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KUNR Today: Unsheltered People More Likely To Die During Pandemic, Renewable Energy Jobs Down

An image of a worker installing solar panels.
Courtesy Nevada Governor's Office of Energy
Nevada lost more than 3,700 renewable energy jobs in 2020, even as the renewable energy sector grew.

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2021.

Unsheltered Population More Likely To Die During Pandemic
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

New research shows people experiencing homelessness are 30% more likely to die from COVID-19 than the general public.

Wyoming is the only state in the region vaccinating unhoused people. In other states, it’s still based on age or comorbidities. University of California epidemiologist Chelsea Shover worked on the study and she says age-based vaccinations are problematic.

"People experiencing homelessness — not many make it to 65 compared to the general population. And so if you're waiting until someone is sixty five and older, you're missing a huge swath of the population who’s still at really high-risk," she said.

But researchers couldn’t paint a full picture of who is at high-risk, despite surveying dozens of health departments. Shover says that’s because many health departments aren’t collecting data on COVID deaths of unhoused people. The Mountain West is part of that data desert.

The study is not yet peer-reviewed, but researchers released it early in the hopes that it will convince state leaders to prioritize the shot for unhoused people.

Nevada Approaches 300,000 Total COVID-19 Cases Since Pandemic Began
By Michelle Billman

Nevada is nearing a total of 300,000 cases of COVID-19 reported since the start of the pandemic. 5,135 Nevadans have died from the virus. The average of new cases per day over the past two weeks is now just above 220 while nearly 11 percent of the state’s population has now been fully vaccinated.

Washoe County health officials are reporting two additional COVID-19 deaths Tuesday and just under 50 new cases. For St. Patrick’s Day, local officials are asking residents to celebrate the holiday safely to continue preventing the spread of the virus.

At this time, public gatherings are limited to 250 people or 50 percent of the fire code capacity, whichever is less. Indoor dining and beverage establishments are limited to 50 percent capacity. Gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.

You can view the current mitigation measures in Nevada here.

Newest Nevada Vaccine Group Can Self-Report Health Condition
By The Associated Press

Nevada health officials say people age 55 and older can self-report to their pharmacists any underlying health conditions that make them eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. A state statistics official said Tuesday that as eligibility broadened this week in the statewide coronavirus inoculation process, deaths from COVID-19 have fallen to an average of about four per day. That number peaked at 40 per day in mid-January. Officials widened efforts to vaccinate to people with underlying conditions, disabilities and the homeless at retail pharmacies, including at supermarkets. It's being called a step toward getting more shots in more arms statewide.

Renewable Energy Up, But Jobs Are Down
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Renewables made historic gains last year, but the number of U.S. renewable energy workers went down.

By the end of last year, there were 12% fewer renewable energy workers getting a paycheck than pre-pandemic. At the same time, wind and solar saw record production and record levels of new capacity come online.

BW Research is a firm that released its own analysis on the job losses earlier this year. Among other things, it blamed increased productivity. Fewer people needed to make the same energy.

Gregory Wetstone is president and CEO of the American Council on Renewable Energy. He said bigger wind and solar projects can be more efficient. But, he said there will be a need for more jobs to support renewables, like batteries and infrastructure.

“So in energy storage, which is going to become a booming sector soon, and then we need to expand and upgrade our grid in this country as a matter of national infrastructure,” he said.

That said, if solar and wind can’t replace fossil fuel jobs lost, that won’t win renewable advocates many friends among Western GOP Congressmen.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and BW Research Partnership, Nevada lost 3,740 renewable energy jobs between last February and the end of 2020.

RTC Provides Free Transportation On St. Patrick’s Day
By Jayden Perez

The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County will be providing free transit services for St. Patrick’s Day.

Scheduled transit services will be free on Wednesday from 4 p.m. until Thursday at 2 a.m.

The goal behind the service is to keep roads and crosswalks safe on the holiday.

The Regional Transportation Commission encouraged people to celebrate safely and responsibly by not driving impaired.

Michelle Billman is the news director at KUNR Public Radio in Reno, Nevada where she oversees a scrappy crew of multimedia storytellers. She’s a transplant from the East Coast, where she earned degrees in creative writing and English from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Virginia Tech.
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.
Jayden Perez is a former web producer and student reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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