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KUNR Today: Washoe Co. School District offering COVID-19 testing, Gaps in vaccination rates persist

An image of a pharmacist loading a syringe with a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Adrienne Desens, a pharmacist with Renown Health, prepares a syringe with a second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to administer to a health care worker at Renown’s South Meadows drive-through site in Reno, Nev., on Jan. 8, 2021.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.

WCSD offers COVID-19 testing for symptomatic students, staff and family members
By Lucia Starbuck

The Washoe County School District will offer free COVID-19 testing for symptomatic staff, students and family members, or those deemed a close contact. The testing sites will be set up at 11 different high schools after class from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Insurance and appointments are not required.

For students who must get tested weekly regardless of vaccination status, they can get tested at one of the 11 participating high schools from 1 to 3 p.m. That includes athletes in close-contact sports and students traveling outside of the county for activities.

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

Northern Nevada nonprofit grapples with finding permanent housing for Afghan refugees
By Lucia Starbuck

As the Northern Nevada International Center continues resettling Afghan refugees, one of their biggest challenges is finding housing for them.

The center has already resettled about 75 refugees. The organization connects them to services such as health care, food, job assistance and housing. Many of those living arrangements are temporary right now.

“We have connections with Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, with Airbnb, and with some local home hosts [who] are actually bringing in folks into their house on a temporary basis,” executive director Carina Black said.

Black said the next step is to work with landlords to secure permanent housing. In addition to making sure basic needs are met, the center also provides a detailed cultural orientation. According to Black, that orientation includes, “15 different modules on everything from this is how you enroll your children in school and communicate with teachers [to] this is how you react when you’re stopped by police, and all different kinds. [It’s] sort of an “America 101” for refugees,” Black said.

The center has hired a number of Afghan refugees for interpretation and translation services as well.

November ends with record high temperatures across the West
By Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

October and November were warm and dry for much of the Mountain West, and this week, temperatures rose high enough to break several records in our region.

On Monday, Pueblo, Colo. reached 75 degrees, beating the record for November 29. That same day, Laramie, Wyo. broke its previous record with 58 degrees. Up in Montana, several cities broke long-standing records on Sunday.

Jared Allen is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne, Wyo. In his area, an average winter with slightly above normal temperatures is predicted.

“Further south you go, into the Central Rockies, southern Rockies, Colorado, New Mexico, it looks to be favored even less precipitation and warmer temperatures there,” Allen said.

As for Idaho and Utah, above normal precipitation is expected this winter. Overall, it’s not a promising start for a region already dealing with a long-standing drought.

Gaps persist in vaccination rates in Western states
By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

Disparities in COVID-19 vaccination rates among different racial and ethnic groups have been shrinking as the pandemic continues, but those trends have been inconsistent. In some Western states, there’s a big gap in vaccination rates.

Among white people, it ranges from 39% in Idaho to 77% in New Mexico. The Hispanic vaccination rate runs from 34% in Arizona and Idaho to 59% in New Mexico.

According to Samantha Artiga with the Kaiser Family Foundation, the overall picture doesn’t look great.

“Some of the lowest vaccination rates we see are in Western states,” she said.

Artiga said with the emergence of the new Omicron variant and the holidays coming up, that could lead to more COVID-19 cases.

In general, the vaccination rates for Black and Hispanic populations are lower than for white populations. In many states, Asian residents have the highest rate. In Nevada, the vaccination rate for Black residents was the lowest in the region, at 35%.

Nevada basketball coach Steve Alford tests positive for COVID-19
By Kaleb Roedel

Nevada men’s basketball head coach Steve Alford has tested positive for COVID-19. Per the University of Nevada and Nevada Athletics policy, Alford will have to isolate for ten days. As a result, he will miss three games.

In his absence, Nevada assistant coach Kory Barnett is serving as acting head coach. Nevada defeated Pepperdine Tuesday at the Lawlor Events Center in Reno, 79-66.

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