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KUNR Today: Sisolak Releases Recovery Plan For Federal Funds, Sierra Snowpack Below Average Again

An image of the Martis Trail in Truckee during the winter.
Amy Westervelt
KUNR Public Radio
Moisture in the Sierra snowpack is 59% of its historic April 1 average.

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Friday, Apr. 2, 2021.

Nevada’s COVID-19 Test Positivity Rate Remains Steady
By Paul Boger

According to the Nevada COVID Response Dashboard, the state's two-week test positivity rate has remained steady at 4.2%. The metric is a key indicator of the virus's spread and helps determine how many people around the state are testing positive for the coronavirus. The news comes despite higher than average numbers of new daily cases and deaths in recent days.

Health officials said an overall decline in new cases and hospitalizations is thanks largely to vaccination efforts. Nearly one-third of eligible residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. More than 18% of the state's population 16 and older are fully vaccinated.

Overall, more than 304,000 Nevadans have contracted the virus since the start of the pandemic. 5,256 people in the state have died.

Could Mail-In Ballots Become Permanent In Nevada?
By Paul Boger

Nevada lawmakers are considering a measure that would make voting by mail the default for elections moving forward.

Assembly Bill 321 would essentially make AB4 - passed by lawmakers during last summer's special session - permanent. That means a ballot will continue to be sent to all voters, unless they opt out.

The bill also protects access to in-person and early voting.

Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson said the measure is not about party but about ensuring access to the ballot.

"This is not Costco. Voting is a right, not a privilege. We should make it as convenient and equitable for eligible Nevadans as possible," Frierson said.

Republicans have decried AB321 as an attempt by Democrats to interfere with the election process. Many members of the GOP have expressed skeptism of the results of the 2020 election. They have said more needs to be done to tighten election security, by implementing voter ID requirements and requiring residents to request mail-in ballots.

Lawmakers are also considering a measure that would create straight-ticket voting in future elections.

California Snowpack Below Normal With Wet Season Ending
By The Associated Press

The water content of California’s Sierra Nevada snowpack is well below normal as the wet season winds down. The state Department of Water Resources says the snowpack was measured Thursday at 59% of the April 1 average. Historically, that's the date when the snowpack is deepest and has the highest water content. The unsurprising result follows a second consecutive dry winter and comes amid indicators that California is entering another drought just a few years after a five-year dry spell. Overall, the state has received only about 50% of average precipitation in the current water year and its major reservoirs are only about half full.

Sisolak Releases Recovery Plan For Federal Coronavirus Relief Funds
By Paul Boger

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak's proposed framework is dubbed the Every Nevadan Recovery Plan. It's meant to serve a blueprint for how the state will spend about $2.9 billion of the state's share of money from the federal American Rescue Plan.

Essentially, the plan will use "prioritization bands" to determine where that money will go. They include increasing access to basic necessities and social programs for residents, strengthening community services, education and the economy as well as improving quality-of-life issues.

Sisolak's office said the plan was developed with input from Democratic leaders in the legislature, as well as state Treasurer Zach Conine. Republican lawmakers, though, say the money should be used to provide tax relief to Nevadans.

Burning Man Back This Year?
By KUNR Staff

Burning Man organizers are working to bring 69,000 festival-goers back to the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada this summer.

According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, event organizers quietly filed paperwork with the Bureau of Land Management in October detailing plans for the event.

Documents obtained by the paper show the two parties have been collaborating in recent months to prepare for contracting hurdles and restructuring needs. Burning Man organizers have not yet officially announced whether the event will actually take place. That decision is expected by May.

Cash Bonuses One Option To Increase Vaccinations In Prisons
By Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is high among prison workers. One state in our region has a unique plan to address that.

Some of the largest and most deadly COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in our country’s prisons.

Every Mountain West state prioritized correctional officers for vaccination, but not all of them took advantage. In Colorado, officers have had access for months, but less than half have gotten the shot.

That’s why the state’s department of correction is offering a $500 bonus to employees who get vaccinated before May 25.

"I appreciate the DOC providing incentives," said Christie Donner, who heads up the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition. She hopes the state is prepared to pivot towards a stricter approach if the incentives aren’t effective.

"Then, I think we have to be looking at re-assignments. I mean, I just don’t think that people get to play Russian Roulette with other people’s lives," she said.

Donner said Colorado’s prison inmates are showing more willingness than staff to get the shot; however, most states in our region declined to include inmates in the earliest vaccination phases.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.
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