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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

COVID-19HealthNews and information

COVID-19 Update: Boosters and Leaks

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, travel, airports, John Wayne Airport, Orange County, California

COVID-19 continues to spread, and America continues to try to find our way out of this pandemic. Now, some Americans are looking to COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for some kind of hope. Here’s what you need to know about booster shots, about our lagging vaccination rate, and our overall COVID-19 outlook.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Washoe County’s outbreak continues to subside, but Clark County and some rural areas are experiencing another rebound in infections. Hospitalizations and new deaths are also trending lower, but remain well above our springtime lows. Finally, over 51% of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated.
Photo by Andrew Davey

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has ticked higher again to 0.94, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to 94 new infections. Lander (0.68), Humboldt (0.70), Mineral (0.73), Washoe (0.79), Pershing (0.84), Carson City (0.90), Douglas (0.91), Lyon (0.94), Churchill (0.95), and Lincoln (0.99) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Clark (1.01), White Pine (1.08), Elko (1.18), and Nye (1.19) Counties suffer more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 23.3 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Pershing (17.0), Storey (17.3), Clark (20.2!), Washoe (24.8!), Douglas (36.5!), Mineral (41.2!!), Lincoln (41.3!!), Carson City (43.7!!), Eureka (57.5!!), Lyon (66.8!!!), Nye (67.9!!!), Humboldt (72.3!!!), Churchill (104.4????!!!!), White Pine (153.6????!!!!), and Elko (232.8????!!!!) Counties are all reporting over 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day.

According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 data tracker, Nevada’s 14-day test positivity average based on “new positives as a percentage of new test encounters” ticked lower to 8.22%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average hovers at 9.25%. According to the Scripps Institute’s Outbreak.info, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant: Delta and its sub lineages account for at least 94% of new cases in the last 30 days, at least 93% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 75% of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since February. (Editor’s Note: Nevada Health Response has recently changed its protocol for reporting testing data. The state’s data dashboard now includes COVID-19 antigen test results and probable cases, so keep this mind while assessing this week’s spike in case counts.)

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to trend lower. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 686 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 72 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 758 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 7,345 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about 17 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of Saturday), 4,118,950 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,473,208 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,896,367 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 61.6% of Nevadans (and more specifically, about 72.3% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 74.3% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,585,164 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 51.5% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 60.5% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 62.5% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. 

Booster Update: What’s going on with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson?
COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, travel, San Clemente, Orange County, California
Photo by Andrew Davey

Last month, the CDC authorized Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine booster shots and provided guidance on who should get boosters and when. Today, we may be closer to the launch of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen, or J&J) boosters. Both companies made their respective cases to the FDA, the FDA’s staff declined to take a formal stance on Moderna’s request for booster authorization, and the FDA’s independent advisory panel will meet later this week to review federal government data and decide on recommendations to pass onto the CDC. 

The CDC may make a final decision on Moderna and J&J vaccine booster shots as soon as next week. The CDC may also make a long-awaited decision on whether or not to approve “vaccine mix-and-match” where patients who originally received one brand of COVID-19 vaccine get a booster shot of another brand.

Thus far, all three COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective against severe and potentially fatal disease. Yet due to the increased potency of the Delta variant and our overall lagging vaccination rate, boosters have entered the chat. For everyone here who needs COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, check Immunize Nevada for an updated list of local vaccination clinics.

Has the lab leak theory just become another black hole of conspiracy nonsense?
Donald Trump
Photo by Andrew Davey

Ever since the last time we checked in on the ongoing speculation over whether COVID-19 began spreading due to a Chinese lab leak, we still don’t have any definitive or factual evidence supporting this claim. Yet despite recent stories in CNN, The Intercept, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal hyping up the lab leak theory, the fact remains that the alleged “evidence” that lab leak enthusiasts rely upon emanates from far-right politicians and other political bad actors who have incentives to deflect all blame to the Chinese government, and to direct attention away from our own government’s failure to stop the acceleration of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 and early 2020.

