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KUNR Today: UNR students, staff petition for mask mandate, Saint Mary's nurses calling for support

There is a large group of people wearing red shirts in front of a building and they are holding up signs.
Nick Stewart
KUNR Public Radio
Healthcare workers gathered in front of Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center during an informational picket on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.

Hundreds at UNR urge reinstatement of mask mandate on campus
By The Associated Press

Hundreds of students and faculty at the University of Nevada, Reno are urging state education officials to reinstate the mask mandate on campus. The move comes a day after Gov. Steve Sisolak rescinded the statewide requirement that masks be worn in public places to combat the spread of COVID-19.

More than 900 people have signed an online petition that graduate students began circulating Friday as part of the plea for Nevada’s System of Higher Education to restore the mandate on campus.

KRNV-TV first reported Friday about the petition. The president of the Nevada Faculty Alliance says repealing the mandate was a step backward.

Saint Mary’s nurses gather to raise awareness of staffing shortages
By Nick Stewart, Lucia Starbuck

On Friday, healthcare workers with Saint Mary’s picketed to raise awareness of what they call unsafe conditions due to limited staffing.

Roughly 100 registered nurses gathered in front of the hospital in downtown Reno. They’re trying to raise awareness about how short staffing is causing ripple effects on patient care and staff mental health. Many are part of the union National Nurses United. They’re asking for more support from hospital administration and improved healthcare benefits.

Katie Dawson is a registered nurse at Saint Mary’s and has worked there for nine years.

“It’s getting harder every year. The expectations of what you should be able to provide are going up, and up, and up, and the resources that they’re giving me to be able to accomplish that job are going down, and down, and down,” Dawson said.

In a statement to KUNR, a Saint Mary’s spokesperson said the hospital is taking measures to mitigate staffing shortages, but didn’t provide specifics.

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, staffing continues to be a critical issue throughout the state.

Tahoe Transportation District suspends and limits various bus routes
By KUNR Staff

The Tahoe Transportation District has temporarily halted two bus routes while others in the South Lake Tahoe area are offering limited service. The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that the building normally used for dispatch and maintenance was red-tagged for being structurally unsound. The building is owned by the City of South Lake Tahoe and much of the district’s operating equipment was locked after the building was deemed unsafe.

While authorities work on the issue, service is halted on routes 19X and 22, which run between Lake Tahoe and Gardnerville, as well as between Gardnerville and Carson City. The Record-Courier reports that the outage isn’t affecting Douglas Area Rural Transit, which serves Minden, Gardnerville and Gardnerville Ranchos. It does, however, impact transfers to South Lake Tahoe and Carson City.

For the latest updates, go to tahoetransportation.org.

Portion of East Fourth Street will go down to one travel lane
By Michele Ravera

East Fourth Street between Sixth Street and Galletti Way in Reno will be reduced to one travel lane that’s flagger-controlled for 24-hours a day, beginning today through Friday, February 25.

Traffic control is needed as crews construct the bridge deck on I-580 over East Fourth Street. Business access will be maintained. Pedestrian access will be maintained at most times, with brief temporary detours for equipment moving.

Cortez Masto co-sponsors bill to clean up abandoned mines
By Bert Johnson

Nevada has about 50,000 potentially dangerous abandoned mines throughout the state. Now, one of the state’s U.S. senators is cosponsoring legislation to help clean them up. Bert Johnson with the Mountain West News Bureau has more.

Nevada Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has signed onto a bipartisan bill that would limit liability for nonprofits, businesses or state and local governments seeking to mitigate the impact of old mining sites on public lands.

Josh Marcus-Blank is Cortez Masto’s communications director. He says she’s long believed in the need to clean up abandoned mines.

"The senator is happy that this legislation that she’s working on has support from Democrats and Republicans, and it’s also supported by both the mining industry and conservation groups, because it’s the right thing to do," said Gale.

Democrat Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Republican Jim Risch of Idaho introduced the bill.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that neither of Nevada’s senators had signed on as sponsors.

Report: Serious mismanagement and neglect in tribal jails
By Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

The Mountain West News Bureau has obtained a leaked copy of a damning new report on in-custody deaths at tribal jails overseen by the federal government. The review shows guards routinely falsified documents, lied to investigators and ignored pleas for help from sick or dying inmates.

The report was commissioned by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs in July. It came after an NPR and Mountain West News Bureau investigation found a pattern of mismanagement and neglect at the agency’s jails. The review looked at 16 in-custody deaths.

They included 22-year-old Willy Pepion. He had been arrested for disorderly conduct on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana in 2020 after he suffered a cracked skull in a fight. The report shows that authorities didn’t give him proper medical attention and didn’t check on him for hours in the jail, which violates federal policy. He died. The report found that six correctional officers there falsified documents to show they checked on inmates every 30 minutes.

“Basically, they are trying to cover themselves, and I just don’t get how things like that are still happening in the jail, and it should be reformed,” said Willy's sister, Laura Su Pepion.

The Interior Department has not released the full report but says it will announce reforms soon.

Vegas school trustees vote $9M in bus driver sex crimes case
By The Associated Press

School trustees in Las Vegas have approved a $9 million settlement in a case involving a former school bus driver who was sent to prison in 2018 for sexually assaulting special education preschoolers.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the Clark County School Board accepted the agreement Thursday unanimously and without comment. The action followed the dismissal in November of a federal lawsuit involving parents of a girl and boy who were 3 and 4 years old when Michael Ray Banco was arrested in 2015. Banco is now 62. He pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a minor and lewdness with a child and is serving to 35 years to life in prison.

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