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KUNR Today: NSHE Regents send letter in support of reinstating student COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Two vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine placed next to a syringe on a table.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.

NSHE Regents vote to send letter in support of reinstating student vaccine mandate
By Andrew Mendez

The Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents has voted to send a letter to the state supporting a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students; however, that letter is not binding.

At a special meeting on Friday, dozens of community members from Elko, Reno and Las Vegas voiced their concerns about the potential return of a student vaccine mandate.

Despite the opposition, the board passed the motion to submit the letter to the Nevada Board of Health asking that a vaccine mandate for NSHE students be reinstated, and the motion passed 9 to 4.

Some regents in disapproval of the motion went as far as to say they felt ambushed and questioned the legality of a mandate.

“Respectfully, I disagree. It would be like ... driving the speed limit in a residential neighborhood — it’s a mandate; it’s a requirement; it’s a law,” said Joseph Reynolds, the chief general counsel for NSHE, in response.

Reynolds says the Nevada Board of Health has the authority to create and impose a collegiate vaccine mandate. Currently, student workers are required to be inoculated like any other NSHE employee.

As a note of disclosure, the license to KUNR is owned by the Board of Regents to the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Nevada casinos data: Jobs lost, revenues down amid pandemic
By The Associated Press

An annual report shows a decrease in employees at Nevada’s biggest casinos and anemic revenues during the 12 months that followed a statewide casino shutdown over the pandemic in 2020. The Nevada Gaming Control Board reported Thursday in its annual Nevada Gaming Abstract that 302 casinos lost more than $206 million in the 12 months ending last June 30. That compared with net income of almost $2.9 billion reaped by 267 casinos a year earlier.

The report said the average number of employees decreased 18% during the fiscal 2021 reporting period, from almost 136,000 to about 111,500. State health officials have reported nearly 550,000 coronavirus cases and over 8,600 deaths during the pandemic.

Sparks Police will hire four more officers for West Sparks
By Gustavo Sagrero

The Sparks police force will hire four more officers for its western communities. The new officers will be hired with a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and a little more than $1.5 million from the City of Sparks.

Those funds will be spread over a period of four years. Chief of Police Chris Crawford says this will help provide officers for the western portion of Sparks.

“[That includes] both the homes and the multifamily housing, working with management in the multifamily to identify areas that they can improve, [such as] cleaning up trash more often, cars that tend to bring in crime, lighting that’s not in the area. Things of that nature,” Crawford said.

The team will be implemented this fall. The Department of Justice expects the city will fully fund the fourth year of the program. Currently, the Sparks Police Department already has nine open positions that the agency is hoping to fill — in addition to these four new posts.

State of Nevada offering free lead tests to licensed child care providers
By KNPR Staff

The Nevada Division of the Environmental Protection is offering licensed child care providers free tests to detect lead levels in the facility’s drinking water. Deputy Administrator Jennifer Carr told KNPR the program also helps fund the repairs.

“The goal of this project is to provide teachers, child care facility owners, and parents, certainly, the peace of mind that they might be seeking to ensure that the facility that they put their children in on a daily basis is a healthy facility for their kids,” Carr explained.

The program has already begun its outreach efforts, and over the next few months, will reach out to all of Nevada’s 600 licensed child care centers.

Western communities can apply for federal grants to address water issues
By Dave Rosenthal, Mountain West News Bureau

The Interior Department is offering $1 billion to develop new water sources across the region.

Communities can apply for grants for a wide range of projects. Those include ways to reclaim and reuse water — like desalination or using treated wastewater for irrigation — and $250 million will be set aside for those projects.

The money comes from the federal infrastructure law, and it’s aimed at a region suffering from historic drought. The Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs have been getting smaller for years. And late last year, federal officials ordered water usage to be cut in some areas served by the Colorado River.

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