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KUNR Today: Nev. prepping for Omicron, NSHE vaccine deadline

An image of the Knowledge Center (Library) at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Alexa Ard
KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

Nevada bracing for inevitable arrival of first omicron case
By The Associated Press

Nevada health officials are bracing for the inevitable arrival of the omicron variant in the state after the first U.S. case was confirmed in neighboring California.

No cases of the COVID-19 variant have been confirmed so far in Nevada. But Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick says he wouldn’t be surprised if there's already been a case that's gone undetected. He told reporters Wednesday in Reno, “We know it's ... coming.”

Meanwhile, Nevada recorded its 8,000th death from the coronavirus since the pandemic began in March 2020. Overall, the number of cases in the state has been on a recent downward trend.

More than 1,200 Nevada System of Higher Education employees unvaccinated at deadline
By Kaleb Roedel

As of Wednesday’s deadline, nearly 6% of Nevada System of Higher Education employees remain unvaccinated. That means more than 1,200 NSHE employees face possible termination by the end of the year.

Roughly 92% of employees have shown proof of vaccination, and about 2% have received either a medical or religious exemption.

NSHE employees who have not received a COVID-19 shot must start the vaccination process or get an exemption by the end of the year. Employees who are let go will have a 1-month grace period in January to get vaccinated.

Western Nevada Community College in Carson City has the lowest vaccination rate of any higher education institution in the state, with 14.5% of its staff unvaccinated.

At the University of Nevada, Reno, about 96% of employees are vaccinated. Meanwhile, Truckee Meadows Community College has an employee vaccination rate of roughly 91%.

Carson City awarded $9.3 million federal grant for East William Street project
By Kaleb Roedel

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Carson City a $9.3 million grant for a project aimed to overhaul one of the city’s main commercial corridors.

Carson City will use the funds to help transform East William Street from a former state-owned highway into a street that provides for all modes of transportation. Specifically, the estimated $17.4 million project will provide roadway, bicycle, and pedestrian improvements. The project will also include safety and beautification components.

Carson City’s project was one of 90 that were awarded across the U.S. The federal grant is part of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant program.

Snowless future could spell water shortages
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Climate scientists are sounding the alarm about a future with low-to-no snow. That future doesn’t seem far away from this warm, dry December – and it isn’t the stuff of science fiction anymore.

In a new study, scientists warn that the region’s snowpack is rapidly diminishing. If human-caused climate change continues at the same rate, we’ll consistently see low-to-no snow within the next 35-60 years. That’s bad news for water supplies in the West.

“The vast majority of our water management paradigm and our infrastructure as part of this water management paradigm is really precedented on the historical assumption of having a snowpack in the mountains that acts as a natural reservoir,” said Ben Hatchett with the Western Regional Climate Center in Reno and co-author of the report.

Water management has to become less reactive, Hatchett said. That means managing reservoirs and aquifers according to patterns of drought and floods. It also means doing everything we can to cut carbon emissions now.

2 Southern California ski areas to open despite dry fall
By The Associated Press

Two Southern California ski areas will open this week despite dry fall weather. Big Bear Mountain Resorts has announced that Friday will be opening day for the general public at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Season pass holders will get an early start on Thursday. Weather across Southern California has been dry and mild, but it has been cold enough up in the San Bernardino Mountains for snowmaking.

In the Sierra Nevada, ski resorts have largely seen postponements of opening days due to lack of snowfall and warm conditions that have hindered snowmaking.

Study: Wildfires staying active and burning more at night
By Maggie Mullen, Mountain West News Bureau

More wildfires are burning at night in the lower 48. That’s according to a new study by U.S. Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Wildfires are usually less intense overnight. That’s because generally temperatures drop, the wind dies down, and humidity goes up. But, a warming climate is changing those weather patterns, and now, data from heat sensing satellites shows that fires aren’t slowing down as much at night.

That’s a safety concern for firefighters. Fires burning intensely at night limit their ability to rest and recover. Plus, they face the additional risk of working in the dark.

In November, a pilot died at the Kruger Rock Fire in Colorado when his single-engine air tanker crashed during nighttime operations.

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