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KUNR Today: As omicron surges, schools are closing and health officials are preparing

An image of the exterior of the Carson City School District Office
Carson City School District
Carson City closed schools Thursday and Friday, due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.

Washoe Co. Health District launches email, text alerts for close COVID-19 contacts
By Kaleb Roedel

The Washoe County Health District has launched a new system to alert residents when they’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

Starting this week, residents who have been exposed to the virus will be notified with an email and text message. The health district says the new process will allow for quicker notification of close contacts as the omicron variant surges throughout the community.

Daily COVID-19 cases in Washoe Co. surpass last winter’s peak
By Kaleb Roedel

Daily COVID-19 cases in Washoe County are on the rise as the omicron variant tears through the region. According to the Washoe County Health District, the seven-day average of new cases has jumped to 742. That’s a 155% increase from the region’s previous peak last winter.

Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said that nearly all of the new cases right now are the omicron variant.

“I think at this point almost everyone in our community knows someone who has COVID-19 right now or has it themselves. That’s the level of cases we’re experiencing; [it's] a tremendous surge that we’re going through right now,” Dick said.

As a result, Dick said the demand for COVID-19 tests outweighs the supply of tests available. In response, the health district is working with the state to help secure additional rapid tests for the community.

“Unfortunately, though, that's not going to be something that's instantaneous, and it's going to be several weeks down the road probably before we have any relief if those efforts are successful,” he said.

Currently, about 63% of Washoe County residents five years and older are fully vaccinated.

Carson City schools closing Thursday, Friday due to COVID-19
By Michelle Billman

The Carson City School District has announced that it’s closing schools Thursday and Friday due to COVID-19. In a statement, officials said the closure is due to a strain on staffing resources that has been caused by the recent surge of the virus and they are acting “out of an abundance of caution.” They expect students and employees to return to in-person instruction on Tuesday, after the MLK holiday.

During this period, the schools will be cleaned and sanitized, and no meals will be prepared or distributed. There are roughly 7,600 students who attend Carson City schools.

WCSD authorizes individual schools to go remote if needed due to COVID-19
By Andrew Mendez

The Washoe County School District is grappling with a surge of COVID-19 cases among teachers and students. While the district as a whole is not planning to go remote at this time, individual schools are now authorized to go virtual on a case-by-case basis.

According to the latest update on Monday, more than 300 teachers and 20% of students called out sick across the district.

Despite COVID cases increasing regionally due to the omicron variant, the district has no plans to transition back to remote learning.

“This thing is moving and changing so rapidly it’s not to say at some point that conversation might not be required, but we have made a very strong commitment... to do all that we can to keep schools open, as long as we can do so safely,” said Angela Taylor, the president of the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.

As teachers and staff are being spread thin, Taylor said some schools are better equipped to handle those shortages, while others aren’t. That’s why the board is allowing individual schools to determine if they should transition to distance learning.

US acknowledges shipping Idaho radioactive waste to Nevada
By The Associated Press

The federal government is acknowledging it has been shipping mixed radioactive waste from a nuclear cleanup site in Idaho to Nevada for disposal.

In a statement following a protest letter from U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, the Energy Department said about enough material to fill five Olympic-sized swimming pools has been sent since 2009 from a former dump at the Idaho National Laboratory to the Nevada National Security Site. The Energy Department says the Nevada state Division of Environmental Protection participates in predisposal documentation and review of the material.

The state and federal government have clashed in the past over shipments of radioactive materials to the vast former government nuclear test site in Nevada.

Universal health care bill advances in California Assembly
By The Associated Press

California Democrats have taken their first step toward creating a universal health care system. A legislative committee in the state Assembly advanced a bill on Tuesday that would replace California's private insurance market with a plan paid for by the government. But the proposal is still a long way from becoming law. It faces strong opposition from the state's powerful business interests. And even if it becomes law, voters will have to approve a massive income tax increase to pay for it. Still, Democrats hailed the vote for jumpstarting one of their long-stalled policy goals.

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