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KUNR Today: Nevada orders 500,000 at-home COVID-19 tests, Omicron surge strains ambulance services

Several REMSA ambulances are parked in a lot.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Friday, Jan. 14, 2022.

Nevada orders more than 500,000 at-home rapid COVID-19 tests
By Gustavo Sagrero

At the end of this month, Nevada will receive a little more than 500,000 at-home rapid tests to be distributed to folks throughout the state. People will be able to access these tests through libraries, health clinics and community organizations. Federal COVID-19 relief funds foot the bill.

Governor Steve Sisolak says a little under 90 other community partners have signed up to help with distribution. The bulk of the shipment will arrive in Southern Nevada. Future updates on when shipments arrive and where people can get tests can be found on the Nevada Health Response COVID-19 page.

Hug High in Reno on temporary distance learning Friday
By Michelle Billman

Hug High School in Reno has transitioned to temporary distance learning Friday. There will be no extra-curricular activities due to staff illnesses and absences as COVID-19 cases spike in the region, according to a statement the Washoe County School District sent to families Thursday. In-person instruction is expected to resume on Tuesday.

Students can pick up breakfast and lunch from 10 to 11 a.m. at the district’s central kitchen at 585 Spice Islands Court in Sparks.

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto remembers Harry Reid, supports the return of the ‘talking filibuster’
By KNPR Staff

As the late Nevada Senator Harry Reid was honored at the U.S. Capitol this week, his successor remembered him as a lawmaker and leader who was “there for the right reasons.” Senator Catherine Cortez Masto told NPR that Reid was driven by his own journey from Searchlight to Washington.

“He wanted other families and other people to have those opportunities, the American dream, that he had. He’s the epitome of what people come to this country for, the American dream, or what you grow up and you become a success from hard work and opportunity in this country,” Cortez Masto shared.

Cortez Masto also said she is in favor of reinstating a “talking filibuster” to revive debate in the Senate. President Biden and some Senate Democrats have expressed a desire to get rid of the filibuster completely.

Under current rules, lawmakers can oppose bills from their offices, which Senator Cortez Masto says can leave voters in the dark about why certain measures aren’t moving.

Washoe County omicron surge strains ambulance services, staffing
By Kaleb Roedel

The omicron surge in Washoe County is amplifying staffing shortages for companies across many industries. That includes ambulance services like REMSA Health, which was already being strained by high call volumes.

Earlier this week, REMSA responded to 299 calls in a single day, which was about 50 more calls than they see on an average day. The increase in demand comes at a time when its workforce is down 9%, or 30 employees, because of COVID-19 cases among staff.

“And that’s despite high vaccination rates and wearing PPE and doing everything right. And what that means and what that equates to is when somebody calls sick, that’s an ambulance that’s not available in our community,” said Adam Heinz, executive director of integrated healthcare at REMSA.

This is why Heinz says people should only call 911 if it is a medical emergency. REMSA is seeing as much as 30% of their daily calls prove to be minor complaints, like rashes or toe pain.

“And there’s better uses of other places, such as urgent cares, telehealth, nurse helplines, to get that help, which will preserve emergency resources for emergencies. That’s what we need the community’s help for now,” explained Heinz.

Heinz says REMSA has been forced to pull in employees from other areas, like senior leaders and educators, to fill in on ambulance calls. This is all while Washoe County has seen its daily new cases increase by 155% when compared to the surge last winter.

Nevada projected to miss greenhouse gas goals
By Gustavo Sagrero

A report by Nevada’s Environmental Protection Agency expects the state will miss its target greenhouse emission goals over the next two decades. The report is based on current regulations and trends to make its projections.

Over the past 10 years, the sector that’s grown the most when it comes to contributing greenhouse gasses is industry, which includes manufacturing. In 2005, industry produced just 9% of greenhouse gasses in Nevada; by 2030, that number is projected to jump to 19%. Industry overall produces a wider variety of greenhouse gasses than other sectors.

The report also points out that despite initiatives limiting greenhouse gasses in transportation, Nevada’s growing population will lead to little change. More pollution is expected in the coming years.

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