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KUNR Today: Some Laid-Off Workers Demand Hiring Priority, Two Hospitals Relax Visitor Restrictions

An image of a rehabilitation center at Renown Hospital.
Courtesy City of Reno

Here are your local morning news headlines for Wednesday, May 19, 2021.

Unions Want Priority Rehiring Of Workers As Nevada Reopens
By The Associated Press

Laid-off casino and hotel workers picketed at the Nevada statehouse to demand that state lawmakers pass a bill to require their former employers bring them back at pre-pandemic wages rather than hire new workers. A proposal to mandate workers be given the “right to return” and receive priority in the re-hiring process has pitted the powerful Culinary Union against industry groups that may need to hire additional workers as resorts and casinos return to full capacity after a year of limitations due to the pandemic. State Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro told demonstrators on Tuesday that she intended to ensure the bill moved forward.

Nevada State Democratic Party Treasurer Resigns After Chairwoman’s Critical Comments On Israel
By Lucia Starbuck

A Nevada Democratic official has resigned after a party leader issued a statement critical of Israel’s response to the current conflict with Palestinians. Now-former State Party Treasurer Howard Beckerman announced his resignation in a scathing letter addressed to Chair Judith Whitmer on Sunday.

Whitmer has been scrutinized in recent days for issuing a statement condemning the U.S. and Israeli governments for injustices and violence committed against the Palestininan people. Other prominent Democrats in Nevada, such as Representative Susie Lee and Senator Jacky Rosen, have also voiced concern over Whitmer’s statement.

Beckerman isn’t the first party member to resign under Whitmer’s leadership. Nevada Democrats made headlines earlier this year when the state party’s executive staff quit in protest to Whitmer’s election as chair.

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

GOP Candidate For Nevada Governor Tests Positive For Virus
By The Associated Press

Republican candidate for governor John Lee has tested positive for COVID-19. The North Las Vegas mayor made the announcement in a Facebook post Monday evening. He had announced his campaign for Nevada governor earlier in the day. The 65-year-old Lee said in a statement that he learned Monday afternoon that he came in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and then quickly got tested himself. The mayor say he has no symptoms but will quarantine. Lee said he had not yet gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. Lee’s campaign declined to answer when asked why he didn’t get vaccinated.

WCSD Superintendent Defends District’s Decision To Drop Mask Requirements For Youngest Students
By Lucia Starbuck

Washoe County School District officials are defending a decision to drop mask requirements for young students. District officials announced earlier this week students 9 and younger no longer need to wear masks; however, educators and staff said the guidance they have received from the district is unclear.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Superintendent Kristen McNeill said the decision to drop mask requirements was driven by the district’s high vaccination rate among employees.

“We were able to work with our health district and get our employees vaccinated around that, and, so, the circumstances have changed dramatically, as I’m sure that you understand, from the beginning of March 2020, when schools went into shutdown, to where we are now. And that’s a good thing, that things are on a positive trend,” McNeill said.

Officially, students under 9 years old no longer need to wear a mask indoors or outdoors, but they are still required to wear one on busses. All other students and staff in the district are required to wear facial coverings, except at recess, lunch or PE.

The CDC recommends that all students continue wearing facial coverings for at least the remainder of this school year.

Renown Expands Visitor Policy, Patients Permitted Two Visitors At A Time
By Lucia Starbuck

Patients admitted to Renown Hospital can now have more than one visitor per day. Renown announced the updated visitation policy Tuesday.

While patients are limited to two visitors at a time, the new rule eliminates the daily cap on visitors. The limits were originally put into place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement, hospital officials said the decision was based on high levels of staff vaccinations and declining COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Elko Hospital Allows Visitors Again After Influx Of COVID-19 Patients In Early May
By Lucia Starbuck

Elko’s Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital is allowing visitors again after an influx of COVID-19 hospitalizations. In a statement, hospital officials said patients are now permitted one visitor per day. They must be at least 14 years old and pass a screening before entering.

Nine people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in Elko County earlier this month. According to the state’s dashboard, there is now one person hospitalized for the virus as of Monday.

See Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital’s visitation policy here.

Elko County’s COVID-19 Vaccination Rate Is Low While Test Positivity Rate Is High
By Lucia Starbuck

Elko County’s vaccination rate is lagging behind the rest of the state. The latest data from the state show less than a quarter of the county’s residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated. For comparison, more than 36% of the state’s residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Elko County has also maintained a relatively high COVID-19 test positivity rate of nearly 12%. Despite the county’s relatively high COVID-19 metrics, many of the area’s businesses have returned to full capacity.

You can learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations in Nevada here, along with the state’s COVID-19 dashboard here, and Washoe County’s here.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America focusing on community reporting and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local community issues are her passion, including the affordable housing crisis, homelessness, a lack of access to healthcare, protests and challenges facing vulnerable communities in northern Nevada.
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