RENO, Nev. (AP) — Employees at all public universities and colleges in Nevada are required to get COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 1 or face potential termination under a new policy adopted by the state board of regents.
Meanwhile, coronavirus case trends are improving in urban areas but have worsened in most rural parts of the state, where vaccination rates are the lowest.
The regents voted 10-3 on Thursday to mandate vaccines for all employees in the Nevada System of Higher Education by December with some medical and religious exemptions. All new hires also will have to prove their vaccination status.
About 23% of system employees had not been vaccinated as of Sept. 20, according to state figures.
The Desert Research Institute has the highest vaccination rate at 87% followed by the University of Nevada Reno at 82%. UNLV reported 75%. Rural Elko-based Great Basin College had the worst rate at 66%.
As of Sept. 29, about 64% of all state employees had been fully vaccinated, in accordance with Gov. Steve Sisolak's order in July that required the shots or proof of negative COVID-19 tests, said DuAne Young, the governor's policy director.
The 30-day moving average for new cases has fallen to 590 per 100,000 residents in Clark County including Las Vegas. That compares with 1,704 per 100,000 in all counties outside Carson City, Clark and Washoe counties, the latest state update posted Friday said.
“Nevada counties are currently experiencing divergent trends in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations" with both “falling in southern and northern Nevada but continuing to rise in rural Nevada,” said Dr. Ellie Graeden, an advisor to the Nevada Health Response task force.
Average new daily case rates in Clark County have declined by more than 100 per 100,000 over the past two weeks, she said.
“But case rates in 11 other counties in Nevada are nearly double that. With more than 1,000 cases per 100,000," she told reporters Thursday.
Nearly two-thirds or 65% of residents age 12 and older have now initiated vaccination — compared to a national average of 75% — and 56% are fully vaccinated, according to the latest state update.
In Washoe County, including Reno-Sparks, more than 70% have gotten a first dose and nearly 66% are fully vaccinated, and in Clark County, 66% have initiated vaccination and 65% are fully vaccinated.
The rest of the state reports about 44% of those age 12 and older fully vaccinated and only 48% awaiting a second dose.
Nevada health officials also announced this week they have added a new feature to the state COVID-19 dashboard to track coronavirus cases in primary and secondary schools by county, grade levels and individual schools.