Nevada could require COVID-19 vaccines for college students
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada students at public colleges and universities may be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine in order to take in-person classes later this school year, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday.
The governor said he is asking a team of doctors and state health officials to consider the requirement, but it wouldn’t be imposed before students return to class in a few weeks.
He said he is separately asking his medical advisory team explore whether to require vaccines for those working with vulnerable populations, such as the homeless and in health care settings.
Citing reports of many maskless people in the crowd of 65,000 at a recent U.S.-Mexico soccer game near the Las Vegas Strip, the Democratic governor said he is also asking medical experts, local officials and businesses to figure out how to make events like concerts and sports games that draw large crowds in Las Vegas safer.
Sisolak said he is not yet considering requiring people to show proof of vaccination to dine indoors at restaurants or go to gyms and movie theaters, like New York City announced this week.
“I certainly hope that our residents, we don’t have to get that far,” Sioslak said. “No one wants to mandate. No one wants the government telling them what they have to do.”
Instead, he said he wants businesses to come up with some kind of enforceable plan to mitigate the spread of the virus at their venues.
The governor did not have a timeline for when decisions would be announced regarding the policies. But he said the state board of health is expected to discuss the proposed requirement for college students at a meeting next week.
It’s unclear if any other states have imposed COVID-19 vaccination requirements for public college students. Several university systems in other states, such as University of Michigan and California State University, have imposed similar rules
Attorneys with the Nevada System of Higher Education have said that only the Nevada Board of Health has the authority to require vaccines.
The governor said state higher education officials studying the coronavirus have already separately recommended that the state board of health consider the requirement.
Sisolak said that if Nevada imposes the rule, the shots would not required before students start to return to classes in a few weeks but in a timeline that is “fair and reasonable.”
Tourist dependent-Nevada is among at least nine states to have reimplemented a mask mandate as a variant-fueled surge sweeps the United States. Sisolak’s Thursday announcement reflects growing sentiment that further restrictions will likely be needed for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people to contain the virus.
State officials reported 1,135 new cases and 26 deaths on Thursday, with the bulk of the uptick coming from the Las Vegas area. Statewide hospitalizations tripled over the course of July and, in northern Nevada, the hospitalization rate nearly doubled in the past week.
The governor urged more people to get vaccinated in order to keep the tourist-dependent state safe for visitors. As of Thursday, 48% of those 12 and older were fully vaccinated, while 58% have had at least their first shot.
“This isn’t just about our visitors. It’s about Nevadans. It’s about jobs,” he said. “We can beat this virus. It’s doable. It’s just a matter of going out and getting the vaccine.”
Among the most contentious containment measures is requiring masks in schools. Sisolak signed an emergency order on Wednesday that generally requires K-12 students in the Las Vegas and Reno metro areas to wear masks while inside school buildings.
The mask-wearing requirement also applies to school employees statewide regardless of vaccination status and to students statewide while on school buses, according to Sisolak’s office.
School systems in other counties were ordered to adopt face-covering policies on “whether, or under what circumstances, face coverings will be required for students while in school buildings or on school campuses,” the statement said.
The order also requires weekly COVID-19 testing for students, staff and volunteers who aren’t fully vaccinated and who travel for athletics and other activities, the statement said.
Since the pandemic began, Nevada has reported 362,275 COVID-19 cases and 5,979 deaths.
Metz reported from Carson City. He is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.