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KUNR Today: Washoe Co. Maintaining Mask Policy, Lightning Likely Cause Of 2020 Creek Fire

An image of a firefighter walking along a fire line in the forest.
U.S. Navy
Creative Commons, CC BY 2.0
A U.S. Marine assigned to the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducts wildland firefighting operations with National Interagency Fire Center personnel near the Sierra National Forest in California, Sept. 26, 2020.

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Monday, July 19, 2021.

Washoe Co. Says No Updated Mask Recommendation Now
By Michelle Billman

Clark County is now recommendingthat everyone, including those who are vaccinated, wear a mask in indoor public places. In response to that announcement, the Washoe County Health District has clarified that its local policy on masking is not changing at this time.

The Southern Nevada Health District now recommends that both unvaccinated and vaccinated individuals use masks in indoor, crowded public places, such as grocery stores, malls, large events, and casinos. The district released a statement Friday saying the change is based on the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in Clark County, along with a slowing vaccination rate.

In Washoe County, health officials also released a statementon Friday. They said because Washoe’s COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are much lower per capita than Clark County’s, there are no plans now to require more masking. Under a directive from the governor, unvaccinated people are already required to wear masks in indoor public settings. The district noted that it’s not a bad idea for all people to wear a mask for further protection against the virus.

Lightning Likely Cause Of 2020 Sierra National Forest Fire
By The Associated Press

The U.S. Forest Service says lightning likely ignited a 2020 wildfire in California's Sierra National Forest but they could not determine an official cause. September's Creek Fire spread so quickly that hundreds of Labor Day campers had to be rescued by a series of harrowing helicopter flights. The fire burned 600 square miles and destroyed 853 structures. Fire officials at the time said they'd never seen a fire move so fast in forestland. The Sept. 4 fire near Yosemite National Park cut off an access road to a popular campground at Mammoth Pool Reservoir where 214 people became trapped. There were no fatalities.

Activists Say No More Dams Or Pipelines For Parched Colorado River
By Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

A massive new infrastructure bill is slowly moving its way through Congress this summer. But, a group of elected officials, conservationists and tribal leaders want to make sure it doesn’t include new pipelines or dams along the parched Colorado River.

The group gathered in front of the Hoover Dam Thursday to call for a moratorium on what they call wasteful projects that would divert water from the West’s biggest river.

These are things like the controversial Lake Powell Pipeline. It would suck water from that reservoir and bring it to one of the fastest growing cities in the region: St. George, Utah.

Lawmakers haven’t tried to put funding for that project into the infrastructure bill yet. Great Basin Water Network executive director Kyle Roerink wants to make sure they don’t.

“We have to be very vigilant that Congress doesn’t fund bad projects through a massive omnibus bill where there’s a lot of room for skullduggery and chicanery and we’re asking everyone to be vigilant there,” Roerink said.

Scientists say the West is in the midst of a prolonged megadrought that has lasted about two decades. It’s predicted to be one of the most severe megadroughts in more than a millenia.

California Approves 1st State-Funded Guaranteed Income Plan
By The Associated Press

The California Legislature has approved the nation's first state-funded guaranteed income program. The $35 million plan approved Thursday will fund local programs that will provide monthly cash payments to young adults who recently left foster care and pregnant people. The local programs will set the monthly amount. There will be no restrictions on how recipients spend it. Los Angeles is among a growing number of local governments have started guaranteed income programs. Monthly payments generally range from $500 to $1,000. Advocates say their goal is to get Congress to approve a permanent, national guaranteed income program.

Analysis: Demand, Not Supply, Causing Surge In Housing Prices
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

A new Federal Reserve analysissays the tight housing market is a result of soaring demand rather than a low supply of homes for sale.

The analysis found 93% of the decrease in available homes for sale is driven by increased demand. Jeff Tucker is a senior economist at Zillow. He said the median home is selling in about a week — something he said is remarkable.

"The simplest way to explain that high demand is we have the biggest ever population of people around age 26-to-35," Tucker said.

Those millennials are taking the home ownership plunge. Tucker points to reasons like the pandemic, changes to our economy, and record-low mortgage rates. And in our region, keeping up with the demand is daunting.

"In many of these towns in the Mountain West, we simply can't build homes fast enough in the near term to close a gap of that magnitude," Tucker said.

Home prices in the region rose by more than 20% from April of last year to this year.

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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