting intern and at the Sacramento SPCA as a digital marketing analyst intern through the Dow Jones News Fund. After she graduates, she hopes to work in audience engagement or digital media. Outside of journalism, Olivia loves to travel, learn as much as she can and watch reality television when she gets a spare moment.
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