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KUNR Today: All Nevada counties must require masks indoors, USFS announces ambitious wildfire plan

A graphic showing the prescribed burn and forest thinning plan from the US Forest Service
U.S. Forest Service

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022.

Masks required indoors in all Nevada counties regardless of vaccination status
By Lucia Starbuck

Nevada residents and visitors are requiredto wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, throughout all counties in the state. That’s because each county is experiencing high levels of transmission according to the CDC. That means there are more than 100 cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate over 10%. In fact, statewide, Nevada’s rate is nearly 35%, according to the state’s dashboard.

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

Nevada National Guard asked to help with COVID-19 testing in Washoe Co. again
By Lucia Starbuck

There is a huge demand for COVID-19 testing in Washoe County, and cases are soaring. The Nevada National Guard will step in to assist with testing starting Thursday.

Washoe County has reported an average of more than 1,000 cases per day over the last week. That’s more than double the peak reached in November of 2020, and Health District Officer Kevin Dick said there are a lot more.

“We don’t report on the number of positives that people are finding when they’re doing at-home testing, and we also know that there’s a big demand for testing that’s not being met right now in Washoe County,” Dick said.

That’s prompted the health district to request help from the Nevada National Guard at their Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center testing site. Dick said they’re working on expanding their testing operations to meet the need during this omicron surge.

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

WCSD Trustees approve 2022 graduation ceremonies at Lawlor Events Center
By Andrew Méndez

The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees has approved holding in-person graduations at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Lawlor Event Center for 2022 graduates.

Several people at this week’s board meeting discussed how Lawlor is a space where many schools can host ceremonies due to COVID-19 safety concerns. Among them was Victoria Gomez, who is a student trustee for the district. She pushed for the board to move forward with this plan.

“Having it at Lawlor, everyone can bring their own traditions in, and students just want to all be together with their families, and having it at Lawlor definitely gives everyone that opportunity,” she said.

Graduation ceremonies will span over four days in June.

US Forest Service announces wildfire mitigation plan
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

The U.S. Forest Service plans a dramatic increase in treating forests through thinning and prescribed burns over the next ten years. The plan includes treating 20 million acres of Forest Service land, and 30 million acres of other federal, state, Tribal, and private lands. The agency says it has seen those treatments dampen the effects of massive blazes.

“First of all, I think the Forest Service plan is ambitious and it’s a much-needed step forward,” said Ryan Tompkins, a natural resource advisor for the University of California's Lassen County extension.

He noted that the plan would require more funding beyond the $3 billion in the recent infrastructure bill, though. The Forest Service has said support needs to be sustained.

“I don’t think we can look at wildfire and drought as a crisis anymore. I think we really need to look at it as a way of life in the West,” Tompkins said.

Tompkins said the firefighting will also have to be paired with science-backed methods to mitigate fire damage and address challenges, like housing in fire-prone areas. The Forest Service also mapped areas it wants to treat first, which include parts of the Tahoe Basin and areas of Northern Nevada near Elko and Winnemucca.

Community Health Alliance files lawsuit against former employee for alleging fraud
By Lucia Starbuck

The Community Health Alliance, a non-profit healthcare provider in Washoe County, has filed a lawsuit against a former employee. The lawsuit demands that previous statistician, Jim Fleming, stop sharing what they say is false information about the organization. Fleming has made a number of allegations online. One of those allegations is that CHA leadership knowingly misused federal funding. Fleming also says he was fired for raising his concerns.

The healthcare provider’s lawsuit argues that Fleming was fired for issues surrounding work performance, and the information he is spreading is not true.

Ex-Nevada assistant principal to prison for child porn
By The Associated Press

A former assistant principal at a middle school in rural Lyon County has been sentenced to one to five years in prison on child pornography charges.

Prosecutors say 55-year-old Scott Darrington of Fallon, was arrested after after investigators received a tip in June 2020 that he had uploaded an image of child pornography to a website chatroom. A subsequent search of his phone and computer uncovered additional images of child pornography.

Darrington pleaded guilty last summer to possession of visual presentation depicting sexual conduct of a person under age 16. Prosecutors argued a prison sentence was appropriate because he was the assistant principal at Yerington Intermediate School at the time.

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