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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 informationPolitical AnalysisThe Economy

COVID-19 Update: Cascading Crises

COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron, airport, Harry Reid International Airport, Las Vegas, Clark County

COVID-19 continues to spread, even as so many of our politicians refuse to acknowledge the reality of this pandemic. Though we have some good news to be thankful for, we also have to be careful with a new variant lurking all over the place. Here’s what you need to know about booster shots, new data on the new variant that’s spreading, and our overall COVID-19 outlook.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Nevada’s overall outlook still looks pretty rough. Hospitalizations and deaths appear stable, but infections are ticking higher again. Some rural areas and Washoe County continue to trend lower, but Clark County and other rurals are surging higher again. And finally, over 55% of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated.
COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, travel
Photo by Andrew Davey

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has jumped to 1.11, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to 111 new infections. Douglas (0.69), Humboldt (0.73), Lincoln (0.74), Nye (0.81), Churchill (0.83), White Pine (0.86), Carson City (0.90), Lyon (0.94), and Elko (0.96) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Pershing (1.01), Washoe (1.03), Lander (1.07), Clark (1.09), and Mineral (1.38!) Counties suffer more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 22.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Lander (5.2) and White Pine (6.0) Counties now have lower caseloads, while Lincoln (11.0), Douglas (12.3), Eureka (14.1), Carson City (14.3), Elko (16.5), Lyon (17.1), Washoe (18.9), Mineral (22.2!), Humboldt (22.9!), Clark (24.4!), Nye (28.9!), Pershing (29.7!), and Churchill (34.4!) Counties all report 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 down slightly to 7.41%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has ticked up to 9.4%. According to the Scripps Institute’s Outbreak.info, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant for now: Delta and its sub lineages account for at least 78% of new cases in the last 30 days, at least 89% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 85% of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since February. We’ll be on the lookout in the coming days to see when the Omicron variant (or B.1.1.529) begins to show up in our data.

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations have slipped a little lower. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 605 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 54 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 659 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 8,189 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about 11 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 4,896,800 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 4,124,444 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 2,088,217 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 67.8% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 72.1% of all Nevadans aged five and up, and 80.7% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,708,891 Nevada patients have had at least two mRNA vaccine doses (or one J&J/Janssen dose), meaning an estimated 55.5% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 59% of all Nevadans aged five and up, and 66.8% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. 399,365 Nevadans thus far have opted for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, meaning that 23.4% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 48.5% of Nevadans aged 65 and up) have opted for additional vaccine protection.

We already have the public health crisis, but our democratic crisis is only making things worse.
Photo by Andrew Davey

Earlier this month, a Vox story on our latest COVID-19 woes kicked off by lamenting, “The pandemic refuses to quit. What can the White House do about it?” In the meat of the story, Vox’s Dylan Scott actually went on to thoroughly explain President Joe Biden’s latest attempt to stop the next COVID-19 surge before it starts, but that intro line nonetheless feeds into a misleading narrative on COVID-19 and the politics of public health. As we’ve previously discussed, there are some honestly good elements in Biden’s plan – such as family vaccination clinics, community outreach to encourage more COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, distribution of free (for patients) COVID-19 tests through community health centers and other health care providers, and the federal government taking the lead in distributing new antiviral treatments (such as Pfizer’s paxlovid) as soon as the FDA approves them.

On the other hand, Biden relies on certain makeshift workarounds – such as health insurance reimbursement for at-home rapid COVID-19 test kits, and the lack of public health protection standards beyond executive-issued vaccine mandates that have thus far been blocked by multiple Republican-friendly federal courts – that expose how America continues to wander through the wilderness when it comes to our lack of a more thorough COVID-19 public health protection plan. With the lack of a clear end goal, the lack of mitigation measures beyond a hodge-podge of federal and state/local masking rules, and the increasing reliance on state/local governments and private companies to enforce vaccine mandates, the national COVID-19 action plan continues to fall back on wings and prayers when we’re in dire need of stronger action.

As we say around these parts, we’re hitting a point of convergence – specifically, convergence of the COVID-19 health crisis and the crisis of America’s ailing democracy. With a critical mass of elected officials who are too afraid to be more proactive on public health due to terrorist threats, a growing chorus of political partisan judges whose judgments are increasingly detached from the law, and the proliferation of politicians who peddle lethal lies against our public health, we’re facing additional consequences from our elected leaders’ failure to adequately defend our democracy. When even the most base-level community defense becomes “too controversial”, we should know we’re in very deep trouble.

Omicron (and Breakthrough Infection) Update: We told you so.
COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron, San Clemente, California, Orange County, San Diego
Photo by Andrew Davey

Evidence continues to mount that strongly suggests the Omicron variant was already circulating here in the U.S. well before the arguments over African travel bans began to flare up. Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times reported that California public health officials found evidence of the Omicron variant in a Merced County wastewater sample that was collected on November 25. Around the same time, the CDC announced that a confirmed Omicron patient began to develop symptoms on November 15 after traveling abroad. In other words, Omicron had probably already begun to spread here in America at least two weeks before news broke of Omicron spreading in South Africa.

Digging deeper, the CDC’s data show that 58% of U.S. Omicron patients are ages 18-39, that 79% of Omicron patients got at least two COVID-19 vaccine doses, only one Omicron breakthrough infection led to hospitalization, and thus far zero Omicron breakthrough infections have led to death. This right here goes a long way to explain why a disproportionately large share of confirmed Omicron patients have been mild infections.

Even with the seemingly awful news on the Africa Health Research Institute’s report that the original two dose regimen of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine may only be 22.5% effective against symptomatic Omicron infections, the original two dose regimen remains highly effective against life-threatening disease, and the third dose booster shot significantly improves patients’ ability to fend off Omicron. While bad faith hot take artists are rushing to cherry-pick certain data points and twist them into their anti-vaccine talking points, the fact of the matter remains that these COVID-19 vaccines work incredibly well to save lives.

Finally, some odds and ends… And some more CDC data
COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron, airport, Harry Reid International Airport, Las Vegas, Clark County
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. 13 of Nevada’s 17 counties show high transmission, and Eureka County has a substantial level of transmission, so the vast majority of the state will remain under the mask mandate. Esmeralda County continues to post a low transmission level, Storey County also reports low transmission, and White Pine County reports moderate transmission. If Storey and White Pine remain below the substantial level this week and next, they will exit the mask mandate on Christmas Eve.

After a volatile summer, Nevada’s vaccination rate has mostly bounced higher this fall. According to CDC data, our seven-day moving average of daily vaccine doses administered remains high at 11,454, and this comes shortly after we hit a new (seven-day average) high of 12,880 on December 9. This marks a 124.10% increase from our July 10 record low at 5,111, and this marks a 5.21% decrease from our previous December 3 high of 12,084 (and a 11.07% drop from our new autumn high of 12,880). It’s possible that we first got a rebound at least partially due to already vaccinated patients seeking booster shots, and it’s increasingly looking like the combination of boosters and eligibility expansion to younger children are helping to sustain this higher level of vaccine doses 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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