COVID-19 continues to spread, and we’re once again seeing a “summer surge” of rising infections and hospitalizations. Though a whole lot of us saw this coming, can we find an end in sight?
As Nevada once again makes national and international headlines for the wrong reasons, here’s an update on the state of the pandemic.
Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Infection rates finally slip and new daily caseloads stabilize, but hospitalizations have rebounded to levels unseen since our last “winter surge”, Delta has rapidly become Nevada’s predominant variant, and 43% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated. Clark County’s outbreak remains dangerously high, while Northern Nevada’s COVID-19 stats look less severe.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has slipped a little to 1.15, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 115 new infections. Lyon (0.72), Elko (0.76), Douglas (0.80), Carson City (0.85), Churchill (0.90), and Washoe (0.93) Counties have infection rates under 1.00, while Lincoln is at 1.00 exactly, and Clark (1.16), Lander (1.16), White Pine (1.19), Nye (1.21!), and Humboldt (1.36!) are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 15.3 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. White Pine (1.5), Douglas (2.6), Lincoln (2.8), Washoe (3.1), Churchill (3.4), Storey (3.5), Carson City (3.8), Lyon (4.7), Humboldt (8.5), Elko (9.5), and Nye (9.5) are all reporting under ten new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Eureka (14.1) and Clark (19.4) Counties are suffering higher caseloads.
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” has surged even higher to 10.0%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has inched higher to 13.22%, which is the highest we’ve seen in the past two months. And according to the Scripps Institute’s Outbreak.info, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) has spread quite rapidly here in Nevada since May: Delta accounts for 72% of our new COVID-19 cases in the last 30 days, 59% of our new COVID-19 cases in the last 60 days, and 38% of Nevada’s cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases as of June 30.
💉 Clínica de vacunación
🗓️ Martes, 13 de julio, 5-9 pm
📍 La Luz Del Mundo, 2413 Cedar Ave, Las Vegas
💪Todos los mayores de 12 años | Gratuita para todos, independientemente del estatus migratorio pic.twitter.com/xX2EnnOrLk
— Immunize Nevada (@ImmunizeNV) July 13, 2021
There are several places to get a free COVID-19 vaccine this week, including Sun Valley Community Center, Little Flower Church and Deer Park! Check them out here. https://t.co/WTpZcLW34u pic.twitter.com/4WSpb7ionT
— COVID19Washoe (@Covid19Washoe) July 12, 2021
This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 693 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 64 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 757 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients – the highest we’ve experienced since February. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,731 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging four to five COVID-19 deaths per day.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 11:20 AM today), 3,151,460 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 2,851,032 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,575,174 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 51.1% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 63% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,324,826 of these patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 43% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 53.6% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I posted another update yesterday on my new fully vaccinated life, and stay tuned for a new “This Week in Corona Scams” where we’ll dive into the latest false rumors about COVID-19 and the vaccines. Also, here’s a heads-up that as long as our COVID-19 infection surge continues, we will continue to post updates at least once a week.)
What is Nevada’s “surge response” plan?
Some six weeks ago, even I was encouraged by Nevada’s seemingly waning COVID-19 outbreak. As our infection rates and hospitalizations plummeted to new lows, Nevada public health officials hailed the progress, though they also noted what we needed to sustain the positive momentum. Or as then COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage put it, “We are optimistic right now. We see what we believe to be the effects of vaccinations in our state. […] In order for us to sustain this, we have to continue to invest in vaccinations.”
Fast forward to last week, when Nevada Health Response relaunched their weekly press calls amidst Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) recent request for federal assistance as vaccinations continue to lag behind, and as infections and hospitalizations surge to levels we hadn’t experienced since March. As President Joe Biden has been promising surge response teams to aid in areas with low vaccination rates and severe outbreaks, Sisolak Chief of Staff Michelle White confirmed last Thursday that FEMA staff will arrive in Nevada this week to help state health officials beef up vaccine outreach: “FEMA has been incredibly responsive. They responded to our request right away.”
So what’s the plan for FEMA and Nevada public health officials? On last Thursday’s call Candice McDaniel, now Deputy Director at the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), indicated that federal and state resources will go toward establishing new pop-up vaccination clinics throughout Clark County for the rest of the summer. McDaniel also stated that Clark County and the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) will forgo any more mass vaccination sites and instead establish long-term community vaccination clinics.
“Lower vaccination rates, in accord with increased travel and relaxed mitigation measures, have led to increased caseloads and test positivity in Clark County.”
– Candice McDaniel, Nevada Health Response
So why have our COVID-19 stats been moving in the wrong direction? Long-time readers here have followed along as we’ve been tracking and crunching the numbers on these pages for the past month. Over the weekend, The Nevada Independent’s indispensable Megan Messerly posted her own well-sourced deep dive into our COVID-19 resurgence detailing how and why it’s happening. And last Thursday, we listened as state officials publicly confirmed it themselves.
According to McDaniel, “Our cases and hospitalizations continue to lag in the areas where we have the most vaccinations. That shows how well the COVID-19 vaccines work.” She noted how Washoe County and Carson City have thus far experienced a less severe spike due to their higher vaccination levels. McDaniel also warned, “Cases may be higher in rural areas than the official records show due to the low amount of testing being conducted.”
As for Southern Nevada, McDaniel admitted, “Lower vaccination rates, in accord with increased travel and relaxed mitigation measures, have led to increased caseloads and test positivity in Clark County.” Yet despite this admission, she and White did not give any indication of Sisolak considering reimposing stronger health safety rules amidst our worsening outbreak.
Instead, White reiterated that the state’s current plan focuses on driving up vaccinations. On public health safety, White just said, “We know that people feel better that restrictions are lifted and vaccines are available. […] In order to feel protected and relieved, you need to be vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated, you need to wear a mask in public settings.” She continued, “Nevadans should continue to make the smartest decisions to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.”
“The best form of protection against the Delta variant is vaccination. And if you’re using a mRNA vaccine, it’s important to get both doses of the vaccine.”
– Dr. Ellie Graeden, Talus Analytics
In response to questions about breakthrough infections and vaccine efficacy, Dr. Ellie Graeden of Talus Analytics clearly stated, “99% of COVID-19 deaths in June were of unvaccinated individuals.” She later added, “The best form of protection against the Delta variant is vaccination. And if you’re using a mRNA vaccine, it’s important to get both doses of the vaccine.”
Yes, this really means getting both doses. According to Dr. Graeden, “Delaying the second dose gives more time for variants to build resistance to the vaccines.” She then added, “It’s not too late to get your second dose, even if you’ve passed the recommended three to four week window.”
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. This story was updated at 11:25 AM to include new vaccination numbers from the CDC.