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KUNR Today: NSHE reconsidering staff vaccine mandate, More winter weather coming next week

A close-up image of a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021.

More winter weather coming, after record-setting December
By Noah Glick

This week's winter storms have dumped feet of snow on Sierra mountains, closed several main highways in the region and stranded drivers for hours on congested roadways.

Chris Smallcomb is with the National Weather Service in Reno. He said a new record has been set for precipitation in Reno at this point in the water year, and there's another system coming.

"We're looking at that storm coming in, mainly Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of next week. That one's got more moisture, more juice to it, but it will bring much heavier mountain snows and maybe down into the foothills around Reno," Smallcomb said.

He said now is the time to start thinking about and preparing for potential future flooding. Smallcomb said he expects overall dry conditions for New Year's Eve celebrations, although the forecast is also calling for frigid temperatures in the teens or single digits.

NSHE regents to reconsider vaccine mandate for Nevada college employees
By Lucia Starbuck

At a special meeting Thursday night, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents could reconsider the vaccine requirement for employees. The mandate currently requires Nevada college and university employees to be fully vaccinated. If not, they will be terminated on Friday.

According to the agenda, the regents can choose one of three courses of action: leave the mandate as is, repeal it completely, or add an amendment that would delay the date of termination for unvaccinated employees to January 15.

The change will not affect college students. Lawmakers recently overruleda different mandate requiring Nevada university and college students to show proof of immunization. During the meeting tonight, the board can direct the chancellor to issue a letter in support of a vaccine requirement for college students in Nevada.

As a note of disclosure, the board of regents to NSHE owns the license to this station and all KUNR employees are NSHE employees.

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

Elko County Commissioners thank U.S. Sen. Manchin for opposing Build Back Better
By Lucia Starbuck

The Elko County Board of Commissioners sent a letter thanking U.S. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin for opposing the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better Act. The legislation aims to provide trillions of dollars toward climate change and social investments.

The letter thanked the senator for going against his own party, saying his actions have spared Nevadans from the national debt the bill would cause. They also invited Manchin to Elko so they can thank him in-person.

America's Health Rankings report shows disparities among races, regions
By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

This year’s report includes information from before and during the pandemic. It shows the U.S. death rate increased by 17% as a result of COVID-19, but that impact wasn’t equally shared: death rates were highest among Native American, Black, Hispanic and Native Hawaiian populations.

Dr. Nicole Brady is chief medical officer of UnitedHealthcare, which released the study. She said in Nevada, Utah and Colorado, patients reported increased levels of frequent mental distress, even as the nation overall saw a decline.

"So, clearly different groups, different states, different communities have been impacted by the pandemic differently," Brady said.

She hopes the findings will prompt conversations about how public health resources can be better used to support people around the country.

Washoe County sees 70% increase in weekly average of new daily COVID-19 cases
By Lucia Starbuck

The Washoe County Health District is reporting an average of more than 127 daily cases over the last week, a number that's about 70% higher than the average a week-and-a-half ago.

“I don't think this is a short spike. I think what we’re going to see is a continuing increase, particularly as we have more omicron cases happening, and we’re seeing more of the cases that are resulting from holiday gatherings,” Health District Officer Kevin Dick said.

Dick said there are 16 confirmed omicron cases in Washoe County. Fewer than 63% of Washoe County residents five years and older are fully vaccinated.

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

Nevada District Court judge overturns Reno's denial of Verdi housing project
By Noah Glick

The orderfiled last week in Nevada's second judicial district court found that the city council's decision to deny the project was an "abuse of discretion." Judge Kathleen Drakulich said the city failed to provide substantive evidence that the development went against municipal code.

Council had voted 6-1 to reject the proposal earlier this year. It now has 30 days to re-address its concerns and appeal the decision.

Loss ends Nevada men's basketball winning streak at five games
By Noah Glick

The Nevada men's basketball team ended its winning streak at five, after falling to No. 6 ranked Kansas Jayhawks Wednesday, 88-to-61. The game was added after the Wolf Pack's conference opener was delayed by COVID-19 related issues in San Jose State's basketball program. Nevada is now 6-6 on the season, while Kansas improved to 11-1.

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