More northeast Nevada schools mandate masks due to COVID-19

September 23, 2021 GMT

ELKO, Nev. (AP) — The largest school district in northeast Nevada is requiring students to wear face coverings at most of its campuses, now that they are dealing with outbreaks of COVID-19.

Three elementary schools in Elko and one in Spring Creek were the latest to report an increase in positive cases and activate mask requirements, the Elko Daily Free Press reported Thursday.

The move brings the number of Elko County School District campuses with mask mandates to at least 13.

A district statement said keeping schools open for in-person learning remains the top priority and asked community support for mandated mitigation efforts, which remain in place for 28 days.

High schools in Elko and Spring Creek and an intermediate school in Elko were the first to announce outbreaks Sept. 8 — a little more than a week after the school year began for some 10,000 students at 19 schools.


County lawmakers were applauded in August when they voted not to comply with a mask mandate Gov. Steve Sisolak re-imposed to stem the spread of the aggressive delta coronavirus variant.

Elko County Commissioner Rex Steninger said at the time that businesses and the emotional and physical well-being of residents depended on refusing to wear masks.

Elko County, with a population of about 55,000, has reported 82 deaths due to COVID-19 during the pandemic, and state health officials reported Wednesday that 22 people were hospitalized including four on ventilators to assist their breathing.

One in three people in the county has been fully vaccinated — far below the statewide figure of 54.7%.

Test positivity, a measure of the number of people tested who are positive for COVID-19, topped 29% in Elko County, much higher than the statewide rate of 11%. The World Health Organization goal is 5% or less to relax coronavirus restrictions.

In the Las Vegas area, home to most of the state population, 559 new coronavirus cases and 30 deaths were reported since Wednesday, continuing a recent trend of declining numbers.

Almost two-thirds of Clark County’s 2.3 million residents have received at least one shot of coronavirus vaccine, and 54% are fully vaccinated. The test positivity rate remained steady at 8.6%.

The Nevada Hospital Association said staffing shortages are limiting patient transfers and admissions statewide.

“Some northern hospitals have open requests for additional staffing and equipment, which emergency managers have difficulty fulfilling,” the association said in a weekly report issued Wednesday.

It said that in Washoe County, including Reno and Sparks, the number of staffed beds have fallen from almost 1,800 in early August to 1,320 this week, and the number of intensive care beds has been reduced by nearly 29%, from 233 to 166.

“Our hospitals are very, very strained,” Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said Wednesday. “We have 90% of staffed hospital beds occupied now in Washoe County.”

“We know hospitals are understaffed. Skilled nursing facilities they discharge to are understaffed,” he said.