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KUNR Today: Community forum highlights Reno housing crisis, WCSD reduces COVID-19 exclusion period

A bulletin board at an elementary school to the right of tables and chairs for small children.
Alexa Ard
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KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022.

Neon Line community forum highlights region's lack of affordable housing
By Bert Johnson, Mountain West News Bureau

Housing prices have skyrocketed in many Mountain West communities. A lot of attention has been paid to resort towns, but cities are facing the same crisis. In Reno, a plan to redevelop downtown is raising questions about affordability. Jacobs Entertainment is the developer behind the planned Neon Line District. The company’s been knocking down existing buildings to make way for the project since 2017.

Jacobs is facing criticism because many of the properties it knocked down were weekly motels that used to provide housing for low income residents, but it hasn’t built any new structures yet.

Representatives from Jacobs Entertainment joined city officials for a virtual public forum Monday. Kyle Hess owns a business near the project. He’s frustrated by the growing number of empty lots.

"Let’s get some stuff built, guys. You know, it really has been a long time," Hess said during that public hearing.

Meanwhile, Reno’s housing costs have skyrocketed during the pandemic. It’s a pattern playing out across the West, where white-collar employees who can work remotely are buying homes near public lands and other amenities.

WCSD shortens COVID-19 exclusion period from 10 days to 5
By Michelle Billman

The Board of Trustees for the Washoe County School District announced late Tuesday that it will be shifting from a 10-day exclusion period due to COVID-19 to a 5-day exclusion period.

Starting Wednesday, students and staff who have tested positive for the virus, who have symptoms, or who have been excluded due to an exposure can return to school after five days. That's as long as they are symptom-free or their symptoms are improving and they don't have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea for 24 hours without medication.

The district sent an email to families explaining that the change is based on guidance from the state.

Find more information here.

U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen questions Biden health officials on COVID-19 tests
By Gustavo Sagrero

U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen met with Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health leaders in the Biden White House Tuesday asking about COVID-19 testing methods.

"Hospital emergency departments in my home state of Nevada have seen a significant increase in people coming solely for tests because there’s just not enough alternatives," Rosen said.

Rosen also noted a greater need for the federal government to step up in playing a role to get tests to people, but it wasn’t all that was on her mind.

"I’m a little bit concerned about testing keeping up with the variants because we are...this is all happening in real time," Rosen said.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said if changes are needed to keep tests useful in identifying new variants, the process could be as short as day to approve any changes.

Former Senate leader Harry Reid to lie in state at Capitol
By The Associated Press

Former Sen. Harry Reid will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol as colleagues and friends pay tribute to a hardscrabble Democrat who served five terms in the Senate. Reid will be honored Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda during a ceremony closed to the public under COVID-19 protocols.

Reid rose from poverty in a dusty Nevada mining town to the most powerful position in the U.S. Senate. He died last month at 82 after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Including two terms in the House, Reid was the longest-serving Nevadan in Congress.

Hydroelectricity generation expected to decline with drought
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Federal officials and lawmakers are sounding the alarm about what a deepening drought could mean for Western electricity. Over the next five years, hydropower at Hoover Dam at Lake Mead is likely to decline up to 2.5% from year to year, but Glen Canyon Dam at Lake Powell faces greater challenges.

"The continued, extremely dry hydrology combined with already low reservoir levels means we are entering new and unpredictable operational conditions at Glen Canyon Dam," said Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton during a Senate Energy committee meeting this week.

Recent forecasts show Lake Powell could drop to just 35 feet above what’s needed to generate power by February. The dams provide power to millions in the West and the Bureau of Reclamation is adjusting monthly releases of water. It’s also studying how the dams will operate with low water.

Only 3% of the nation’s dams produce energy, and committee member John Barrasso of Wyoming was among the attendees pushing for more hydropower operations.

Sparks, former officer continue legal fight
By Gustavo Sagrero

A lawsuit filed by former officer George Forbush against the City of Sparks and its employees has taken another turn.

Forbush was put on leave for four days a couple years ago after posts he made to social media. Some of his comments revealed a history of transphobic, sexist comments, as well as violent rhetoric towards Black Lives Matter and anti-fascist protesters documented in a This Is Reno story.

He argues that the disciplinary action violated his rights under the First Amendment. Previously a district court denied a motion to dismiss the case. The city will now appeal that move.

Forbush was back on the force until he retired just last week.

Nevada has its first 2022 wildfire in Elko County
By KUNR Staff

Nevada saw its first wildfire of the year with a blaze that covered around 100 acres of private land in Elko County, according to the Elko Daily Free Press. It’s still unclear what conditions caused the fire, but Elko County has been experiencing moderate to extreme drought.

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