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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.

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COVID-19 Update: Delta Surge

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, Orange County, Santa Ana, California, travel

COVID-19 is still spreading, and we now have the Delta variant lurking among us. Are we vaccinating far, fast, and wide enough to fend off this new variant?

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 daily new cases surge, hospitalizations are creeping up again, and almost half of Nevadans have at least begun the vaccination process. Clark County still has one of the state’s worst outbreaks, but infections are also surging up north.

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has jumped to 1.18, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 118 new infections. Douglas (0.74), Elko (0.77), Carson City (0.87), Lyon (0.94), Churchill (0.98), and Nye (0.99) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Lander and White Pine Counties are at 1.00 exactly, and Washoe (1.01), Lincoln (1.04), Clark (1.19), and Humboldt (1.37!) are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 14.0 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Nye (2.1), Pershing (2.1), Lander (2.6), Storey (3.5), Washoe (3.6), Douglas (4.7), Carson City (5.6), Churchill (6.9), Humboldt (8.5), Elko (8.7), and Lyon (9.4) are all reporting under ten new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Clark County (17.4) is suffering a higher caseload.

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 jumped to 5.1%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has surged higher to 12.66%, which is the highest we’ve seen in the past two months.

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations are creeping up. According to the Indy‘s COVID-19 data tracker, our hospitals are treating 337 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 53 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 390 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,678 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about four COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 3,065,440 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 2,761,997 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,521,901 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 49.4% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 61.2% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,286,254 patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 41.8% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 52.2% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I am now fully vaccinated, and I will post more updates in the weeks ahead on my new fully vaccinated life. Also, here’s a heads-up that we’ll do one more COVID-19 Update tomorrow, then take next week off for the July 4 holiday.)  

“Delta” lurks closer to us than most of us probably want to admit.

You can’t say we didn’t warn you: The Delta variant has officially become our newest and most dangerous COVID-19 threat yet. According to GISAID, an independent data sharing initiative, and the Hawaii Department of Health, the Delta variant has already been detected in 49 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., as of last Saturday. According to the newest Nevada State Public Health Laboratory lineage report, Delta accounts for just over 33% of Nevada’s new COVID-19 infections for the last 30 days, and just over 46% of Nevada’s COVID-19 infections for the last two weeks. Of all the sequenced cases this month, Delta accounts for 35% of new Clark County cases and 39% of new Washoe County cases, and the Delta variant has been found in Carson City, Lyon, and Elko Counties in addition to Clark and Washoe.

As we’ve been reporting for some time, this Delta variant poses a particularly potent threat to unvaccinated Americans. As of last week Mesa County, Colorado, accounted for 54% of the state’s entire count of COVID-19 infections that have been identified as Delta. Mesa County (where Grand Junction is located) just so happens to sport one of Colorado’s lower vaccination rates (just 45.1% with at least one dose, and just 41.5% fully vaccinated), yet Grand Junction just hosted the Country Jam music festival that attracted some 24,000 attendees. We already know what happens when large gatherings of people collide with an active COVID-19 outbreak, so we can only hope that the vast majority of attendees, performers, and workers at Country Jam were already fully vaccinated before the festival commenced.

The New York Times may be the latest national publication to take notice of the nation’s diverging COVID-19 outlooks. According to The Times’ analysis, the average full vaccination rate in counties where former President Donald Trump won last November only sits at 34% as of Sunday, whereas the full vaccination rate in counties where President Joe Biden won is averaging at 45%. But as we noted last week, we shouldn’t make broad assumptions that are just based on election results. We’re also seeing “vaccination gaps” emerge along demographic divides like college education levels, religion, and age. 

In somewhat better news, Lorain County, Ohio, has vaccination rates slightly above the Ohio statewide average: 51.5% with at least one dose and 48.0% fully vaccinated as of this morning. But then again, considering the likely demographic breakdown of Donald Trump’s rally audience in Wellington last Saturday, and considering the growing cohort of prominent Ohio Republicans who have become allied with the anti-vaccine movement (even to the point of provoking rebukes from Governor Mike DeWine [R]), it’s pretty scary to think of where the COVID-19 stats may be heading in Northeastern Ohio in the days ahead.

