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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: Delta Lurks?

Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to spread, and we are noticing another uptick in new infections here in Nevada. Yet while vaccinations continue at a slower pace, our earlier ramp-up in vaccinations is resulting in fewer hospitalizations and deaths. But now that another new variant has emerged, what can we do about it?

Here’s the latest on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, across America and here at home.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Infection rates and caseloads are trending higher again, hospitalizations and deaths remain very low, and almost 47% of Nevadans have at least initiated the vaccination process. Washoe County and rural outbreaks appear to be under better control, while Clark County is leading this latest COVID-19 rebound. 

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has rebounded to 1.02, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 102 new infections. Elko (0.68), Douglas (0.77), Lyon (0.77), Carson City (0.79), Nye (0.80), Churchill (0.93), and Washoe (0.94) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Lincoln and White Pine Counties are at 1.00 exactly, and Lander (1.01), Clark (1.03), and Humboldt (1.16) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 10.5 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Churchill (1.1), Nye (3.4), Washoe (4.1), Lyon (5.0), Lander (5.2), Carson City (5.4), Storey (6.9), Humboldt (7.6), Pershing (8.5), Douglas (8.8), Elko (11.4) and Clark (12.6) Counties are all reporting under 20 new 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” has slid further to 3.5%, which is the lowest we’ve seen in the last 11 months. Yet according to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has risen to 7.11%, which is at the high end of the 4.7% to 7.3% range we’ve seen for the past month.

This week, COVID-19 hospitalizations remain low and stable. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 209 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 49 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 258 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,610 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we continue to average about four COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 11:00 AM today), 2,955,480 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 2,566,097 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,433,848 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 46.6% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 58.2% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,169,042 of these patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 38% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 48.3% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I am now fully vaccinated, and I will post an update later this week on my new fully vaccinated life.)  

Anthony Fauci, meet Hillary Clinton. And Joe Biden… may not be following Barack Obama’s (decision not to) lead on this?
Photo by Andrew Davey

During his last appearance at a White House Briefing as a Senior White House COVID-19 Response Advisor, Andy Slavitt once more heralded the Biden administration’s work to lessen the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in America and implement a national vaccination strategy that has resulted in just over 302 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered as of this morning. And on his way out, Slavitt also provided one more ringing endorsement of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden.

As Congressional Republicans and far-right media outlets proceed to weaponize emails against Fauci in 2021 like they did against Hillary Clinton and other top Democratic Party figures in 2016, Slavitt’s approach suggests that the Biden administration is not opting for the same hands-off approach that the Obama administration generally used during the 2016 election once it became clear that Republican leaders would not work with the Obama White House to counter the growing threat of Russian aggression.

As Slavitt continued to praise the state governments that have launched “vaccine lotteries” to entice people to get vaccinated, and as he even made some news in promising that President Joe Biden would not intervene against Washington State’s new “joints for jabs” campaign despite Biden’s ongoing opposition to marijuana legalization, he used the story of Ohio “Vax-a-Million” winner Jonathan Carlyle to highlight Fauci’s role in protecting the nation’s public health and refuting Republican rumors that have emerged from distortions of his emails: “Dr. Fauci and his team at the National Institutes of Allergies and Infectious Diseases helped invent and invest in the mRNA platform over the last two decades so that we would be ready in case the worst should happen. Jonathan, that’s how you got your vaccine in the first place. So, thank you, Dr. Fauci.”

“If you got your first dose of Pfizer or Moderna, don’t forget to get your second dose three or four weeks later.”
– CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Though Nevada may be experiencing a rebound in COVID-19 infections amidst Las Vegas’ latest and greatest grand reopening with few remaining health safety restrictions, America’s overall COVID-19 outlook remains the brightest we’ve seen since the early days of the pandemic. After noting how low the national stats have dropped, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted, “Each week, we have more and more data that show the effectiveness of these vaccines in preventing severe disease and getting us out of this pandemic.”

But wait, what about newer variants? B.1617.2, or the “Delta variant”, was first found in India last December, then was identified last week as the main driver behind a recent resurgence of COVID-19 in Australia’s Victoria province, and is now on track to become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.K. The bad news is that early data from Australia and the U.K. indicate that this “Delta variant” is more infectious than either the original strain or the B.117 “Alpha variant” (formerly known as the “U.K. variant”), and there are early signs suggesting that this “Delta variant” may carry even higher risk of severe disease than the older variants.

The good news, as confirmed by Dr. Fauci this morning, is that early data show promising signs that the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective: “Fortunately, two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine or the AstraZeneca vaccine work against this Delta variant. […] Just to reiterate: Just after two weeks of [the second dose] of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, it was 88% effective against the B.1617.2 variant and 93% effective against the B.117 variant.” In addition, data from Public Health England show that AstraZeneca’s vaccine is 60% effective against B.1617.2 after two doses.

However, there is a catch: These numbers are only this high following two vaccine doses. According to Public Health England’s data, both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are only 33% effective against B.1617.2 after just one dose. Dr. Walensky pointed to this as she reminded everyone today, “If you got your first dose of Pfizer or Moderna, don’t forget to get your second dose three or four weeks later.”

“If you are not vaccinated, you are at risk. If you are vaccinated, there is a dramatic drop in the risk of getting infected.”
– Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director and Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Now that we have another new variant emerging, and this variant happens to be emerging as nearly all U.S. states are loosening health safety rules, and as international travel begins to become more readily available again, our attention once more returns to the remaining vaccine hesitant holdouts. Today, Dr. Fauci noted, “Transmission is peaking among 12-20 year-olds. This is why we’re so focused on making sure our younger Americans get vaccinated.” And he later added, “If you are not vaccinated, you are at risk. If you are vaccinated, there is a dramatic drop in the risk of getting infected.”

As Fauci warned of the risks of not getting vaccinated, White House Senior COVID-19 Advisor Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith noted some of the rewards of the American Rescue Plan’s investment in the national vaccination strategy: “In order for our national vaccination campaign to work, we need to make sure it works for everyone. […] It is our pledge to ensure that vaccinations are easy and convenient for everyone.” She then noted that more pharmacies are pledging to extend their vaccine clinic hours on Friday nights, Uber and Lyft have pledged to continue offering free rides to vaccine clinics through July 4, local transit agencies have $30 billion in Rescue Plan funds to help more residents get to vaccine clinics, and that the White House continues to reach out to local partners like Black-owned barber shops and beauty salons to bring more vaccine doses to more communities far and wide.

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

Dr. Nunez-Smith acknowledged some of the practical concerns of some of the remaining vaccine hesitant holdouts: “Many people have concerns about missing a day of work, getting child care, or figuring out how to get there. Risking a shockwave of family finances is just not tenable.” She then promised, “Across the entire government, we remain committed to our goals on equity. […] We are absolutely pushing our comprehensive efforts to meet people where they are and remove structural barriers.”

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 is a screenshot taken by me.

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