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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 informationThe Economy

COVID-19 Update: Epidemiology & Economics

Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, Michelle White, Ellie Graeden, Candice McDaniel, Nevada Health Response, COVID-19 Vaccines, COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 continues to spread, and our numbers continue to look rough. And despite the insistence of many COVID-19 deniers, the state of our public health has quite the strong effect on our economic well being.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Washoe County’s outbreak continues to worsen while Clark County’s outbreak appears to stabilize. Hospitalizations and new deaths have slipped lower, but remain well above our springtime lows. Vaccinations continue to tick higher, as over 47% of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated. 
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has ticked a little higher to 1.06, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 106 new infections. Only Humboldt (0.92) and Clark (0.99) Counties have infection rates under 1.00, while Lyon (1.03), Churchill (1.05), Nye (1.05), Carson City (1.11), Douglas (1.12), Elko (1.15), Pershing (1.19), Lincoln (1.20!), Washoe (1.20!), White Pine (1.24!), and Lander (1.42!!), Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 36.4 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Pershing (12.7), Storey (13.9), Esmeralda (16.4), Eureka (28.2!), Clark (31.4!), Humboldt (31.4!), Elko (38.2!), Nye (42.4!!), Lincoln (44.1!!), Churchill (44.7!!), White Pine (47.7!!), Lander (49.1!!), Carson City (50.8!!!), Lyon (51.7!!!) , and Washoe (54.9!!!) Counties are all suffering high caseloads (as in, over 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 slipped lower to 12.7%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has risen again to 14.27%. According to the Scripps Institute’s, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant: Delta and its sub lineages account for 94% of new cases in the last 30 days, 95% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 58% of Nevada’s cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations are subsiding a bit. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 1,118 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 67 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 1,183 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients – a slight recovery from earlier this month, but still matching “Winter Surge” levels when the vaccines weren’t yet available to the general public. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 6,479 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging almost 25 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 3,708,620 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,191,664 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,779,706 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 57.8% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 69.9% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,465,862 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 47.6% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 58.3% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I posted a story last week on my own family’s COVID-19 pandemic experience in hopes of revealing the real human stories behind the seemingly cold, hard statistics.)

Today, we head to South Dakota to assess more of the perilous consequences of COVID-19 denial.

As we warned last week, denying the reality of this COVID-19 pandemic does not make for a sustainable strategy to end this pandemic. Here’s another case in point: South Dakota. Earlier this month, Governor Kristi Noem (R) and a critical mass of local officials greenlit the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and all the accompanying indoor events despite South Dakota’s lagging vaccination rate and pre-existing struggle with the Delta variant – and she made a point of approving these events with no vaccination, testing, or masking requirements. Noem and her cohorts may have patted each other on the back over the seemingly impressive 525,000+ turnout for Sturgis, but the lack of a public health safety plan has since led to a 456% increase in COVID-19 infections since August 4.

So far at least three musicians who performed during the Sturgis Rally have tested positive for COVID-19, though one – Corey Taylor of the band Slipknot – is fully vaccinated and stated that “it could have been worse” had he not gotten vaccinated before Sturgis. Unfortunately Sturgis also attracted participants like the Nelsons who were unvaccinated, who contracted COVID-19, and who put zero effort into protecting others even after testing positive for COVID-19. And not only did Noem refuse to impose or enforce any health safety rules to protect workers and attendees at Sturgis, but she even campaigned against public health enforcement, she refused to encourage more vaccinations, then she had her administration’s officials sigh off the current COVID-19 surge as “not wholly unexpected”.

According to Covid Act Now, COVID-19 hospitalizations in South Dakota have rebounded to January-level highs this month after remaining pretty low for most of the summer. Though deaths have not yet rebounded, we’ve warned many times before that death tends to be a lagging indicator. Even if South Dakota manages to avoid the absolute worst-case scenario, they’re still looking at a world of hurt ahead and no clear off-ramp to turn to. 

“No individual choice in this pandemic remains with the individual. It affects every community in this state.” 
– Michelle White, Chief of Staff to Governor Steve Sisolak, during the August 26 Nevada Health Response press call

As we’ve pointed out before, there has never been any “conflict between health and the economy”. When a critical mass of workers and consumers fall ill, the economy suffers. It’s really as simple as that. If you don’t believe us, check out this new analysis from Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times showing how recent data on air travel, restaurant reservations, hotel bookings, and job listings all point towards the Delta Surge weighing down America’s post-recession economic recovery.

