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KUNR Today: Washoe Co. omicron concerns, Vaccine requirement lifted for Nev. state workers, students

The Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center on the UNR Campus.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Students attending the University of Nevada, Reno in the spring will no longer need to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to register for classes.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021.

Nevada axes vaccine rule for prison staff, college students
By The Associated Press

Nevada lawmakers on Tuesday overruled two vaccination mandates passed as emergency measures by the state Board of Health earlier this year. The mandates failed to secure majority support in a committee that meets when the Legislature.

The commission overturned a state Board of Health requirement that college students and state workers be vaccinated. Unvaccinated students will no longer be prohibited from registering for classes in the spring.

State officials said they would continue to encourage vaccines and planned to resubmit the regulations to the Legislative Commission next year. The commission’s vote comes as the Las Vegas area is reporting more cases than it has since the peak of last summer’s surge in August.

Washoe County health officials concerned about omicron spread
By Gustavo Sagrero

Washoe County Health District officials had high hopes going into the new year, but with two cases of the omicron COVID-19 variant and relaxed vaccine rules, they’re now cautious.

“I think it’s important for people to understand and be prepared for what we believe is approaching with omicron,” said District Health Officer Kevin Dick.

Nationwide, the variant has overtaken delta as the dominant strain, but in Nevada, that isn’t the case yet. In addition, most monoclonal treatments are not effective against it. Dick said there is one treatment that is effective, but it’s in short supply. Regardless, he said there’s an upside.

“I think we’re fortunate that we’re not at our peak with delta, with omicron coming on top of that, as many areas of our country have had occur with them,” Dick said.

Elsewhere in the health district, students attending university are not required to be vaccinated, which Dick said will lead to unvaccinated folks becoming infected and spreading the virus even more.

Nevada scaling back masking requirements in 2 more counties
By The Associated Press

Nevada is scaling back indoor masking requirements in two more counties.

State health officials announced Tuesday that the masking requirements for vaccinated people will be lifted Friday in rural Storey and White Pine counties because the two counties had low or moderate risk of transmission of the coronavirus for the second straight week.

Storey and White Pine counties join Esmeralda County, which was released from a masking requirement for vaccinated people in late November.

Officials said three additional counties — Lander, Eureka and Lincoln — are listed as having low or moderate risks of transmission this week. Vaccinated people in those three counties wouldn’t be subject to indoor masking requirements if the counties maintain a low or moderate risk of transmission for another week, officials said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists all other Nevada counties, including those where the cities of Las Vegas and Reno are located, with high transmission and are subject to continued marking requirements.

People who aren’t vaccinated are still required to wear masks in indoor settings in all counties statewide.

California sets Feb. 1 deadline for health worker boosters
By The Associated Press

California’s roughly 2.5 million health care workers have until Feb. 1 to get a coronavirus vaccine booster shot or risk losing their jobs.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the new rule on Wednesday. He said the rule will protect staff and patients as a more contagious version of the coronavirus spreads throughout the state. Newsom said there is no plan to require booster shots for other groups, including state workers, teachers and students. But he said that could change.

California is doing better than most other states when it comes to the spread of the virus. Newsom said the state has the lowest positivity rate in the country.

Consultation among tribes, Western states over water rights
By Gustavo Sagrero

A federal task force is forming between the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, and the states of Nevada and Utah.

A treaty signed in the 1800s entitled the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation water rights. The goal of the proposed Federal Water Team is to fulfill those treaty obligations.

Tribal Chairman Rupert Steele said there’s really only two ways to solve this: They could go through the courts in a lawsuit, which could take years, or work this out through the task force. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said he has high hopes that the task force will benefit everyone involved.

Two years ago, the Goshute reservation was part of a coalition that successfully stopped the Las Vegas water authorities from building a pipeline. It would have pulled water from the Great Basin region where the reservation sources it’s water.

A 2020 water report for the reservation shows higher than ideal levels of lead, alongside radiological contaminants.

Northern Nevada tribes sue over geothermal project
By Gustavo Sagrero

The Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe and the Center for Biological Diversity have filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management over a geothermal energy project. The feds approved the project on 2,000 acres of land in Northern Nevada’s Dixie Valley.

The region and its hot springs are sacred to the tribe. The lawsuit alleges that this geothermal energy project would halt or impede religious practices, sacred rituals and hunting grounds.

Tribe begins hiring to reopen newly purchased Vegas resort
By The Associated Press

The new owners of the shuttered Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas want to rehire hundreds of former employees who lost their jobs when the property closed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cynthia Kiser Murphey, general manager of the off-Strip property now owned by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, told Nevada casino regulators last week she hopes to bring back up to 600 of nearly 1,200 idled former workers. The off-Strip resort plans to reopen in the spring. No date has been announced.

The California-based tribe acquired the 700-room Palms this year from Red Rock Resorts.

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