The COVID-19 pandemic rages on, even as the nation gets a new Commander-in-Chief. Now that President Joe Biden has taken office, here’s a closer look at the pandemic that will undoubtedly be at the top of his agenda.
Today’s COVID-19 check-up: Hospitalizations are down, but new case numbers and the infection rate surge again.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s overall COVID-19 infection rate has slipped again to 0.92, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 92 new infections. White Pine (0.63), Churchill (0.67), Humboldt (0.67), Douglas (0.73), Carson City (0.75), Lyon (0.77), Elko (0.90), Clark (0.92), Washoe (0.92), and Lander (0.98) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Lincoln (1.02) and Nye (1.05) Counties suffer more rapid spread.
Churchill (3.4), Eureka (14.1), Humboldt (14.4), White Pine (16.4), and Pershing (17.0) Counties are reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Lyon (22.9), Douglas (24.2), Elko (27.9), Nye (36.8), Washoe (41.0), Carson City (43.9), and Lander (49.1) Counties are over that benchmark. Even worse, Lincoln (52.4), Mineral (53.9), and Clark (56.6) Counties are reporting over 50 new cases per 100,000 per day. According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate has hit a new record high of 20.6% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), though our seven-day average has recently dropped below 35%. These figures remain far above the WHO’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening.
A photo album from today's #COVID19 Remembrance at our Gov't. Ctr. Rotunda. We honor all those we've lost to #Coronavirus including nearly 2,900 here in #ClarkCounty and Las #Vegas.@MKNVspeaks @JustinJonesNV @MichaelNaft @CommishJGibson @tsegerblom @rossjmiller @WillMcCurdyII pic.twitter.com/L7Lf5S2X5M
— Clark County Nevada (@ClarkCountyNV) January 20, 2021
According to the Nevada Hospital Association, our hospitals are treating 1,533 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 183 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 1,716 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. This amounts to 32% of Nevada’s total number of patients in our hospitals. As of this morning, Nevada’s hospitals are reporting overall occupancy rates at 77% of staffed beds, 73% of adult ICU beds, and 45% of ventilators being used. As was mostly the case last week, Northern Nevada hospitals are experiencing lower demand while Southern Nevada hospitals remain closer to their record highs in COVID-19 patients admitted and general occupancy.
Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 3,864 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today. We averaged over 40 COVID-19 deaths per day last week, and the average daily death rate was dropping before the state reported 71 new COVID-19 . This week, state public health authorities have flagged all counties but Storey and White Pine for elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission. According to state officials 116,041 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Nevada, and the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker shows 89,110 first doses and 17,209 second doses administered as of 12:55 PM (though note that the CDC’s data are lagging behind the state’s numbers).
“They’ve been extreme, to say the least: The changes in allocation in supply, the changes in messaging, one agency contradicting each other.”
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response, on the Trump administration’s legacy on COVID-19
During today’s press call, the Nevada Health Response team took multiple questions on the state’s vaccination strategy. When it comes to the CDC’s claim that 276,775 vaccine doses have been distributed, Dr. Candice McDaniel from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) explained, “When you see that 275,000 number, you should understand that that’s the number that’s been allocated. That’s not the number of vaccine doses on trucks heading here. That’s not the number we have available to be distributed [right now]. […] That 275,000 is not fully in the State of Nevada to be used.”
Indeed, as David Dayen has often explained at The American Prospect and German Lopez has at Vox, the Trump administration made it a habit of heralding the success of “Operation Warp Speed” in fast vaccine development, but forced the already overburdened and underfunded state health offices to figure out vaccine distribution mostly on their own. While state governments haven’t been completely blameless in the slow vaccine rollout, it’s anything but fair to solely blame state and local health authorities for this failure when they never had a fair shot at success to start with.
As he summarized the state’s experience with former President Donald Trump’s blowing off of the COVID-19 crisis, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage pointed out, “They’ve been extreme, to say the least: The changes in allocation in supply, the changes in messaging, one agency contradicting another. Their [public] messaging didn’t always align with what they were recommending to us.” But with President Joe Biden now in office, Cage declared, “We’re starting to see hopeful signs that the [federal government’s responsibilities in containing COVID-19] will be a huge priority for the new administration.”
“Doses are allocated to Nevada on a weekly basis. […] Please be patient while limited doses are available.”
– Candice McDaniel, Nevada DHHS
In better news, Cage voiced some optimism amidst the continuing decline in COVID-19 infection rates and hospitalizations. Or as Cage put it, “We are cautiously optimistic that we are seeing a sustained trend that indicates we’re moving in the right direction. We hope to see a continued decrease in all our metrics. We hope everyone will keep these metrics moving in the right direction by adhering to our mitigation measures.”
Returning to the vaccine front, McDaniel reminded the reporters on the call, “Doses are allocated to Nevada on a weekly basis, and we encourage Nevadans to visit nvcovidfighter.org to see if they’re eligible for an appointment. Please be patient while limited doses are available.” And as she and Governor Steve Sisolak (D) noted last week, COVID-19 vaccines are currently available for seniors over age 70 and select “priority buckets” of essential workers due to limited supply.
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check with Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, and check with Nevada 211 for more health care resources. If you’re in need of additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square. And for goodness sake, please wear your masks and maintain social distancing from people outside your household.