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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: DIY Passport

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, water, climate change, On the Water Front

COVID-19 is still spreading, and Nevada appears to be stuck in a range of fairly high spread. Nonetheless, hospitalizations and deaths remain well below the levels we experienced during prior “waves” of infection surges. 

Even as vaccinations continue at a slower pace here in Nevada and nationally, federal, state, and local health officials are suddenly rushing to loosen health safety rules. What’s going on? 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 slip a little lower, hospitalizations and deaths remain very low, and over ⅓ of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated.

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate appears stable at 0.93, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 93 new infections. Lyon (0.66), Carson City (0.68), Humboldt (0.68), White Pine (0.75), Elko (0.76), Nye (0.80), Churchill (0.89), Washoe (0.90), Douglas (0.93), and Clark (0.94) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Lander (1.89!!!!) and Lincoln (3.60!!!!!!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 9.8 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Nye (1.2), Lincoln (2.8), Mineral (3.2), Churchill (3.4), Storey (3.5), Washoe (4.6), Carson City (5.1), Lyon (5.2), White Pine (6.0), Eureka (7.0), Elko (7.3), Clark (11.5), and Douglas (11.7) Counties are all reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Lander County (41.3) is well over that benchmark.

According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard, Nevada’s 14-day test positivity average based on “new positives as a percentage of new test encounters” has slipped further to 4.8%, which is the lowest we’ve seen in the last 11 months. And according to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average clocks in at 6.83%, which sits in the middle of a 5.4% to 8.0% range we’ve been in for the past month. 

This week, COVID-19 hospitalizations remain low and stable. According to Nevada Health Response and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 data tracker, our hospitals are treating 264 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 37 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 301 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,545 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we continue to average five COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 11:30 AM today), 2,754,520 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 2,359,830 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,324,736 first doses have been administered thus far, meaning an estimated 43% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 54.5% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,055,068 of these patients have been fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 34.3% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 43.8% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I got my second vaccine dose late last month, and I’ll post an update next week on my impending fully vaccinated future!) 

Ugh, here’s where we must address a certain Mayor of North Las Vegas.

This may not be the most shocking news, but it is news that pertains to Nevada’s COVID-19 response – and more specifically, the sudden rush among federal health authorities, state and local authorities here, and public health authorities elsewhere to rush out of mask wearing and social distancing rules now that vaccines are readily available. What happens now that we still have a significant chunk of Americans who are not fully vaccinated?

On Monday, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee (R) made two revelations: first, that he’s still not vaccinated; and second, that he tested positive for COVID-19. Beyond all the campaign fodder over Lee attacking Sisolak for “socialism”, followed by Lee himself contracting COVID-19 and promising to abide by the same “socialist” CDC guidelines he’s attacked Sisolak and President Joe Biden for, there’s the simple public health and public safety matter of what to do about a large segment of the population who won’t get vaccinated (24%, according to a new NPR-PBS-Marist national poll) and will put themselves and others at risk of infection by new and more virulent SARS-CoV-2 variants. (Editor’s Note: Stay tuned for the fifth and final installment of our “What’s Going on with Nevada Democrats?” series, where we’ll discuss more of the politics of Lee’s decision to become a Republican and run against Governor Steve Sisolak [D] next year.)

During yesterday’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci sought to reassure Americans that the COVID-19 vaccines are incredibly effective against these newer variants. While the scientific evidence thus far backs up Walensky’s and Fauci’s case, the “wild card” here lies with the amount of Americans who continue to live unvaccinated and decide to go “back to normal” living without the precautions that have come to define so many our lives for the past 14 months. As long as we provide ample opportunities for COVID-19 to continue spreading and developing new variants, we still face risk of these future new variants emerging with the potential to “break through” the vaccines more strongly than the variants we’re combating now.

“I think the mask guidance should be encouraging folks to get the vaccine. It’s vaccination that gets us the protection we need.” 
– Karissa Loper, Nevada Health Response
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine
Photo provided by the Office of Governor Steve Sisolak

Three months ago, Nevada public health officials complained about the federal government’s low vaccine dose allocation for our state. During today’s Nevada Health Response press call, state public health officials confirmed that Washoe County and other health authorities are no longer requesting as many doses as they’re allotted under the federal government’s current formula. As we’ve been noticing throughout this month, America really has shifted from a vaccine supply crisis to a vaccine demand problem.

When asked about this change in vaccine orders, Karissa Loper, Deputy Bureau Chief for Nevada DHHS’ Bureau of Child, Family, and Community Wellness, stated, “We continue to encourage [local health offices] to request as many doses as they can use.”

And on questions of whether the state’s quick adoption of the new CDC mask guidance might encourage more people to lie about their lack of vaccination to justify frequenting indoor businesses maskless, Loper replied, “I think the mask guidance should be encouraging folks to get the vaccine. It’s vaccination that gets us the protection we need.”

“We don’t have a statewide mechanism put in place. We know there are certain industries looking at things like antigen tests [… and] COVID-19 tests.” 
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response, in response to questions on the CDC’s new mask guidance and private companies pursuing their own vaccine rules
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, Caleb Cage, Mark Riddle, Nevada Health Response
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

When he addressed the matter of how businesses can follow the CDC’s new mask guidance, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said, “There are a number of tools and resources out there,” for businesses to develop their own vaccination rules. 

When pressed further, Cage confirmed that any “vaccine passport” systems that emerge will be whatever any private companies decide to pursue, as opposed to the nationwide and government-backed “vaccine passports” that countries like the U.K. and Israel are adopting. As Cage put it, “We don’t have a statewide mechanism put in place. We know there are certain industries looking at things like antigen tests [… and] COVID-19 tests.”

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care
Photo by Andrew Davey

In better vaccine news, 5,947 12-15 year-old Nevada adolescents have received Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses so far. Loper noted that has information on which vaccination sites are carrying which vaccines so parents can identify sites that carry the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that’s authorized for adult and (12-17 year-old) adolescent use.

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 wear your masks and maintain social distancing when necessary.

The cover photo was taken by me.

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