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KUNR Today: State Senator Julia Ratti resigns, Wildfire has killed up to one-fifth of giant sequoias

An image of a wildfire burning giant sequoia trees
National Parks Service
The Moraine Fire burned through groves of giant sequoias last year.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Monday, Nov. 22, 2021.

Sparks Democrat Julia Ratti resigns from Nevada Senate
By The Associated Press

Democratic state Sen. Julia Ratti of Sparks has resigned from the Legislature. Ratti said Friday on Twitter that she was stepping down immediately because her family is moving out of her district and because she wants to simplify her life and focus on her job as the Washoe County Health District’s director of programs and projects. Ratti has represented District 13 since being appointed to the Senate in 2016. The district includes most of Sparks and Ratti served on the Sparks City Council from 2008 to 2016. A replacement will be appointed to serve the rest of Ratti’s term.

Renown Health starts scholarship fund to train local medical students
By Nick Stewart

With a shortage of physicians in Nevada, Renown Health has set up a scholarship fund for students at the University of Nevada, Reno's medical school to help train and retain them.

Nevada is ranked 48th nationally for its number of primary care physicians for every 100,000 people. To combat these statistics, Renown Health and UNR are assisting some students through their training by providing them with a new scholarship fund.

The goal of the Renown Health Scholarship is to provide $15,000 to twenty medical students, and $10,000 to five physician assistant students, awarding a total of $350,000 annually.

Loan repayment bill would support medical professionals fighting infectious diseases
By Lucia Starbuck

A piece of bipartisan legislation aims to create a loan repayment program for medical professionals working in public health response and infectious diseases.

U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen co-introduced the bill and said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated retention and recruitment issues, creating a shortage of public health professionals. Rosen said the bill will help fill these gaps.

Eligible workers could receive $50,000 in loan repayment per year. They could get up to a total of $150,000.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations in Nevada or view the state COVID-19 dashboard.

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

California jobless rate falls in October as hiring picks up
By The Associated Press

California employers have added a robust 96,800 new jobs in October. The gains lowered California's unemployment rate to 7.3%, tied with Nevada for the highest in the nation. New data released Friday by the Employment Development Department shows California has averaged more than 100,000 new jobs each month since February. But a big reason California can add so many jobs is be cause of how many jobs it lost at the start of the pandemic. California lost more than 2.7 million jobs in March and April 2020. It has taken 18 months to add back 67% of those jobs.

Challenges ahead of ski season
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

The usual start of ski season is right around the corner, but some resorts have faced challenges opening their doors. Most ski resorts are contending with the national labor shortage, prominently advertising open positions on their websites, but they’re also facing higher temperatures and precipitation problems.

According to the U.S. drought monitor, all Mountain West states are in drought, except a few small areas in Colorado. Denver is breaking records for how late in the year it’s gone without snow.

Limited snowfalls and higher temps are why Grand Targhee Ski Resort in Wyoming had to push back its opening day. While many resorts, including Targhee, have snow machines, even those can only operate when temperatures drop to about 28 degrees.

Wildfires torched up to a fifth of all giant sequoia trees
By The Associated Press

Sequoia National Park says lightning-sparked wildfires in the past two years have killed a minimum of nearly 10,000 giant sequoia trees in California. The estimate released Friday accounts for 13% to 19% of native sequoias that are the largest trees on Earth. The trees are reliant on periodic low-intensity fire and were once seen as fire-resistant. But fires that have become more severe as climate change has brought hotter droughts and fires have torn through dozens of groves in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the past six years, killing the giants in large numbers for the first time. Extraordinary firefighting measures this year helped save some of the giants.

Nevada student suing over university vaccination mandates
By The Associated Press

A 19-year-old student who says he’s immune from COVID-19 because he already had it is suing the University of Nevada, Reno, the governor and others over the state’s requirement that he show proof of vaccination in order to register for classes in the upcoming spring semester. Jonah Gold claims there is no solid evidence that people who recover from COVID-19 ever lose their immunity. His lawsuit says any benefit of vaccination is outweighed by the threat of harmful side effects. It says the shots are "an unconstitutional intrusion on normal immunity and bodily integrity.” Gold's lawyers include Joey Gilbert, an ex-boxer turned conservative Republican activist running for governor.

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