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KUNR Today: Officials Optimistic About Nevada's COVID Recovery, UNR To Hold In-Person Graduation

An image of the Knowledge Center on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.
Alexa Ard
KUNR Public Radio

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Tuesday, Mar. 30, 2021.

Nevada Officials Hopeful About Virus Trends Amid Reopening
By The Associated Press

Nevada health officials say they’re hopeful about the direction of the state’s COVID-19 outbreak as reported cases, deaths and hospitalization trends remain favorable and the state gradually reopens following a winter surge. State biostatistician Kyra Morgan says Nevada did not see any significant increase in reported coronavirus cases after allowing businesses to increase capacity to 35% from 25% in mid-February nor from allowing another increase up to 50% capacity on March 15. State COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said officials hope a statewide mask mandate and other mitigation measures will keep cases low and businesses open.

UNR To Hold In-Person Graduation
By Isaac Hoops

The University of Nevada, Reno announced Monday that graduation ceremonies this May will be in person for the classes of both 2020 and 2021.

The ceremonies, which will span over 4 or 5 days, will be held at Mackay Stadium. The large open-air location will allow for graduates to bring up to four guests each.

UNR President Brian Sandoval, explained that a lot of factors went into making this decision.

“There are limitations for six feet of distancing and the number of people that you can have in a public event. So, these are all things that went into that formula that finally determined how many people we can have attend and the fact that we can do it at all,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval also thanked students and staff for their resilience during the pandemic.

“It's been a product of a lot of hard work, a lot of communication, a lot of dedicated people to make this a reality," he said. "So it's an exciting day for the Pack.”

All graduation ceremonies will be live streamed, and should extreme weather prohibit an outdoor event, a virtual alternative will take place.

As a note of disclosure, the Board of Regents to the Nevada System of Higher Education owns the license to this station.

Vaccine Passport On The Way?
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Certain schools, airlines and organizations could soon ask you to prove whether you’ve gotten a COVID-19 vaccine by seeing a virtual vaccine passport, for example.

The Mountain West is home to a fair number of COVID-19 vaccine skeptics and mask skeptics, so it’s more than likely that it’ll be home to a number of vaccine passport skeptics as well.

The de Beaumont Foundation invests in healthcare solutions, and it recently funded a focus group for 19 vaccine-skeptical Republicans, which found many of them want to travel on vacation and to visit family.

Brian Castrucci leads the foundation, and said they found if vaccine passports are required for that travel, that would encourage participants to consider the vaccine, but only to an extent.

“If it seems like political manipulation, it could backfire," he said. "People want to be educated, not indoctrinated.”

He said politicians need to step aside and let people hear from their own doctors on these issues, but whether Americans agree to these passports or not, other countries are expected to require some kind of COVID-19 vaccine proof to come across their borders.

Funding Put In Place To Help Nevadans Get To Vaccination Sites
By Isaac Hoops

Nevada U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto announced that over $155 million from the American Rescue Plan will go to public transportation to help Nevadans get to vaccination sites.

This funding will benefit Nevada’s state, local and tribal governments by providing transportation and upgrading safety measures to protect riders and workers.

The American Rescue Plan includes investments in public transportation for both urban and rural locations, and it also provides specific enhancements for seniors and individuals with disabilities.

Options For Graduation Ceremonies In Washoe County School District
By Isaac Hoops

As the Washoe County School District returns from Spring Break and begins their final quarter, there is a question over what high school graduations might look like.

Each school is creating its own plan for graduation. Superintendent Kristen McNeill said the schools prefer this approach and may want to continue in a similar fashion post-pandemic.

Some high schools are planning drive-through style graduations, which were popular in 2020; However, there is the possibility of some in-person graduations as state regulations for gatherings ease up.

U.S. Departments Urged To Become Year-Round Wildfire Agencies
By The Associated Press

California’s U.S. senators and 21 representatives asked the departments of Agriculture and Interior to transition their agencies to a year-round wildland workforce because conflagrations are no longer limited to traditional fire seasons. The move would require reclassifying more seasonal federal firefighter positions as permanent. The letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland says California and the West are entering a new normal in which increasingly intense wildfires wreak havoc during a nearly year-round fire season. Last year, more than 9,900 fires burned 4.25 million acres, killed 33 people and destroyed nearly 10,500 homes and other buildings.

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