73 F

Rising COVID-19 cases spur health district hiring, pleas to follow vaccine and masking rules


The Washoe County Health District (WCHD) continues to appeal to people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 cases in the county are spiking, and the WCHD is looking to hire emergency medical technicians, registered nurses, call center workers, disease investigators and staff to help with the flow of traffic through the vaccination site at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.

Available jobs can be found here.

WCHD Officer Kevin Dick began a press conference on Tuesday by noting he had unfortunate news that a fully vaccinated man in his 80s with several underlying health conditions recently died of COVID-19.

“This is tragic for our community,” Dick said, adding that he wanted the community to understand that, while breakthrough cases among the vaccinated are happening, it doesn’t mean COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective. He urged people to consider trends across the nation of infections, deaths and hospitalizations among the vaccinated.

“We’re a community that has had a death. There will be others that will not have had a death,” he said.

Washoe County has 237,000 fully vaccinated individuals and has administered 484,000 doses of vaccine in the past eight months. However, with spikes in the more virulent Delta strain of the virus, COVID-19 cases have been surging.

The Nevada Hospital Association is reporting 102 people hospitalized in Washoe County with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus. Dick said this figure has quadrupled from July 9. Of those hospitalized, 25 of them are in intensive care. Eight people are on ventilators.

The Truckee Meadows COVID-19 risk meter recently ticked up from a “high” designation to “very high.”

“That meter has been moving up, and it’s approaching critical levels,” Dick said, adding that the health district has seen a sharp uptick in COVID-19 testing at the events center. There were more than 500 tests performed there on Friday and more than 350 yesterday.

“What we’re seeing is a test positivity rate that’s climbed to 16% in Washoe County,” Dick said of the seven-day rolling average. “The vast majority of those cases are unvaccinated individuals.”

The county is averaging 150 new cases per day on a seven-day rolling average. The Delta variant is now being described as being as contagious as the Chicken Pox.

Dick noted that a 16% test positivity is close to as high as it was in October of 2020, just before the November surge.

“We’re currently at about a third of the level of the peak from the November surge,” Dick said.

He said the WCHD is receiving many calls concerning local businesses not enforcing mask requirements. The WCHD investigates these when they’re reported at large resort properties. The Nevada Occupational Safety and Health administration looks into reports concerning other businesses.

“We are encouraging employers to exercise their right to require the vaccine.”

Chamber: Enforce masking, encourage vaccination

Ann Silver, CEO of Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, was also on the call.

“None of us want another shutdown. Nor do we want restrictions on capacity,” Silver said.

She said the Chamber of Commerce wants its 2,300 member businesses to enforce masking and encourage vaccination for employees and patrons. She said it is unfair for patrons to harass workers in local businesses for enforcing mask mandates.

Silver said about 30% of its member companies are requiring the vaccine as a condition of continuing or new employment.

“For those who aren’t, I think they are very concerned about the resistance they will get from certain employees,” she said. “We are encouraging employers to exercise their right to require the vaccine.”

Those who want to enter the offices of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce for events or other business must both wear a mask and show proof of vaccination.

Higher ed vaccine requirements yet to be finalized

Last week the University of Nevada, Reno announced it would require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit weekly coronavirus test results at their own expense. That requirement does not yet apply to students. 

Nevada Health Response yesterday said the State Board of Health won’t take up consideration of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for students attending any of the Nevada System of Higher Education institutions until Sept. 3. The board’s consideration comes at the request of Gov. Steve Sisolak and his Medical Advisory Team. 

“Specific timelines related to when proof of vaccination will be required will be part of the topic of discussion at the Sept. 3 meeting, and will take into consideration enrollment periods and the length of time it takes to achieve full vaccination,” officials said in a statement.

The vaccine mandate for higher ed students likely wouldn’t apply until the Spring 2022 semester.

Jeri Chadwell
Jeri Chadwellhttp://thisisreno.com
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.