COVID-19 continues to spread, and our numbers still look rough. However, we do have one critical bright spot: More COVID-19 vaccine shots are getting into more Americans’ arms. As this summer’s Delta surge rages on, we have a simultaneously hopeful and painful reminder of what it’s going to take to survive this mess.
2:40 PM UPDATE: “Unlike previous waves of this virus, we have real solutions available. They’re called the COVID-19 vaccines.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Moments ago, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) changed his tune on COVID-19 vaccine mandates. During a press conference in Las Vegas, Sisolak vented, “Whether we like it or not, this virus mutates. We must evolve with it to save ourselves, our economy, and our jobs.” And after noting how highly effective the COVID-19 vaccines are, Sisolak stated, “Unless we get vaccinated quickly, the virus will mutate again. […] Our economic progress will be threatened.” He then added, “Unlike previous waves of this virus, we have real solutions available. They’re called the COVID-19 vaccines.”
Sisolak later idenitified three areas he’s considering imposing vaccination requirements: at NSHE colleges and universities, such as UNR, UNLV, and the community colleges; for health care workers and workers at other social service institutions; and at large events like concerts and professional sports games. In an effort to pre-but potential criticism over why Sisolak is shifting on vaccine mandates, he stated, “This isn’t just for visitors. […] This is so Nevadans can enjoy the best that this state has to offer. Our goal is to avoid rolling back.”
Sisolak then spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected Nevada youth, especially when it comes to the early days of the pandemic, when they had to spend away from the classroom in order to help stop the spread and protect them from COVID-19. Sisolak insisted that he does not want to preside over another round of school lockdowns: “When we get vaccinated, we protect those who can’t get vaccinated. Our kids missed so much last school year. I don’t want them to miss anything this school year.”
When asked about Nevada businesses like MGM Resorts advancing their own vaccine requirements, Sisolak responded, “If that’s what’s in their best interest, I’m happy to support what they’re doing.” He then said that when businesses act to get their workers and customers to get vaccinated, “This helps keep our businesses open.”
Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Infection rates have ticked slightly lower, but remain high. Hospitalizations and deaths remain alarmingly high. However vaccinations are ticking higher, as almost 45% of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated. The vast majority of the state continues to suffer a severe outbreak.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has slipped a little to 1.12, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 112 new infections. Only Nye (0.81) and Elko (0.95) Counties have infection rates slightly under 1.00, while Lander and Pershing Counties are at 1.00 exactly, and Churchill (1.07), Clark (1.09), White Pine (1.09), Carson City (1.17), Lincoln (1.18), Douglas (1.22!), Humboldt (1.25!), Lyon (1.30!), and Washoe (1.37!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 35.2 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Lander (2.6), White Pine (3.0), Storey (3.5), Pershing (4.2), Eureka (7.0), Nye (7.1), Lincoln (8.3), and Humboldt (9.3) Counties are reporting under ten new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Churchill (17.8), Elko (18.1), Carson City (19.9), Douglas (20.7!), Washoe (23.0!), Mineral (31.7!), Lyon (32.8!), and Clark (40.3!) Counties are all 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 inched even higher to 15.7%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has slipped a bit but remains high at 17.90%. 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 89% of new cases in the last 30 days, 78% of new cases in the last 60 days, and 63% of Nevada’s cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases. In addition, 8% of new cases in the last 30 days have been identified as the AY.2 or AY.3 sub-lineages of Delta.
💉 Get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Reno!
⏰ Friday, August 6, 3 pm – 7 pm
📍 895 E Plumb Lane
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— Immunize Nevada (@ImmunizeNV) August 4, 2021
💉 Vacúnate contra el COVID-19 en Sparks
⏰ Martes, 10 de agosto, 10 am – 2 pm
📍 7100 Pyramid Way
😷 Todos los mayores de 12 años | Gratuita para todos, independientemente del estatus migratorio pic.twitter.com/GecEpv4v2X
— Immunize Nevada (@ImmunizeNV) August 4, 2021
This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 1,121 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 112 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 1,233 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,979 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re still averaging over 10 COVID-19 deaths per day.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 3,337,870 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,001,625 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,676,459 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 54.4% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 66.4% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,380,831 of these patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 44.8% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 55.5% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I posted a special “Web of Hate” installment last week showing how widespread the Influencer Infodemic truly is, and we have a new “This Week in Corona Scams” up today.)
