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Politics and Policy

Nevada Reinstates Masks While Vaccination Rate Remains Sluggish

Bret Frey is a man who is wearing a face mask and sitting in his car. Through the window, a health worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine into his arm.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Health officials have reinstated mask mandates and have urged residents to get vaccinated as new cases of the coronavirus surge, once again.

Health officials in Nevada reported the single largest one-day jump in new coronavirus cases in nearly six months, this week. It's part of a surge related to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, and as hospitalizations and deaths begin to creep back up, state officials are, once again, installing mitigation measures aimed at curbing that spread. KUNR’s Morning Edition Host Noah Glick spoke with Senior Reporter Paul Boger for a roundup of this week’s news.

NOAH GLICK: Paul, let's start off by talking about COVID. COVID cases are way up. The two-week positivity rate has nearly tripled over the last several weeks and a vast majority of Nevadans are once again, living under a mask mandate, so what's going on?

PAUL BOGER: Yeah, just like the previous requirements that we had almost all of last year, and into this year — into May — you have to wear a mask when you're indoors, whether you're vaccinated or not, in 12 of Nevada’s 17 counties. That includes Washoe Clark, Lyon, Churchill, Elko. I mean, it's the big counties most people live in.

GLICK: All of Northern Nevada? 

BOGER: Almost all the Northern Nevada, except for Pershing and Humboldt Counties, I believe, and maybe Lander, but I'll have to go back and check [As a note: Humboldt, Pershing, Storey, Lander and White Pine Counties are the five not under the current mask mandate]. That's because, you know, we are seeing that spread; we are seeing cases creep back up. Now, as opposed to that previous mask mandate, this one is tied directly to the CDC’s guidelines. When they changed their guidelines earlier this week, so did the state, so just like before, masks have to be worn indoors. 

In schools, in particular, you know, the CDC wants children two and over to wear masks all day, if they're in school. The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees has already determined that students will wear masks next year when they go back to school.

In Carson City, though, it's a little bit different. They have voted against mask mandates for the upcoming school year; however, Carson City falls under that state mask mandate, and, therefore, kids will be required to be wearing masks if they are indoors. All of this is this part of this push to mitigate the spread and try to get people vaccinated, which has been a struggle.

GLICK: We've heard that message over and over again, right? But it does appear that vaccinations seem to be the only way out of this pandemic, so the problem, though, we're seeing is the rate of which Nevadans are getting vaccinated has really stalled, so do we know if any of these vaccination incentive programs were actually working?

BOGER: So, the latest data from the state shows about 47% of residents 12 and up have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. About 40% are fully vaccinated. Nevada has seen a significant decline in new vaccinations over the last several months. In mid-April, the state was administering about 25,000 shots a day.

Today, or yesterday, I should say, it was about 5,700, so a very, very steep decline, and it's hard to say whether that incentive program that the state has put together, that lottery for people who have gotten the vaccinations... It's hard to say...

GLICK: The raffle, Paul.

BOGER: Raffle, excuse me. I would hate to step on lottery’s toes or gambling toes. Anyway, that raffle, essentially, it's hard to say if we've seen an uptick in vaccinations because of that in particular. As a matter of fact, I would say the slight uptick that we have seen in recent weeks, more coincides with the federal surge teams the state requested earlier this summer, which are trying to go out into communities that either don't have access or maybe don't know all of the benefits of vaccination and actually doing mobile clinics and doing all of that outreach.

GLICK: But I have to ask, though, because the other big news this week is that the federal eviction moratorium is set to end this weekend, so is there any chance that Governor Sisolak will extend that order in Nevada? Or what, where are we with that?

BOGER: Absolutely not. At this point, that's just not going to happen. As a matter of fact, earlier this week, when the governor had his press conference, he was essentially just guiding people to the state's rental aid programs. You know, lawmakers during the session really tried to take a look at what they can do to help alleviate this looming eviction crisis. And one of them was looking at AB486, essentially trying to make sure more money gets into the pockets of renters and landlords who need it

Through that program, of course it's administered through Southern Nevada and Northern Nevada [Housing Authorities] and you have to go through the hoops. You have to apply for it. It's not something automatic. It's not just this automatic protection. If people are in trouble or they need help, they have to apply for this aid. Now, one of the interesting things it does is that landlords can also apply for the state aid if they have a tenant who is just not going through the process, just not paying their bills, they can actually ask for that rental assistance on behalf of the tenant, and actually get it. But it will go to the tenant and then to them, [and] then the landlord can’t evict for about another 90 days. So, it kind of resets that process; however, this is meant to stave off that looming eviction crisis, where we just don't know what sort of housing issues this is going to create over the next several months.

GLICK: We have about 30 seconds left Paul. Just real quick, I want to ask you about the latest on Nevada's ban on so-called ghost guns. Guns rights groups have sued to have that law blocked and it's got some mixed success, so is that law actually in place?

BOGER: That's a good question because there are two separate lawsuits here. There's the federal lawsuit, which some gun rights activists have tried to block that law that was dismissed. Apparently the federal judge here, Miranda Du decided that it wasn’t in legal standing; it did not have the right sort of technical verbage; however, the state level one that did make it, that is actually some injunctions against the law, so we'll have to keep [deciphering] that.