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KUNR Today: Historic COVID mission ends for Nev. Guard, Hispanic vaccination rates lag across region

A syringe extracts a vaccine out of a glass bottle. It's being held by two gloved hands.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Monday, March 28, 2022.

Nevada National Guard learned key lessons from COVID fight
By The Associated Press

Nevada's National Guard leaders learned some valuable lessons from the more than 700 days guardsmen and women were activated to help combat COVID-19. Col. Brett Compston served as Nevada's incident commander at the Division of Emergency Management and helped oversee the more than 1,400 troops who assisted in the effort. It was its largest and longest state activation ever in response to a domestic emergency.

Compston says it was probably the greatest crisis they've faced in the last 100 years other than World War II. He told reporters this week he's confident the experience will make them better prepared to deal with future crises.

Hispanic vaccination rates lag across region 
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

Hispanic communities in our region have some of the nation’s lowest vaccination numbers, depending on the state. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found Hispanic vaccination rates were only 42% in Idaho and Colorado, tying for the second lowest rate in the country, above only South Dakota. This doesn’t surprise Sam Byrd, director of the Center for Community and Justice in Idaho.

He said hesitancy and access have long been challenges when vaccinating his community, but he said monetary incentives have worked, and other outreach efforts are continuing in his state.

“Staff have been out to dairies. We’ve been out, ya know, we’re mobile. We’re not going to wait. We go to where they are knowing that that level of hesitancy exists out there,” Byrd said.

There are also continuing national efforts through groups like Hispanic Access Foundation, which is working with faith leaders in places like Las Vegas and Denver. They want to provide easy access to vaccine information, in both Spanish and English, so people don’t have to rely on social media.

The national rate for Hispanic vaccinations is 64%, slightly higher than for whites. In Nevada, that rate is 59%.

California education reformer Marion Joseph dies at 95
By The Associated Press

Marion Joseph, whose advocacy for phonics-based reading changed the way California children learned to read, has died. Family members say she died Thursday at 95. Joseph was a former top adviser to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Wilson Riles. She began her advocacy work when her grandson was having trouble reading.

At the time, schools were applying a literacy theory called whole language approach, which uses literature as a teaching tool and emphasizes learning through the context of words. Joseph began compiling research that showed children learned better by breaking down words phonetically and sounding out the words. Her advocacy led state lawmakers to pass a bill that mandated the use of phonics in reading instruction.

California schools prepare to spot post-break COVID-19 cases
By The Associated Press

California's 7 million students and school employees are getting free at-home COVID-19 tests to help prevent outbreaks at their school when they return from spring break. Gov. Gavin Newsom's office says Saturday the state has shipped or delivered more than 14.3 million antigen tests, enough for two tests per person, to counties and school districts.

The massive push to limit infections and avoid classroom closures after the break is part of the state's "endemic" approach to the coronavirus which emphasizes prevention over mandated masking and business shutdowns. The state lifted the mask mandate in schools on March 12, almost exactly two years after shutting down schools in many districts to prevent COVID-19's spread.

Environmental groups sue Interior Department for records on oil and gas leases
Robyn Vincent, Mountain West News Bureau

Environmental groups are suing the Interior Department for failing to release public records related to federal oil and gas leases.

The complaint comes on the heels of the Interior’s announcement to resume oil and gas leasing on federal lands following a court ruling. Attorney Barbara Chillcott filed the suit in a Montana federal court for groups that include the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth Guardians. Her clients requested documents related to an Interior report on the leases.

“We were concerned when we read the report that there was a disconnect between what we heard from the administration in terms of the urgent action needed to respond to the climate crisis,” Chillcott said.

Chillcott says the report focused on fiscal reforms rather than how oil and gas leases are contributing to the climate crisis. Her clients want more info on the report because they say it flies in the face of President Biden’s environmental promises.

The Interior Department declined to comment on the complaint.

Office: Fallon man arrested in disappearance of Nevada woman
By The Associated Press

Northern Nevada authorities say a Fallon man has been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping in the disappearance of an 18-year-old Fernley woman missing since March 12. The Lyon County Sheriff's Office said 41-year-old Troy Driver was arrested Friday in the disappearance of Naomi Irion and that she remained missing. The office said deputies and assisting agencies also impounded a pickup truck "that was possibly involved."

Irion was last seen when a masked man wearing a hooded sweatshirt man got into her vehicle outside a Walmart store in Fernley. A law firm that provides public-defender services for Lyon County did not immediately respond to inquiries Saturday seeking comment on Driver's behalf.

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