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KUNR Today: Newsom Survives Recall, Washoe County COVID-19 Metrics Quickly Rising

A graphic of Washoe County’s COVID-19 risk meter. The dial is pointing to the “Very High” rating.
Washoe County

Here are the local news headlines for the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Takeaways After California Governor Handily Defeats Recall
By The Associated Press

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ably fended off Republicans’ recall attempt. He did so by changing the stakes of the contest from a referendum on his own performance and into a partisan fight over Trumpism and the coronavirus. But Tuesday’s recall offered its own lessons. It showed that Republicans’ groundless claims of election fraud aren’t going away anytime soon. Even while ballots were still being cast, Republicans were claiming the election was “rigged.” But the recall was always a long shot in a state where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by nearly 2-to-1 and where the GOP hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006.

COVID-19 Metrics Rising Quickly Across Washoe County
By Noah Glick

Over the last month, the COVID-19 case rate per 1,000 residents in Washoe County has doubled, and the county’s test positivity rate has jumped to more than 20%, according to Tuesday’s update from Assistant County Manager Dave Solaro.

Solaro said hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients, most of whom are unvaccinated, which is straining the state’s medical system.

“I’m not as concerned, quite frankly, about myself going into the hospital for COVID. What I’m concerned about is I get into a car accident on my way home, and there’s no place for me to go because I’ve had a serious accident,” Solaro said.

More than 62% of eligible residents in Washoe County are fully vaccinated. Washoe County is still under an indoor mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status, due to the current high transmission rate.

Sparks City Councilmember Donald Abbott Tests Positive For COVID-19
By Lucia Starbuck

Sparks City Councilmember Donald Abbott announced that he tested positive for COVID-19 despite getting vaccinated back in February.

In a Facebook post, Abbott said he has mild fatigue, a cough and has lost his sense of taste. But he said it’s inconsequential compared to the funerals he’s attended of friends who have died from the virus. Abbott also wrote that the vaccines are safe and effective.

Since the start of the pandemic in Washoe County, there have been about 1,700 cases amongst people who are fully vaccinated. That represents roughly 0.6% of the number of fully vaccinated people in the county.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations in Nevada, or view the state and Washoe County COVID-19 dashboards.

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

Washoe County School District Board Trustee Jacqueline Calvert Resigns
By Lucia Starbuck

Washoe County School District Board Trustee Jacqueline Calvert has resigned.

Calvert said after recently moving, she no longer lived in the district she represents, District F, which is an at-large position that covers the east side of the school district.

Calvert’s term was set to expire in 2022. The board will appoint a replacement.

First Day Of Class For Lake Tahoe Unified School District Starts Thursday
By Lucia Starbuck

Thursday is the first day for classes for students in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. The Caldor Fire postponed the start date for the schools in South Lake Tahoe, which were supposed to start on August 30.

“We’ve lost 12 days of school to start this year,” superintendent Todd Cutler said.

Cutler said crews have been on campuses cleaning up from the effects of the fire.

“We had all of our maintenance custodians, several bus drivers and grounds crew come into the district to begin cleanup of ash on the outside and some that got inside,” Cutler said.

Cutler added that they’ve also replaced air filters in buildings and on buses. He said the next biggest challenge is restructuring the academic calendar to make up for the lost time.

Climate Change Pushing Wildfires Into Higher Elevations
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Higher elevations like mountain tops usually have more moisture and fires don’t often burn there - but that’s changing rapidly.

The Dixie and Caldor Fires in California are the first and second wildfires ever recorded crossing the Sierra Nevada crest, said Boise State University researcher Moji Sadegh.

“Previously, fire managers would just let them burn because they would reach a certain ground and it was wet enough for the fire not to proceed any more. But now, they can’t do that because it’s going to reach the top of the mountain, and it’s going to jump the breach,” Sadegh said.

Sadegh was a co-author on research showing fires are increasing across high-elevation, mountainous, wooded areas since the ‘80s. He said we can’t blame a history of fire suppression for it, though, because fires didn’t burn often there before. Instead, he said climate change is the driver.

He said burned mountain tops could threaten water sources, increase avalanche dangers and decrease snowpack.

Sen. Cortez Masto Pushes For Tax Extension For State-Level Emergencies
By Noah Glick

Nevada U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto introduced legislation Tuesday that would delay the federal tax filing deadline for people impacted by natural disasters and wildfires.

Currently, those impacted by federally declared disasters get an extra 120 days to file their federal taxes. Under this new bill, Cortez Masto said that extension would also apply to state-level emergency declarations.

“We saw with the Caldor Fire, there was a natural disaster because of the wildfires declared by both governors, but only a federal disaster declared for the state of California. Well, we know in the state of Nevada that we had thousands of Nevadans displaced and families displaced because of that fire. So this would bring parity,” Cortez Masto said.

She introduced the legislation with Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana. A companion bill was introduced in the House in May.

Cortez Masto said the federal government is also working to secure more funding to help with wildfire prevention, detection and restoration, including $8 billion as part of President Biden’s infrastructure package.

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