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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-19HealthNevada LegislaturePolitical AnalysisThe Economy

COVID-19 Update: Breakthrough, Revisited

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, we must again clear the air on the COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots. Here’s what you need to know about booster shots, about our vaccination rate, and our overall COVID-19 outlook.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Nevada’s overall outlook appears stable, though some rural counties continue to suffer severe outbreaks. Hospitalizations and new deaths are also trending lower, but remain well above our springtime lows. And finally, over half of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated.
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has ticked higher to 0.95, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to 95 new infections. Lander (0.73), Lyon (0.75), Mineral (0.78), Churchill (0.80), Washoe (0.81), Douglas (0.83), Nye (0.83), Elko (0.89), Clark (0.98), and Humboldt (0.98) Counties and Carson City (0.99) all have infection rates under 1.00, while White Pine (1.06), Pershing (1.11), and Lincoln (1.25!) Counties suffer more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 22.2 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Clark (18.2), Nye (19.0), Lincoln (19.3), Douglas (19.9), Washoe (22.6!), Lyon (27.1!), Storey (27.7!), Eureka (28.2!), Mineral (38.1!), Pershing (40.1!!), Lander (49.1!!), Churchill (49.3!!), Elko (89.3!!!!) , Humboldt (126.5????!!!!), and White Pine (167.0????!!!!) 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 7.67%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has ticked higher to 9.68%. 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 88% of new cases in the last 30 days, at least 92% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 78% of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since February. (Editor’s Note: Nevada Health Response has 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 the recent spike in case counts.)

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to trend lower. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 645 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 53 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 698 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 7,451 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about 20 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 4,196,360 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,525,360 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,914,128 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 62.1% of Nevadans (and more specifically, about 73% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 74.9% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,601,295 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 52% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 61.1% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 63.1% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. 

Booster Update
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Late last week, the FDA’s vaccine advisory panel unanimously endorsed Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster shots for the same groups of patients whom CDC Director Rochelle Walensky decided to qualify for Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots: patients aged 65+, select immunocompromised patients who face greater risks of contracting COVID-19, and workers who have to work in high-risk environments. The same FDA panel also unanimously endorsed Johnson & Johnson (Janssen, or J&J) booster shots. But for J&J, they recommended no restrictions on who should qualify for boosters, as J&J originally marketed their vaccine as a one-dose regimen that later proved to be less sufficient amidst the rise of more potent variants like Delta.

As we’ve previously noted, these booster shots are not considered required to obtain or maintain fully vaccinated status, so there’s currently no requirement for anyone to get booster shots. So far these boosters are becoming available as more of a public service for people who need and/or want stronger protection as the potency of the original doses wanes, and as a precautionary measure against the Delta variant and the potential for additional highly potent future variants. 

Please keep in mind that all three of the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available here in the U.S. are highly effective against severe and potentially fatal disease. For everyone here who needs COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, check Immunize Nevada for an updated list of local vaccination clinics.

Next, some words on the passing of Colin Powell

Almost two months ago, I shared the story of my one uncle’s tragic death from a COVID-19 breakthrough infection. He was 84. As I noted back then, “Older patients and the immunocompromised have always been among the most vulnerable during this pandemic, and that remains the same when it comes to the risk of breakthrough infections. That’s what happened to my uncle and aunt when they visited South Carolina. Because my aunt was in better overall health going in, she only experienced a milder case that she’s since been recovering from. But since my uncle was older and immunocompromised, all it took was this one wrong move to spark the ultimate pandemic-era nightmare come true.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was also 84 when he passed away from a COVID-19 breakthrough infection. Like my uncle, he was also fully vaccinated. Like my uncle, he also suffered a co-morbidity – in Powell’s case, multiple myeloma (or blood cancer). And as we hinted at earlier, these are the kinds of patients who most need booster shots due to their already weakened immune systems and the ongoing spread of COVID-19.

According to the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD), only 0.96% of fully vaccinated Clark County residents suffered COVID-19 breakthrough infections as of September 30, versus 25.22% of unvaccinated residents contracting COVID-19. Digging deeper into SNHD’s data (as of September 30), the Delta variant is responsible for the vast majority of breakthrough infections and COVID-19 infections in general, yet only 0.01% of fully vaccinated Clark County residents died from COVID-19 breakthrough infections, versus 4.47% of unvaccinated residents dying of COVID-19 related complications. Meanwhile, according to the Washoe County COVID-19 Regional Information Center, 1.34% of fully vaccinated Washoe County residents suffered breakthrough infections as of October 15.

As we’ve pointed out before, just because vaccines don’t prevent all illness and death all the time does not mean that “they don’t work”. In an upcoming installment of “This Week in Corona Scams”, we’ll take a closer look at “the prison of belief”, the allure of propaganda, and why cults remain so frigging dangerous. 

Finally, some odds and ends… And some more CDC data
COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, Orange County, Santa Ana, California, travel
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. 16 of Nevada’s 17 counties show high transmission, so the vast majority of the state will probably remain under the mask mandate. Meanwhile Esmeralda County shows improvement again today, so if Esmeralda manages to stay under substantial transmission through tomorrow, then Esmeralda County will no longer have to operate under the mask mandate starting this Friday.

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 dropped again to 5,097. This marks a mere 0.17% increase from our July 10 record low at 5,088, and this marks a 37.95% 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, but if that’s the case, it didn’t provide much of an overall rebound in shots administered.

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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