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KUNR Today: Nevada Officials Urge Vaccinations As COVID-19 Surges, Drought Means More Bear Conflicts

A close-up image of a health worker filling a vaccine dose into a syringe
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
The Sparks Fire Department’s first COVID-19 vaccine clinic for adults 70 and older at Sparks Parks and Recreation Gym on Feb. 22, 2021";

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Friday, July 9, 2021.

Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases, Nevada Officials Encourage Vaccinations, Not Restrictions
By Lucia Starbuck

COVID-19 metrics are on the rise in Nevada, but state officials aren’t imposing restrictions. Instead, they’re encouraging residents to get vaccinated.

Clark County is driving most of the state’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Candice McDaniel, with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said the rise is due to a mix of increased travel and events, the spread of COVID-19 variants and a low vaccination rate of 44%.

Carson City and Washoe County lead the state in vaccinations per capita, with more than 55% of residents 12 and older fully vaccinated. Washoe County’s test positivity rate is also under 5%.

“Our cases and hospitalizations are lowest in counties with the highest vaccination rates,” McDaniel said.

For comparison, in Elko county, where slightly more than 28% percent of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, about 17% of COVID-19 test results are returning positive.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations in Nevada, or view the stateand Washoe County COVID-19 dashboards. Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Bad News, Bears: Drought Leading To More Human-Bear Conflict
By Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

The drought is bad news for bears. More specifically, biologists say during years of drought, the likelihood of conflicts between bears and humans often increases.

Plants and root-like vegetation make up 90% of a black bear’s diet, but those natural food sources are vulnerable to drought, and as for grizzly bears, the berry bushes they depend on don’t fare well in hot and dry conditions, either.

When the quality and quantity of those food sources go down, bears go looking for food elsewhere, and that’s when they run into humans.

Several bear conflicts have sprung up across the region in recent weeks, and wildlife officials are reminding the public to eliminate unnatural food sources from yards, like bird feeders, pet food or unsecured trash.

Study: Human-Caused Climate Change Linked To Latest Heat Wave
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Another heatwave is moving into parts of the region. It comes on the heels of an analysislinking extreme temperatures in the Pacific Northwest to climate change, which says the heat is part of an alarming pattern.

Just weeks into the summer season, some Mountain West states are facing a second heatwave or persistent triple-digit temperatures.

"This summer's heat is really unusual, of course, in terms of how incredibly hot it's been, but it’s also really surprising, I think, to many people how early the heat has come," said Bryan Shuman, who studies climate change at the University of Wyoming.

Shuman said it’s likely we’ll see more extreme warm events like this and less extreme cold events. That’s a concern in the Mountain West for multiple reasons. For one, many homes lack air conditioning — and a lot of the region’s flora and fauna rely on cooler temperatures to survive.

Shuman said mitigating the climate crisis hinges both on small changes, such as flying less, and large systemic shifts, like enacting a carbon tax.

Mono, Inyo Counties Listed Under Cali. Drought Emergency
By Paul Boger

California Governor Gavin Newsom is expanding the state's drought emergency to nine more counties, including areas of the Southern Sierra.

The latest announcement adds Inyo and Mono counties to the growing list of counties now facing “acute water supply shortages.” The state is urging residents to voluntarily cut back their water usage by 15%.

Roughly 42% of California residents are now living under the drought emergency, including Lassen, Plumas, El Dorado, Nevada, Sierra and Alpine Counties.

Nevada DMV Giving Small Refunds
By Riley Snyder, The Nevada Independent

Anyone who made a transaction at the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles in the last two years is in line for a small refund. Although the actual format of the refunds is still undetermined, the state has allocated roughly $7.8 million to refund the $1 technology fee applied to all DMV transactions since 2019.

Refunds of the technology fee, which was implemented in 2015 to fund a long-awaited DMV system modernization upgrade, didn't exactly come as a surprise. The fee and an extension of the state payroll tax were challenged by the state Senate Republicans and the state Supreme Court declared the tax collections unconstitutional earlier this year.

A DMV spokesperson says the agency is still working on details on the refund and that any proposal would need to go through legal review. It would still need the approval of all parties involved in the court case before finally going through the legislature's interim finance committee, meaning any refund payments are likely months away.

Read the full story at thenevadaindependent.com.

US Forest Service Warns Public Against Flying Drones Near Wildfires
By Jayden Perez

The U.S. Forest Service is reminding the public not to fly drones near wildfires. The agency warns unauthorized drone flights are a significant problem and can impede firefighting operations. Drones fly at the same altitude as firefighting aircraft.

Endangering aircraft or people on the ground can result in fines of up to $25,000 and potential criminal prosecution.

Lyon County Commission Addresses Road Name Change To Pres. Trump Way
By Jayden Perez

Lyon County Commissioners are reconsidering a plan to rename a street after former President Donald Trump. The commission approved a motion to begin the process of renaming Old Dayton Valley Road to Pres. Trump Way earlier this month. County officials say there are concerns commissioners violated open meeting laws because the public agenda wasn’t specific enough.

Lyon County Commissioners are expected to once again take up the possible name change at a meeting next week.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
Maggie Mullen is a fifth generation Wyomingite, born and raised in Casper. She is currently a Masters candidate in American Studies and will defend her thesis on female body hair in contemporary American culture this May. Before graduate school, she earned her BA in English and French from the University of Wyoming. Maggie enjoys writing, cooking, her bicycle, swimming in rivers and lakes, and most any dog.
Jayden Perez is a former web producer and student reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
Riley has been with The Nevada Independent since its launch in 2017. He was the reporter and researcher for Nevada PolitiFact during the 2016 campaign season. Prior to that, he was a legislative reporter for the Associated Press. Riley's byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Las Vegas Sun and the Reno Gazette-Journal. He's also done freelance work for Reuters, The Washington Post, Reno Magazine and Reno News & Review.
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