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‘Fighting COVID Together’ to air Wednesday as Washoe encourages public to take virus seriously

By Carla O'Day

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The first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines arrived locally Tuesday, although Washoe County Manager Eric Brown reminded the public during the commission meeting that shots won’t be available to the general public for a while.

Washoe County Manager Eric Brown

Brown said the 3,655 doses went to the area’s four hospitals: Renown Regional Medical Center, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, Northern Nevada Medical Center and Incline Village Community Hospital.

“What I would want the public to know is that at the rate the doses are to come in over the next month or two, we will be directing vaccines to our frontline workers and elderly care congregates,” Brown said. “So, there’s no need to call the heath district right now to ask when you can get a vaccine. That probably won’t happen until late January or early February.”

While the vaccine delivery was a sign of relief for some, commissioners heard about 3 hours of public comment, most from people frustrated with restrictions related to COVID-19. Some said the virus wasn’t serious or cited hearsay. Others went as far to engage in personal attacks. One said, “It’s akin to Auschwitz,” likening public health restrictions and social isolation to the Nazi concentration camp.

Brown encouraged people to tune into “Fighting COVID Together,” a program from 6 to 6:30 p.m. Dec. 16. It’s scheduled to air on several TV stations, including KNPB, KRNV and KOLO, along with radio stations up and down the AM and FM dials.

Brown said the program is to help citizens better understand the impacts of the disease and how it affects business, families and schools, among other aspects of the community.

“So, those of you who aren’t convinced yet how severe the current COVID situation is in our region, you can hear first hand from our local health professionals,” Brown said.

Commissioners said they understood frustrations voiced during public comment but noted divisiveness and screaming won’t help.

Marsha Berkbigler
Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler.

Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler said she’s lost two close friends to COVID-19 and has family members who’ve suffered through it.

“I also have a very dear friend who got the disease and he has ongoing lung problems and has to wear oxygen 24/7 and possibly for the rest of his life,” Berkbigler said. “The hospitals are not sitting empty despite what people think. Trust me. This is a real disease and a serious disease.”

Commission Chairman Bob Lucey asked the public for patience, noting his business has suffered as well.

“Nobody loves wearing masks and nobody loves social distancing,” Lucey said. “I’d love to see my grandfather and give him a hug but I don’t want to put his life in jeopardy. I know people die. That’s part of the life cycle, but I don’t want to expedite anyone else’s life either. So bear with us.”

Washoe County is seeking public input on how the pandemic has affected residents and businesses in order to formulate a recovery plan.  The survey is anonymous: https://covid19washoe.com/washoe-county-seeks-public-feedback-on-covid-support-efforts

According to the Washoe County COVID-19 dashboard, 31,321 residents have been infected as of Tuesday, which equates to almost 6.6% of the population. There are currently 13,378 active cases and there’s been 17,565 recoveries. The death toll is 378.

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