Undercurrent

Sisolak hails effort to vaccinate economically and socially vulnerable

By: - October 7, 2021 5:53 pm
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Esmeralda, Elko and Lander counties have positivity rates above 20%. “That’s too many Nevadans who are testing positive for COVID-19,” Sisolak said. (Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images)

A state and federal endeavor that relied on community groups to pinpoint and encourage socially and economically vulnerable Las Vegans to receive the COVID-19 vaccination is being lauded by Gov. Steve Sisolak, who detailed the effort’s results at a news conference in Las Vegas on Thursday.

In July, the state reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for support “in the form of FEMA search teams,” according to Sisolak, who says they arrived in Southern Nevada in about two weeks, and joined state and local officials to map a strategy. The outreach effort included 50 local volunteers and 400 volunteers from all over the country.   

“Together, these teams quickly identified zip codes in Southern Nevada with low vaccination rates and high rates of infection as targeted neighborhoods, leveraging partnerships with community organizations like Immunize Nevada and Mi Familia Vota,” Sisolak said, noting teams canvassed 21 zip codes.     

The priority zip codes were 89031, 89032, 89103, 89110, 89115, and 89128, according to Sharon Luce of Nevada’s Division of Emergency Management.  

North Las Vegas zip code 89030 had the greatest increase in vaccinations — 22% in all doses administered and 21% in first doses, Luce said.  

“That means 21% more of the Nevadans in that zip code chose to protect themselves from COVID during this mission,” she said.  

Sisolak attributed the state’s falling positivity rate of 8.5% and “more Nevadans vaccinated every single day” to the joint effort.  

White Pine County currently has the lowest positivity rate in the state at 2.9%, followed by Pershing at 5.6% and Clark at 6.7%, Sisolak said.  However, Esmeralda, Elko and Lander have rates above 20%. 

“That’s too many Nevadans who are testing positive for COVID-19,” he said. 

Statewide, 63% of Nevadans age 12 and over have their initial vaccination, and almost 55% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, Sisolak said. Washoe County has the highest vaccination rate at 70%, followed by Carson at 69% and Clark at 63%. 

In Storey County, only 21% of residents have at least one vaccination.   

“It’s a simple shot that can help keep us protected and keep our economy open,” the governor said. 

The governor says he’s hopeful the state’s correctional officers, who have protested Sisolak’s mandate that they be vaccinated by November 1, will comply.

“We have a responsibility to protect our inmates from COVID,” he said. “They’re in a vulnerable position in a very confined setting, as you’re well aware.  We tried to work with our correctional officers, and we’re hopeful that they will get the vaccine when they see the benefit that it has.” 

Sisolak says the state is hearing from families “that have difficulty getting in and seeing their family members that are incarcerated. We’re trying to find that balance but it’s important that we protect all of these individuals while they’re under the custody of Nevada.” 

Sisolak declined to say what options he has in the event of an exodus of correctional officers.  

“My premise is that they are going to get the vaccine and if they don’t, we’re going to have to take appropriate action,” he said.

Sisolak’s Chief of Staff Yvanna Cancela said the governor intends to hold meetings next week with correctional guards and other employee groups mandated to be vaccinated. 

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, two grandsons, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.

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