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KUNR Today: Nevada Reaches New Peak In COVID-19 Hospitalizations, RTC Drivers Go On Strike

Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

Here are your local news headlines for the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021.

Nevada Seeing More COVID-19 Hospitalizations Than 2020 Peak
By Paul Boger

An uptick in coronavirus cases in Nevada is pushing hospitalization rates past levels seen in last summer's surge, well before vaccines were available.

Nevada reported Tuesday that 1,148 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 and 67 others were suspected to have the illness. The current surge has surpassed the highest rate last summer, when there were 972 confirmed hospitalizations and 174 suspected COVID-19 hospital patients.

Officials say the surge has been driven by the highly contagious delta variant and Nevada's slowing rate of vaccinations.

US Plans 50% More Wild Horse Roundups Amid Western Drought
By The Associated Press

U.S. land managers have begun efforts to capture about 50% more wild horses than originally planned this year because of severe drought across the U.S. West. The emergency roundups that began Sunday and Monday target about 6,000 additional animals primarily in Nevada, Oregon and Colorado. The Bureau of Land Management says the expanded effort concentrates on places where “chronic overpopulation” of the herds has stretched available food and water to their limits. Horse advocates say the emergency roundups are being driven by pressure from ranchers who don’t want wild horses competing with their livestock for limited forage and water. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association says ranchers have voluntarily reduced and rotated grazing on federal lands during the drought.

Teamsters Announce Strike, RTC Buses Shut Down
By Paul Boger

Catching a bus in the Truckee Meadows just got a lot more difficult.

Teamsters Local 533, the union which represents bus drivers and other transit workers in the Truckee Meadows, went on strike Tuesday.

The work stoppage comes after weeks of failed negotiations between the union and Keolis, the contractor which operates the transit system on behalf of the Regional Transportation Commission. The collective bargaining agreement between Keolis and the union expired July 1.

According to This Is Reno, the union filed an official complaint against Keolis with the National Labor Relations Board last week.

Vaccine Requirements All Over The Map At Regional Colleges
By Savannah Maher, Mountain West News Bureau

Some colleges and universities in our region are requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to campus, while others are banned from creating mandates.

Students in the University of Colorado and University of New Mexico systems, and at many private colleges around the region, are required to get the shot.

Dorit Reiss, a professor at the University of California Hastings Law School, said these mandates are nothing new.

"They go back to at least the early 20th century when some universities mandated smallpox vaccines," she said, noting that mandates have a long history of being upheld by the courts.

This week, a federal judge green-lit Indiana University’s mandate, though that ruling is already being appealed. Reiss said some state universities are facing another roadblock.

"Some states have passed laws prohibiting agencies from requiring COVID-19 vaccines," she said.

In our region, Utahlawmakers banned state agencies from mandating COVID-19 vaccination. The governors of Idaho, Montanaand Wyominghave done the same by executive order.

Storey County On Verge On New Mask Mandate
By Paul Boger

Storey County may soon fall under Nevada's latest mask mandate. According to Nevada Health Response, there are now signs of a substantial risk of transmission of COVID-19 in Storey County.

For the now, masks are not required in Storey County.

Governor Steve Sisolak reimposed the mandate on counties with high rates of transmission after the Centers for Disease Control issued new recommendations that all people wear masks indoors despite vaccination status.

Floods, Heavy Rains Hammer Mountain West
By Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

First severe drought, now heavy rains. Some parts of the West have been hit hard by record-breaking amounts of precipitation in recent days.

“There have been a lot of reports of flash flooding. We’ve had a lot of debris flows off of burn scars and we’ve had a lot of urban flooding as well,” said Christine Kruse with the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City.

Kruse said it’s caused by a particularly strong North American Monsoon season, which normally hits the region in July and August.

All this rain is helping ease some drought conditions. Soil moisture has increased which means ranchers and farmers have to irrigate less, but it won’t really help the West’s two largest reservoirs. They get most of their water from melting snow in the spring. Lake Powell and Lake Mead supply water to millions of people and are both rapidly shrinking due to the ongoing drought.

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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