Coronavirus

Some of the Mountain West's COVID-19 hotspots have been, and continue to be, areas with major ski resorts.



Rebecca Travers lives in Casper, Wyo. Until late last year, the 42-year-old had been working at a non-profit that helps volunteer organizations across the state.

Nash Jones / KUNM

New Mexico opened up a new phase in its rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday and, on Tuesday, the Trump administration announced it will begin speeding up distribution of available doses. KUNM’s Nash Jones spoke with Matt Bieber, Communications Director for the Department of Health, about the state’s strategies for getting more shots into more arms, and how the process works.

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State lawmakers across the Mountain West are convening for legislative sessions that will focus largely on the fallout of the pandemic. But without significant precautions, statehouses could become hotbeds for COVID-19 spread.

Legislative sessions typically bring together hundreds of lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists, journalists, and members of the public. They travel to and from every corner of a given state and gather indoors, sometimes in cramped meeting spaces.

About a third of Americans living in rural areas say they probably or definitely would not get a COVID-19 vaccine, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

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Some of the largest and most deadly COVID-19 outbreaks have occurred in our country's prisons. The latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that incarcerated people be included in phase 1B of vaccine distribution. But most states in the Mountain West are breaking with that guidance.

Nash Jones / KUNM

Albuquerque’s Downtown Growers’ Market launches their winter season this week with a COVID-safe “Farm to Car” program. Customers can place orders online throughout the week to pick-up on Saturdays. KUNM’s Nash Jones met up with market co-manager Danielle Schlobohm at the site where customers will roll through for their local market goods starting this weekend.  

Megan Kamerick

Let's Talk New Mexico 1/7, 8a: The coronavirus pandemic has shut down performance venues and music festivals around the country. That's left many musicians with cancelled shows and tours, and struggling to connect with fans and make money.

Dulce Leyva is a bilingual contact tracer who lives in Reno, Nevada. Her job is to reach out to people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and make sure they're self-isolating. And she tries to help them remember who they've been around and could have been exposed to the virus.

The Food Bank for Larimer County’s warehouse in Loveland looks like a factory assembly line. People are busy preparing and packing provisions for when the doors open in an hour.

"Cookies, protein bars, coffee – a little of everything," says volunteer Ruben Marez. "I kind of like to mix and match."

Every year Marez travels to volunteer with the Red Cross and help with disaster relief. This year, he decided he was needed close to home and began volunteering at the onset of the pandemic.

It's been a tough year for gas and oil prices, but solar power has seen steady growth during this pandemic year. 

Panic buying has slowed down considerably since this spring, but one thing still lingering is higher demand for meat that's easier for people to cook themselves.


Indoor dining is allowed across the Mountain West. But new research shows that even with current social distancing guidelines, the coronavirus can spread easily inside restaurants.

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States across the Mountain West are receiving their first shipments of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. And the Moderna vaccine will be coming once it's granted emergency authorization by the FDA. But as distribution gets underway, other COVID-19 prevention measures including frequent hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing will still be necessary. 

The U.S. hit a horrific milestone this week: More than 3,000 COVID-19 fatalities in just one day. But rising deaths do not necessarily translate into rising concern.


Anti-mask and anti-lockdown protesters are targeting public health officials and politicians in parts of the Mountain West – sometimes at their own homes.


New Mexico and Colorado put limitations in place back in the spring and summer, respectively. And Nevada recently tightened its capacity restrictions even further to 25%. 

Evictions have cascading effects, and researchers have found they could be fatal during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new study draws the connection between a lack of stable housing and an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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In April, Google and Apple launched software that state health authorities can use to build COVID-19 contact tracing apps. But fewer than half of U.S. states have taken advantage, and most people living in those states aren't putting the apps to use.

In the Mountain West, Colorado's Exposure Notifications app has had the most success, with about 20% of the state's population having downloaded it. But fewer than 3% of Wyoming and Nevada residents have downloaded their states' smartphone apps.

Megan Kamerick / KUNM

As COVID-19 hospitalizations remain high in New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed an executive order Friday that enables hospitals to plan for a “crisis standard of care,” when they’ll need to ration care because they lack the resources to meet demand. Albuquerque hospitals are working to stave off the crisis.

On Dec. 10, the first COVID-19 vaccine will be evaluated by a Food and Drug Administration advisory group, made of external vaccine experts. They'll say - in a public meeting - whether they think the FDA should give emergency use authorization for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, and why.


States only have a few weeks left to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds, which is spurring lawmakers around the Mountain West to pass major aid deals now.


COVID-19 contact tracers continue to be in short supply. That’s especially true for bilingual ones.


When Willow Belden goes holiday shopping she likes to support local businesses. This year, though, it's meant calling stores and asking, "Are you guys wearing masks? But are you really wearing masks? And, like, what else are you doing?"

Nevada recently hosted its annual rural health conference, with a particular focus on infrastructure as COVID-19 continues to ravage rural America.

The Mountain West is facing a hospitalization crisis, and even states that cracked down early are feeling the effects of those that didn't.

In Washington State, the frustration is palpable.


University Showcase Friday, 11/20, 8a: On this episode we meet Dr. Tracie Collins, the women selected this month by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to be the new secretary for the New Mexico Department of Health. Collins has served as Dean of the UNM College of Population Health since 2019.

The vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical company Moderna may be easier to distribute in the rural West, according to regional public health experts.

It can survive up to a month in a freezer, is shipped in small doses, and it doesn't need a special, ultra-cold freezer to survive – unlike the vaccine developed by the company Pfizer.


Going to a bar tonight in Boise, Idaho or Reno, Nev.?

There's about a 50-50 chance someone carrying COVID-19 will be there too.

 


Margaret Wright

On Saturday, Nov. 7, just after the presidential race was called for Biden, hundreds turned up on the steps of the state’s capital for a rally against election results--though there has not yet been evidence of fraud. And a quick content warning: This story contains antagonism based in transphobia.  

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