Top headlines from the Board of County Commissioners Meeting
Vaccines allocated to the county based on population and prioritized by state-mandated criteria
The following are highlights from today’s Washoe County Board of County Commissioners meeting:
1. County Health Officer and Incident Commander presented update on COVID vaccines: Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick and Assistant County Manager Dave Solaro, who also serves as the Washoe County COVID-19 Incident Commander, presented the county’s vaccination plan. The plan was developed to address local distribution of the supply allocated by the State of Nevada. The allocation is based on population, and the quantity of each week’s allocation is unknown. As of Monday, Feb. 15, the Washoe County Health District had administered 36,462 doses, nearly 23,000 of which were first-doses. The county was just notified that it will receive just over 6,800 first doses this week, a 23 percent increase over last week. The State of Nevada’s latest county-specific update shows that 15 percent of Washoe County’s population has received a COVID-19 vaccine, as of last week. The state posts its updates on Wednesdays.
The county must follow the state’s distribution guidelines, which prioritizes certain at-risk populations. Factors that determine prioritization include: level and length of exposure to COVID-19, importance of one’s job to the community, likelihood of increasing community spread, likelihood of death from COVID-19, likelihood of infection, mortality and morbidity, and immune response. Given these factors, groups such as healthcare workers, educators, and those who are essential to the supply chain of food and utilities are among the top priorities. Older residents, those who have underlying conditions, those with disabilities, and those in food service or hospitality are also among high-priority groups.
“We have a very effective vaccine that was developed rapidly with about 95 percent efficacy. This is key to being able to move through this pandemic and return to a more normal, functioning society,” Dick said. “It will take a while to roll out to most of the population, so it’s important that we continue to take precautions like wearing a mask and mitigation protocols.”
Solaro addressed the ethical considerations in administering vaccine to county employees, most of which are not in the highest priority groups. Washoe County surveyed its employees to categorize those in various priority groups, and identify those can safely work from home with minimal risk of infection.
“We make sure that the right people get vaccinated at the right time, so we don't have anyone ‘jumping the line,’” Solaro said.
Residents age 70 and over can find vaccination distributors at www.covid19washoevaccine.com and click on “Seniors.” The website provides a full list of locations and contact information to sign up for the vaccine.
2. Washoe County Library Director presented update on library services during the pandemic: Continuing the theme of COVID-19 plans, Washoe County Library Director Jeff Scott updated commissioners on the status of library services and how the library system has adapted during the pandemic. Libraries closed in March 2020 and enhanced their digital services including virtual story time and other events; enhancement of databases, e-books and magazines and audiobooks; and digital library cards. Libraries continued to adapt throughout the last year, offering grab-and-go and drive-through pickup of books, and establishing a quarantine period for returned books.
Libraries served as early voting locations in 2020. The Spanish Springs Library was the top early voting location, with more than 11,000 residents casting their vote there.
Moving into 2021, the library system is working toward reopening and renovating its libraries, and working on a five-year strategic plan. The library system notably was nominated for the National Medal for Museum and Library Service by Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto. This is the highest honor a library can receive.
“I want to thank your staff and their willingness to help in response to the COVID contact tracing with the School District,” Chair Bob Lucey said. “Your staff stepped up, and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart. That is definitely outside of what they signed up to do, and I want to thank them for that.”
3. Board approved creation of new Commissioner Support Program: Building on the existing structure of Citizen Advisory Boards (CABs), Washoe County Assistant County Manager Dave Solaro and Communications Director Nancy Leuenhagen proposed the creation of a multi-track Commissioner Support Program. The program, approved unanimously by the Board, will update the CABs to generate more neighborhood-specific guidance and involvement. The program will also create a new Community Engagement Program focusing on outreach and communications, connecting commissioners and their constituents. The new dual-platform program will help educate residents on how to interact with their elected commissioners and how to effect change in their neighborhoods. It will also provide commissioners more data-driven insight using A.I. and mapping tools to track public requests and concerns. Communications will be specific to each commissioner, utilizing social media, newsletters, town halls, and other tools to directly connect them with residents.
The program will require startup costs, some of which will be offset by existing funding sources. It will also create two new positions, an outreach coordinator and an office assistant.
“One-size-fits-all won't work with our constituents, and constituents who believe that they’re getting a great deal of insight from their CAB will provide commissioners with more opportunity to engage,” Commissioner Kitty Jung said. “This program is so creative and so equitable. We all have our strengths and ways of interacting. The investment needs to be made into this community outreach and engagement, and professionalizing it to some degree. It's really innovative, and it will help us predict emerging issues rather than reactive issues.”
4. Board received nearly $15,000 in donations for the Human Services Agency (HSA): County Commissioners approved donations from several donors to the HSA Children’s Services Division. Nevada Retina Associates donated $3,500 of that money, which is being used to support hundreds of children in care.
“We are so grateful to Nevada Retina Associates and all the generous donors throughout the year that feel compassion for our youth in care and generously give their time and money to help us take care of children in need. Your partnership is invaluable to this community and we sincerely thank you,” HSA Supervisor Jesse Brown said.
The following donations have been received for the time period of November 21, 2020 through January 20, 2021:
Nevada Retina Associates $3,500
International Association of Fire Fighters - Local 1265 $7,293
Reno Toy Run $2,000.
Jean Rottman $1,000.
United Way of Northern Nevada $250.
Join Together of Northern Nevada $384.90
JUB Engineers, Inc. $100.
Valerie Cooke $300.
Total General Donations = $14,827.90
Additionally, the Board approved donations to other county departments, including a donation from the Vera Silbertstein Gift Trust in the amount of $372,800 for improvements to the historic Bowers Mansion.
5. Staff provided an update on the legislative session: The 81st Legislative Session is underway in Carson City, and Washoe County staff is monitoring bills that could impact residents. A brief update on bills of interest was provided to Commissioners. Chair Bob Lucey noted that the Commission’s Government Affairs Team recently presented an overview of Washoe County and its legislative priorities to the Nevada State Assembly Government Affairs Committee.