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KUNR Today: Omicron variant confirmed in Washoe County, Reno-Sparks housing market red hot

An image of two people in HAZMAT suits holding a COVID-19 test.
Lucia Starbuck
This Is Reno
Health care workers demonstrate how COVID-19 tests are administered at a Washoe County Health District COVID-19 testing site in Reno, Nev., on April 13, 2020.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021.

Washoe County reports first case of COVID-19 omicron variant
By Kaleb Roedel

Washoe County reportedits first case of the COVID-19 omicron variant Monday. It was identified in a man in his early 50s who was fully vaccinated and received a booster shot. Health officials say he was likely exposed as a result of international and domestic air travel. He is isolating and recovering at home.

The omicron variant has also been detected in Clark and Churchill counties.

RTC to scale back bus services across Reno-Sparks in 2022
By Kaleb Roedel

Bus services across Reno-Sparks will be significantly scaled back next month. The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County says it will be getting rid of three bus routes starting Jan. 8, which includes routes 2S, 3CC and 19.

RTC Washoe says they are reducing routes because of its shrinking ridership caused by COVID-19, as well as the impacts of the labor shortage. The move comes less than three weeks after RTC and the union representing its bus drivers agreed to end the region’s third bus strike this year.

Reno housing prices set another record in November
By Kaleb Roedel

While the temperatures continue to drop in Northern Nevada, the housing market is hotter than ever.

The median sales price for a single-family home in Reno came in at a record-high $567,000 last month, according to the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors, which is an increase of nearly 17% from last year.

In Sparks, the median sales price tied the city’s previous record of $500,000, which is a 22% jump from last year.

Realtors cite high demand and low supply as the main driver. As a result, they said newly listed homes are going under contract in an average of 17 days.

California more prepared for latest surge of new virus cases
By The Associated Press

California is poised for a surge in new coronavirus cases over the holidays. But experts say the nation’s most populous state will likely avoid spikes in hospitalizations and deaths because most people have been fully vaccinated or already infected.

New infections have been rising steadily in recent weeks. Hospitalizations have been rising slowly with a 9% increase in the past two weeks. But that’s still less than half of what it was during the summer peak and one-fifth of what it was last year before vaccines were widely available.

More than 70% of Californians have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

California sues Walmart over disposal of hazardous waste
By The Associated Press

California prosecutors say retail giant Walmart illegally dumps more 1 million batteries, aerosol cans of insect killer and other products, toxic cleaning supplies, electronic waste, latex paints and other hazardous waste into California landfills each year. The company called the lawsuit unjustified.

The state attorney general, 12 local prosecutors and the state's hazardous waste regulator sued Walmart on Monday. Walmart says it has an effective hazardous waste program that is far more efficient than the state average. The attorney general’s office settled a previous similar lawsuit in 2010 in which Walmart paid $25 million and agreed to stop the dumping into local landfills that are not equipped to contain the hazardous products.

Survey underway to better understand, meet needs of Indigenous communities
By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

The second annual Indigenous Futures Survey is officially underway. Last year’s poll featured the perspectives of Native people from all 50 states and collected responses from more than 6,400 people. That’s an achievement because organizers had planned to canvass door-to-door, but COVID-19 forced them to move it online.

Judith LeBlanc is the director of the Native Organizers Alliance and a citizen of the Caddo Nation. Her group is part of a coalition leading the project. The first survey showed that tribal communities struggled with the pandemic, as well as a shortage of mental health services and resources for elders.

But she said the polling also illustrated their resiliency.

“We may face difficulties as a people, but we are not passive,” she said.

LeBlanc said this time around, organizers will be conducting surveys in-person — so they hope to reach twice as many respondents. She said the results will help guide policymakers in understanding Native priorities.

The Indigenous Futures Survey is open until Jan. 31, 2022.

Nevada awarded $1.5 million for juvenile justice services
By Kaleb Roedel

Nevada’s Division of Child and Family Services has received more than $1.5 million to serve at-risk youth and those who have committed low-level crimes.

The agency says the federal funds will be used to support unfunded or underfunded programs and services in Nevada’s lowest-income counties. Its goal is to address the needs of at-risk youth in an effort to prevent them from committing additional crimes and reentering the justice system.

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