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KUNR Today: WCSD limiting bus service, Dozens protest UNR's removal of mask mandate

An image of a group of people, all wearing face masks, carrying signs and marching along the University of Nevada, Reno campus.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Students and staff at the University of Nevada, Reno held a short march on campus to call for reinstating a mask mandate on Feb. 14, 2022.

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.

WCSD to start limiting bus service due to driver shortage
By Michelle Billman

The Washoe County School District announced to families Monday night that transportation services will soon be reduced due to the severe shortage of bus drivers. Starting next week, the district is adopting a rotating bus schedule. Basically, transportation officials have identified several areas within the district, and service will be suspended within an assigned area for one week at a time. That will allow drivers from the suspended area to be reallocated to other areas.

The changes impact most general education students. As required by federal law, bussing will not be affected for students who are receiving special education services and transportation is listed within their individualized education plan, or IEP. Additionally, newcomer English learners, children experiencing homelessness, and foster students will continue to have consistent access to bussing.

District officials say the changes come despite extensive recruitment efforts, including incentives. The rotating schedule can be found at here.

Tahoe Transportation District expects full service to return Wednesday
By Michelle Billman

The Tahoe Transportation District has announced that it will continue with limited bus operations today. That means routes 19X and 22 remain suspended while routes 50 and 55 have limited service.

The district expects to return to normal operations tomorrow. The impacts began over the weekend and were caused by safety concerns at a maintenance facility. The City of South Lake Tahoe owns the building, and the district is looking for ways to acquire funding so it can purchase a building of its own. Find the latest updates here.

UNR students, staff demonstrate to call for reinstating the mask mandate on campus
By Lucia Starbuck

Roughly 50 students and staff at the University of Nevada, Reno held a short march on campus on Monday calling for masks to be required again. Since it was Valentine’s Day, many had heart shaped signs. One read, “I love someone at high-risk.” Another said “UNR breaks my heart.”

Nevada System of Higher Education dropped its masking requirement last week after Governor Steve Sisolak made them optional statewide. That’s worrying for some, like Vanthy Nguyen. She’s a sophomore studying biology.

“I’ve experienced a loss, myself, of one of my closest friends, closest family members, and I don’t ever want to lose people like that again. And I wish that people were more considerate,” Nguyen said.

The governor cited a drop in COVID-19 cases, but most of the state is still experiencing high levels of transmission, according to the CDC. A petition for NSHE to reinstate a mask mandate has roughly 1,900 signatures, as of Tuesday morning.

As a note of disclosure, the Board of Regents to the Nevada System of Higher Education owns the license to this station.

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

West megadrought worsens to driest in at least 1,200 years
By The Associated Press

The megadrought bedeviling the American West got even drier last year and is becoming the deepest dry spell in more than 1,200 years. Monday's study says the megadrought is now the worst-case scenario officials and scientists worried about in the 1900s. The drought deepened so much in 2021 that it is 5% worse than the old record in the late 1500s.

Scientists compare this megadrought to what would happen in a hypothetical world without human-caused climate change. And they calculate that 42% of this drought is due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels.

Paris Climate Agreement goals still achievable, research suggests
By Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

According to new research from the University of Colorado, Boulder, high-emission scenarios that made the goals seem lofty aren’t playing out. Scientist Matt Burgess co-authored the study.

"I think we're starting to get to the point where dangers of being overly pessimistic are becoming apparent, in addition to the dangers of being overly optimistic," he said.

Burgess also studies how to depoliticize the issue. He said he’s encouraged that in our region, Utah Republican Congressman John Curtis launched the Conservative Climate Caucus last year. Dozens of House Republicans have signed on to the effort.

Washoe County cracking down on un-permitted food vendors
By Gustavo Sagrero

Washoe County Health District is currently on the lookout for un-permitted food cart vendors, and it plans to soon hold a Spanish-language town hall about these permits.

The health district said “numerous complaints of un-permitted street food vendor operations” have been filed with them, and that a majority are Hispanic food vendors that serve the Latino community.

The health district said they could not verify if any street food vendors could be connected to cases of food-born illnesses. They are also working on updating permit application information to be available in Spanish. The district will hold a town hall meeting early in March to explain the process and receive public comment.

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to clarify that the health district will issue cease and desist orders if an unpermitted vendor is unwilling to meet the district’s regulations; however, the district is working on providing Spanish-language resources to assist vendors in this process.

Nevada transportation projects bring roughly 1,000 temporary jobs
By Michelle Billman

The Nevada Transportation Board of Directors has approved several roadway improvement projects across the state that will result in more than 1,000 temporary jobs. The contracts will support these new positions for one year.

Some of the projects include resurfacing roughly 30 miles of State Route 722 in Lander County, from the Churchill County line to U.S. 50 near Austin. Digital message signs will also be installed on U.S. 50 in Carson City and U.S. 95 in Churchill County to provide information for motorists. The start dates for these construction projects vary.

Nevada's first execution in nearly 16 years on hold again
By The Associated Press

Nevada’s first execution in nearly 16 years is on hold again after the state’s lawyers told a federal judge Monday they couldn’t possibly satisfy the legal requirements necessary to put Zane Michael Floyd to death before April.

Nevada's Chief Deputy Attorney General Randall Gilmer said during a brief hearing Monday that prosecutors have not obtained the death warrant necessary to execute him by lethal injection before one of the drugs the state plans to use expires Feb. 28. U.S. District Judge Richard Boulware scheduled a status hearing for April 5. Floyd was convicted in 2000 of killing four people and wounding a fifth in a shotgun attack at a Las Vegas grocery store.

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