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KUNR Today: Nevada Rejects Washoe Co.'s COVID-19 Plan, Rare Wildflower Closer To Federal Protection

An image of Tiehm's Buckwheat on a hillside.
Noah Glick
KUNR Public Radio
Patrick Donnelly with the Center for Biological Diversity points to Tiehm's Buckwheat plants, spread across a small range in central Nevada.

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Friday, Apr. 23, 2021.

Nevada COVID-19 Task Force Rejects Washoe County’s Reopening Plan
By Lucia Starbuck

Nevada’s COVID-19 task force has rejected Washoe County’s reopening plans after local leaders voiced concerns.

County officials presented the reopening plan to the task force Thursday. It essentially calls for an end to all social distancing guidelines starting May 1. However, the Washoe County Health District, the City of Reno and the Washoe County School District rejected the plan citing concerns over the county’s rising test-positivity rate.

Commission Chair Bob Lucey said he feels comfortable dropping the guidelines due to the county’s growing vaccination rates.

“We feel that our vaccine protocols that have been moving forward have been very much effective. Our commission and our ability to provide testing still is adequately available for all citizens within the community,” Lucey said.

The state is expected to hand counties control of COVID-19 mitigation efforts on May 1. Washoe County leaders say they will re-submit the plans.

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

California Goes From Worst To First In Virus Infections
By The Associated Press

California has gone from worst to first in the rate of coronavirus infections. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows the state surpassed Hawaii on Thursday with the lowest average number of COVID-19 cases per capita. That comes just a few months after California was the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. At its peak, there were 40,000 cases and well over 500 deaths per day. The state is now averaging about 2,300 cases and 68 deaths a day. In Michigan, which has the highest rate of infections in the U.S., one in every 223 people tested positive in the past week compared with one in every 2,416 people in California.

Reno Likely To Settle With Swan Lake Flood Victims
By KUNR Staff

The city of Reno is expected to agree to a tentative multi-million dollar settlement with plaintiffs who were impacted by the Swan Lake flood of 2017.

According to This Is Reno, the city faced dozens of lawsuits that accused it of negligence in allowing development where flooding can occur.

The city will vote on the settlement during its May 12 meeting. Council is expected to approve the $4.5 million dollars payment to settle all claims in the cases.

Nevada: GOP Filed Baseless Election Fraud Allegations
By The Associated Press

Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske said on Wednesday that her office had finished reviewing election fraud allegations that leaders of the state Republican Party delivered to her office in March and found that some allegations were already under investigation, while others were inaccurately interpreted. In a 13-page report, election officials specifically refute the majority of the thousands of allegations of double-voting, voting with fake addresses and ballots being cast under the names of registered voters who recently died. The report said that 10 allegations of ballots being cast in the names of the deceased and 10 allegations of double-voting are under investigation.

Coronavirus Aid For Tribes Leads To Questions
By Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

The latest federal coronavirus relief package includes $20 billion for tribal governments. But, as a deadline approaches on disbursing the funds, questions remain.

Last year’s CARES Act included $8 billion for tribes. But, there were pitfalls to the rollout, including limited guidance on how the money could be spent. The formula used to allocate the funds was based on outdated and incomplete population data, despite tribes having reported their own numbers.

Karen Snyder is the pandemic response coordinator for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe in Wyoming.

"We reported the actually enrollment of the tribe, and there was a disparity," she said, which caused her tribe and others in the region to be shorted millions of dollars.

Eric Henson researches reservation economics at Harvard University. He’s urging the Treasury Department to use self-reported citizenship data this time around, and to provide clearer spending guidelines. He said tribes should also have flexibility to spend the money on things like housing and education.

"A lot of infrastructure investment could be really important here, because that’s the platform on which you can lift yourself up going forward," he said.

The Treasury Department has until May 10 to disburse the funds to tribes.

Judge Sets Deadline For Rare Nevada Plant-Listing Decision
By The Associated Press

Conservationists say they have scored a significant victory in their bid to win Endangered Species Act protection for a desert wildflower at the center of a fight over a proposed lithium mine in Nevada. The Center for Biological Diversity says the rare order issued Wednesday in Las Vegas underscores the critical condition of Tiehm's buckwheat. Noah Greenwald of the Center for Biological Diversity says the judge recognized that the plant is on the brink of extinction. The agency was supposed to decide last October whether to propose federal protection. It had indicated that staff and budgetary constraints would prevent it from deciding until this September.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning journalist covering politics, focusing on democracy and solutions for KUNR Public Radio. Her goal is to provide helpful and informative coverage for everyday Nevadans.
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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