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Washoe County holds first COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall

By Lucia Starbuck
Published: Last Updated on

By Lucia Starbuck | Feature Image: Bob Conrad

In the first of its kind, Washoe County held a virtual town hall to address the community’s concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Elected officials from Reno, Sparks and Washoe County, in addition to representatives from area hospitals, answered questions sent through an online form before the town hall. There was an American Sign Language interpreter and the live stream also had subtitles in Spanish.

One concern that was raised is if hospitals in Washoe County will have enough space. Hospitals are increasing capacity in preparation for a surge of people. Dr. Travis Anderson from Northern Nevada Medical Center said all of their hospitals have initiated tents to treat an increased volume of patients.

A Renown tent for COVID-19 triage
A Renown tent for COVID-19 triage. Image: Trevor Bexon

There is also worry about what to do if one needs hospital care for something other than COVID-19.

“There’s still people out in the community having heart attacks and strokes. One of the great fears we have right now is that those patients are not seeking care because they’re afraid to go into the hospital,” said Dr. John Hess from St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center.

“Please do not be afraid to go into the hospital. The hospitals have taken great precautions to avoid transmission of the virus within the hospital setting.”

When should you call 911?

According to Adam Heinz from Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA), emergencies for COVID-19 include symptoms with shortness of breath, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, and if someone is unable to wake up and when lips turn a blue color.

To protect health workers on the frontline, Heinz warned that if one does call REMSA, prepare to be asked a litany of questions, in order to protect first responders.

Monica Teves, a REMSA and emergency medical services (EMS) supervisor, joined the town hall and talked about what she and her team are doing.

“We do still meet the challenges of a lot of people who are afraid to go to the emergency room,” she said. “They may call us to come check them out, which is free of charge. We will go in, we’ll assess them, offer them transport or other opportunities to tie in with what they need to take care of what’s going on.

“But I really want to stress that when there’s the shortness of breath and things are starting to deteriorate, they need to call 911 or go to the emergency room and not wait too long because it does progress pretty rapidly if they do have the underlying conditions,” she added.


The virus isn’t always fatal, and according to Washoe County Health District, there have been 41 recoveries of COVID-19.

Dr. Bret Frey with Washoe County Medical Society said to look for significant and consistent signs of recovery, which can include three days absent of fever without using fever reducing medicine, and respiratory improvement like no shortness of breath.

It is unknown at this time if a person who has recovered from COVID-19 is immune from getting it again.

Washoe County is holding meetings with members of the press on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

During a meeting Friday, April 10, Washoe County Health Official Kevin Dick said the health district will be issuing a directive to short term rental owners to tell a person who has come from out of town that they must self-isolate for 14 days immediately upon arrival, and may not leave unless it is an emergency.

One message that has echoed from all of the officials across the board is: stay at home and don’t gather to celebrate Easter on Sunday. Call a loved one instead.

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