Brothels reopen in Nevada; California shows scars as restrictions ease: Live COVID updates

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Brothels across Nevada reopened for business and casino capacity on the Las Vegas strip increased to 80% as Nevada continued to ease coronavirus restrictions over the weekend.

Gov. Steve Sisolak has said he expects all businesses to be reopened at 100% capacity by June 1.

Legal sex workers returning to the workplace for the first time in more than a year are adjusting to safety measures such as masks and temperature checks. Many workers at the brothels, which are banned in several counties including Las Vegas, are even encouraging clients to return by offering deals on their services.

Kiki Lover, who said she prefers to go by her stage name, works at the Sagebrush Ranch east of Carson City. She is offering a discount to clients who visit her this week.

“I’m so excited to get back to work and want people to be excited about returning too,” she said.

Sex workers having to wear masks at all times except when taking clients into their private rooms. Alice Little, a legal sex worker who will be working at the Chicken Ranch in Pahrump, says she is ready to get back to work even with changes.

“The changes are understandable and if there’s anything we can be, it’s flexible,” Little said. “A little bit of compromise is something that we’re not afraid of.”

Courtesan Rachel Varga gets her outfits and room ready for clients at the Mustang Ranch Lounge brothel in Storey County on April 30, 2021. Brothels in Nevada are set to reopen on Saturday, May 1. Varga has worked at the Mustang Ranch for 5 years.

Also in the news:

►About 10% of the population of Republic, a small city in north-central Washington, has tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak traced to large indoor events last month at the local Fraternal Order of Eagles hall.

►A Nebraska community college is using federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for tuition and books for high schoolers from the state to take courses this summer. The Omaha World-Herald reports that officials at the Metropolitan Community College hope their newly approved offer will pull in thousands of students. 

►Pope Francis in a special prayer service on Saturday in St. Peter’s Basilica invoked the end of the pandemic and a return of what he called “a horizon of hope,” including a scenario in which scientists can figure out how to conquer the coronavirus.

Canada will get Pfizer vaccines doses from the United States starting next week. The country had been getting Pfizer’s vaccines from its Belgium site. Vaccinations have ramped up in Canada in recent months.

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 32 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 576,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: Over 152 million cases and 3.2 million deaths. More than 310 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 243 million have been administered, according to the CDC. More than 103 million Americans have been fully vaccinated.

📘 What we’re reading: CDC guidelines on wearing masks after vaccination could affect communities of color, experts say. Here’s how.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Crushing COVID-19 left California with scars as it starts to reopen

After a year of some of the strongest pandemic restrictions in the nation, the rate of coronavirus cases in California has plummeted to be among the lowest in the U.S. Now the state plans to fully reopen by mid-June. Californians and the state’s leaders are celebrating the low infections and reopening plan, with Gov. Gavin Newsom touting it on Twitter as he tours the state. But the harsh restrictions have taken their toll on businesses.

“The fact is that we really cannot fully explain why we see this virus explode in certain areas, and at the same time, relatively quiescent in others,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious diseases and vaccinology professor emeritus at University of California, Berkeley. 

India sets global records, but reality is probably even worse

India smashed another daily global record of new infections Saturday with more than 400,000 new cases, but at least one expert says the true tally could be 10 times that. Dr. Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto estimates, based on modeling from a previous surge in India, that the true infection numbers could be 10 times higher than the official reports.

“Entire houses are infected,” Jha said. “If one person gets tested in the house and reports they’re positive and everyone else in the house starts having symptoms, it’s obvious they have COVID, so why get tested?”

The U.S. has begun shipping valuable vaccine components, oxygen and masks to India, but the demand will still far outstrip supply. President Joe Biden’s administration also plans to restrict travel between the U.S. and India beginning Tuesday.

Iowa turns down 71% of COVID vaccine offered by feds

Iowa is turning down 71% of the COVID-19 vaccine supply it could have received from federal officials for the week of May 10, as demand for the shots continues to wane, the Iowa Department of Public Health said Saturday. This marks the second consecutive week that the state is asking the federal government to withhold part of its expected allocation of doses. 

Department spokesperson Sarah Ekstrand said Saturday that the state could have received a total of 105,300 doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine from federal officials for the week of May 10. That total includes nearly 21,000 doses the state asked federal officials to withhold for the week of May 3. For the week of May 10, the state is asking federal officials to withhold 75,280 doses, Ekstrand said in an email to the Des Moines Register, part of the USA TODAY Network. 

Ekstrand also said 88 of Iowa’s 99 counties have told the state they won’t need part or all of their weekly allocations of vaccine for the week starting May 10. That’s up from 80 counties that declined allocations for the coming week and 43 counties that declined all or part of their allocations for last week.

– Tony Leys, Des Moines Register

Federal mask mandate extended into September for planes, trains, buses

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has relaxed mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans, and some states have rescinded mask mandates. But masks will still be a must if you’re traveling by plane, train or bus this summer. The Transportation Security Administration on Friday extended its face mask requirement for airplanes, airports, trains, commuter rail systems and other modes of transportation through Sept. 13. The mandate, which began Feb. 1, was due to expire May 11.

“The federal mask requirement throughout the transportation system seeks to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on public transportation,” Darby LaJoye, a senior TSA official, said in a statement. “Right now, about half of all adults have at least one vaccination shot, and masks remain an important tool in defeating this pandemic. We will continue to work closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the need for these directives and recognize the significant level of compliance thus far.” Read more.

– Dawn Gilbertson