Make no mistake, this is no attempt to “cover up for China”. Rather, as The Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik and virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen have cogently explained, the lab leak theory has devolved from a potentially plausible way to explain how COVID-19 began and first spread into an increasingly nonsensical wishcasting feeding frenzy. After President Joe Biden ordered an intelligence review this past spring, U.S. intelligence agencies could not conclude that a lab leak caused COVID-19 to spread, and they couldn’t even agree on how realistically possible the lab leak theory actually is. Meanwhile, the actual scientific evidence that we do have continues to bolster theories of zoonotic origin while casting further doubt on these attempts to blame the Wuhan Institute of Virology for COVID-19.

As we regularly warn in our “This Week in Corona Scams” series, just because someone purports to be “populist” and “anti-establishment” does not automatically make one’s claims credible. This is just another aspect of the consequences of politicizing the COVID-19 pandemic to death. When we already have vaccines that can save lives, and when we may be making progress in finding new life-saving treatments, why must we continue to waste bandwidth on baseless conspiracy theories that don’t save lives? 

As important as it is to learn more about how this virus began and how it began to spread, it’s likely counterproductive to continue funneling resources into “investigations” that thus far have failed to produce anything besides hyper-politicized wishcasting. And when the apparent end game of these “investigations” is further suppression of legitimate scientific research, what are we even doing here?

Might “The Truth Sandwich” help make accurate COVID-19 information more digestible?

While there’s plenty that we still don’t know about the origins of COVID-19, there’s plenty that we’ve had to learn about the dangers of medical misinformation and anti-science disinformation. Perhaps the most critical reason why I launched our “This Week in Corona Scams” series is to help people figure out the actual facts behind the viral internet trends that add to America’s dizzying confusion over what’s true and what’s false about COVID-19.

Last week, STAT News published an interview with Seth Mnookin, director of the MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing, where he vocalized his frustration over how to properly handle the spread of lies like those of hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin allegedly “curing” COVID-19. (Spoiler alert: They most likely don’t.) Honestly, it’s something that I continue to wrestle with.

One thing I’m personally working on is adopting and deploying the communication method developed by famed linguist George Lakoff: “The Truth Sandwich”. Lakoff has recommended taking disinformation head-on by: 1) starting with the truth, 2) revealing the lie while avoiding any amplification of its false message, and 3) reinforcing the truth by returning to the truth and repeating it when necessary. As New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen explained during then President Donald Trump’s early efforts to suppress the truth about COVID-19 last year, this is a way to provide a concise explanation to the general public without wrongfully providing credibility to clearly false statements.

As I regularly have to remind myself, and as more media insiders should recognize more often, most Americans don’t have time to sift through medical science journals, watch entire government press conferences, or catch up on journalists’ Twitter threads. According to Pew Research Center’s summer 2021 survey on Americans’ media consumption, 31% of Americans regularly get their news from Facebook, while 22% regularly watch the news on YouTube. The more work we put into making the truth more easily accessible and easier to understand, the better off we will be.

Finally, some odds and ends
COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care
Photo by Andrew Davey

Nevada’s larger mask rule for publicly accessible indoor spaces continues to be updated weekly based on two weeks’ worth of CDC COVID-19 transmission data. Lincoln County showed improvement last week, but they’re back at high transmission this week. Unless Lincoln County shows improvement again later this week, Lincoln will remain under the mask mandate along with the rest of the state. Meanwhile Esmeralda County shows improvement this week, so if Esmeralda manages to stay under substantial transmission later today and next week, then Esmeralda County will no longer have to operate under the mask mandate late next week.

After a volatile summer, Nevada’s vaccination rate continues to fluctuate. According to CDC data, our seven-day moving average of daily vaccine doses administered has slipped again to 6,551. This still marks a 28.75% increase from our July 10 record low at 5,088, and this marks a 20.26% drop from August 23 summertime high of 8,215. It’s possible that we saw a rebound at least partially due to already vaccinated patients seeking booster shots, and we’ll have to keep an eye on this to see if this rebound persists.

If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check Immunize Nevada for more information on vaccine availability in your area, check Nevada Health Response for testing in your area, and check 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 maintain best practices to help stop the spread.

The cover photo was taken by me.

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