Next, some odds and ends here in Nevada
Yesterday, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) released Emergency Directive 048 to further align the State of Nevada with official CDC guidance in requiring all students, staff, and visitors to wear masks while inside school buildings and school buses in counties with populations above 100,000 (as in – Clark and Washoe). In addition, all other Nevada school districts must adhere to a minimum of universal masking in buses, all school staff wearing masks while inside school buildings, and automatic universal indoor masking at any school suffering an active COVID-19 outbreak.
As we noted earlier this week, Nevada’s larger mask rule for publicly accessible indoor spaces will be updated weekly based on two weeks’ worth of CDC COVID-19 transmission data. As it stands now, Esmeralda County is on track to fall low enough to come out of the mask mandate, while Humboldt County is on track to sustain high enough transmission to go into the mask mandate. Wherever they land on Tuesday is what will come into place Friday next week. Both Clark and Washoe Counties continue to suffer high transmission, so it’s likely they will remain under the mask mandate.
In better news, Nevada’s vaccination rate continues to improve. According to CDC data, our 14-day moving average of daily vaccine doses administered has ticked a little higher to 6,623. This marks a 30.17% increase from our July 10 record low at 5,088. This tracks with the overall rebound in vaccinations we’re seeing in high-risk areas throughout the nation. But to add some exclamation points to what we noted in this week’s “This Week in Corona Scams” about the growing trend of partisan polarization on the COVID-19 vaccines, health care analyst Charles Gaba has new data showing that the biggest rebounds in vaccinations are occurring in counties where President Joe Biden won in the 2020 election, and Nevada Health Response’s data seem to corroborate Gaba’s analysis.
“The highest risk group remain those who have not yet been vaccinated. It’s imperative that we get vaccinated to save lives.”
– CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky
During today’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients hailed the recent vaccine rebound: “Vaccinations are the very best line of defense against COVID-19 and the Delta variant. We are seeing results.” He continued, “Clearly, Americans are seeing the impact of being unvaccinated and unprotected. Clearly, they’re responding by rolling up their sleeves.”
Zients then addressed the Biden administration’s own rollout of new federal government vaccine mandates, as well as the growing count of state/local governments and businesses launching their own vaccine mandates: “Businesses know vaccinations are the way to keep their workers and customers safe, and they know this is the way to keep their doors open. […] We support these vaccination requirements to protect workers, communities, and the country.”
There’s emerging evidence that the combination of personal experience with this COVID-19 Delta surge and these emerging vaccine mandates are providing the kinds of sticks needed to get vaccine holdouts to change their minds after carrots like giveaways and vaccine lotteries failed to sustain a larger rebound in vaccinations. But when asked whether we will eventually have some kind of federal vaccine passport, Zients and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy indicated that they will continue to have private entities take the lead in developing such proof of vaccination programs.
Amidst the growing mountain of evidence showing that the COVID-19 vaccines really do provide significant protection, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated, “The highest risk group remain those who have not yet been vaccinated. It’s imperative that we get vaccinated to save lives.”
“Viruses can not mutate unless they replicate. The easiest way to avoid this scenario is to get as many people vaccinated as we can.”
– Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden
As we’re just starting to learn about the Delta Plus (B.1.617.2.1 or AY.1) and Lambda (C.37) variants, and the possibility that they’re even more contagious and severe than Delta, White House officials stressed the importance of getting more people vaccinated now in order to fend off the threat of deadlier SARS-CoV-2 variants. As NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci explained, “Viruses can not mutate unless they replicate. The easiest way to avoid this scenario is to get as many people vaccinated as we can.” He continued, “The ultimate endgame of all this is vaccination. If we get all eligible people vaccinated and implement mitigation right now, we will turn the Delta surge right around.”
The Biden administration is currently providing federal COVID-19 surge response support to Nevada and 15 other states, including on-the-ground efforts to increase hospital capacity, more access to antibody treatments, and more boots on the ground for local vaccine outreach and community vaccination clinics. Today Zients promised, “We have been relentless in our efforts to get Americans vaccinated. Our whole-of-government efforts will continue […] to deliver progress every day.”
If enough people are vaccinated AND taking precautions to reduce exposure, even delta will hit too many dead ends to continue spreading in the population. That's what we need to aim for because we'll never achieve 100% vaccination, even after kids < 12 are eligible.
— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) August 1, 2021
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. This story was updated at 11:15 AM with new vaccination numbers, then updated again at 2:40 PM to include Sisolak’s announcement on potential new vaccine mandates.