“Vax-a-Million”, or “no vax – no thanks”?

Speaking of Ohio, the Ohio Capital Journal has updated numbers and more in-depth analysis of something we’ve been covering since May: the nationwide vaccine lottery trend that began with Ohio’s “Vax-a-Million”. As we started to notice last week, and as Ohio Capital Journal goes into further detail, the Buckeye State enjoyed a brief burst in newly administered vaccine doses during the initial launch of “Vax-a-Million”. But after this brief burst in May, Ohio’s daily vaccine administration counts are now averaging well below pre-lottery levels. And after enjoying a brief round of bipartisan applause and copycat vaccine lottery plans across the nation, DeWine is now running into growing bipartisan criticism for pitching “Vax-a-Million” as a vaccination solution that’s now being described as a more of a “bad reality TV pitch”. 

So how does this relate to us here? According to The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 data tracker, our daily vaccine administration counts have ticked upward in the past week. But even with “Vax Nevada Days” now in full swing, our seven-day average vaccine administration rate is only about ⅓ of our mid-April peak. At least we are seeing a slight rebound in vaccine administration, but we may not want to bet it all on “Vax Nevada Days” resulting in a more dramatic surge in new vaccinations.

Before anyone claims that “Vax-a-Million”’s failure to sustain a longer-term rebound in vaccination rates is “just an Ohio problem”, we also have new data from Washington State showing that their “Shot in a Lifetime” is barely having any effect on the vaccination rate in the Evergreen State. In addition, Politico analyzed the vaccination trends in New York, North Carolina, and Oregon, and found that none of them sustained higher vaccination rates following the launches of their own respective vaccine lottery programs. 

As we’ve been discussing on these pages for some time, don’t expect gimmicks like vaccine lotteries to solve the deeper problems at the root of our stubborn vaccine hesitancy crisis. Governor Steve Sisolak (D) yesterday promised renewed focus on “Get Out the Vaccine” efforts amidst Clark County’s resurgence in new COVID-19 infections, and we seem to have additional evidence showing the need for real vaccine outreach as opposed to gimmicks that at best have limited benefits, and at worst may even risk undermining the public’s trust.

Before we go, a “This Week in Corona Scams” update on scientific evidence versus pseudoscientific BS
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine
Photo provided by the Office of Governor Steve Sisolak

In a study conducted by Washington University of St. Louis and being published by Nature, the researchers found evidence suggesting that fully vaccinated patients who received both Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna doses face no immediate need of booster shots as long as SARS-CoV-2 does not mutate into new vaccine-resistant variants. The study also found evidence that COVID-19 survivors who were subsequently vaccinated seemed to have the strongest immune response. Add this to the pile of scientific studies pointing to the rock-solid efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines.

By contrast, the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin continues to lack any scientific evidence proving that it cures, treats, and/or prevents COVID-19. Just because TV “shock jock” Bill Maher essentially shitposted about ivermectin on his HBO show last Friday does not mean that ivermectin works on COVID-19. And while Oxford is launching a new trial to determine whether ivermectin actually works on COVID-19 patients, the evidence we do have thus far is anything but convincing on ivermectin’s potential efficacy against COVID-19. There’s a huge difference between actually providing real proof that a medicine works and endorsing unproven medical claims to cravenly boost one’s “anti-establishment street cred”.

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, Orange County, Santa Ana, California, travel
Photo by Andrew Davey

Ultimately, there’s a huge difference between vaccines that are continually proven to reduce viral transmission and drastically cut risk of severe disease versus “cures ‘they’ don’t want you to know” that amount to crap shoots at best and dangerous mythology at worst. Think about it. Which would you rather have: something that has a proven track record, or something that your annoying relatives love to argue about on Facebook? This does not even have to be a close call.

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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