Moving back towards home, a growing number of Nevada’s biggest marquee events, such as Life Is Beautiful and Electric Daisy Carnival, are embracing vaccine mandates. Some of Nevada’s biggest and most powerful employers, such as MGM Resorts, have already begun to implement their own vaccination rules. The State of Nevada is also moving ahead on a series of vaccination rules, including vaccination requirements for in-person college attendance and a new set of vaccination and masking rules for large events. As the European Union removes the U.S. from their “safe travel” list and considers new restrictions on U.S. travel due to the Delta Surge, keep an eye on the ever growing list of private companies and public agencies that adopt new vaccine mandates in order to restore confidence and prevent further economic blowback.

Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, Michelle White, Ellie Graeden, Candice McDaniel, Nevada Health Response, COVID-19 Vaccines, COVID-19 Vaccine
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

As she responded to questions at the August 26 Nevada Health Response press call over the continuing flow of COVID-19 patients crowding Nevada hospitals, Michelle White, the outgoing Chief of Staff to Governor Steve Sisolak (D), noted, “No individual choice in this pandemic remains with the individual. It affects every community in this state.”

In contrast to Kristi Noem’s and certain other states’ Republican governors’ refusal to enact stronger public health safety rules, Sisolak agreed last month to bring back the mask mandate, and he’s now beginning to bring on the vaccination requirements. As White put it, “We don’t have that in place because we love masks or love mandates. We have this in place because we know masks work. Vaccines and masks are the solutions we need in order to get out of this.”

“The vaccines are doing exactly what they are supposed to do – protect against severe disease and death.” 
– Dr. Ellie Graeden, Talus Analytics and Nevada Health Response
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, Michelle White, Ellie Graeden, Candice McDaniel, Nevada Health Response, COVID-19 Vaccines, COVID-19 Vaccine
Photo by Andrew Davey

As state health officials discussed COVID-19’s ongoing strain on Nevada hospitals, they also sought to explain why so many Nevada hospitals have been bursting at the seams all over again this summer. According to Dr. Ellie Graeden of Talus Analytics, “While breakthrough cases are being reported across the country, they remain rare.” Basically, Dr. Graeden confirmed that the overwhelming supermajority of COVID-19 hospitalizations are still unvaccinated patients.

Graeden then got more specific: “The state has reported a total of 0.04% of patients hospitalized from COVID-19 who are fully vaccinated. […] That is truly remarkable.” She continued, “The vaccines are doing exactly what they are supposed to do – protect against severe disease and death.”

As children continue to face greater risk of contracting COVID-19 as back-to-school means back to in-person learning (possibly until the outbreak is so bad that the school must temporarily return to virtual learning), Graeden confirmed this increased risk, yet she also pointed out how adults can take action to protect children: “The most important way to protect kids is to vaccinate whenever possible, and to vaccinate all the adults around them.” She then added, “The vaccine is safe and effective. It’s especially important as children return to school.”

Next, here’s a little TWICS postscript on ivermectin-mania.

Last Thursday we posted another warning about the dangers of not only misuse of ivermectin on COVID-19 patients, but also the larger crisis of the Influencer Infodemic and America’s depressing surge of general distrust of ourselves and our society. Back in April, some Rural Nevada animal feed stores ran into a short supply of ivermectin due to a sudden surge in demand. And while I was preparing our most recent installment of “This Week in Corona Scams”, Las Vegas ABC affiliate KTNV reported that V & V Tack and Feed in Northwest Las Vegas suddenly ran out of ivermectin.

According to the KTNV report, V & V store associate Shelly Smith has had to post signs warning customers not to buy ivermectin horse medicine to administer on themselves. Regardless, Smith recalled one customer who demanded some anyway: “He told me that his wife wanted him to be on the Ivermectin plan. […] I told him this isn’t safe for you to take. And he says, ‘Well, we’ve been taking it and my only side effect is I can’t see in the morning.’ That’s a big side effect, so you probably shouldn’t take it.” We now have a shortage of ivermectin that local horses need, and we have a growing cohort of Nevadans who are suffering terrible injuries that never had to occur in the first place.

The CDC finally released an official advisory to state and local health authorities warning of unauthorized use of ivermectin on COVID-19 patients on August 26. Despite all this Dr. Mark McDonald, a California based psychologist who gained a larger following thanks to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) tapping him as a “COVID-19 advisor”, continues to falsely promote ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment. America’s Frontline Doctors, the same anti-vaccine front group who falsely promoted hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment and whose founder participated in the January 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol, now run what amounts to their own online pill mill that sells $90 ivermectin prescriptions on demand. And in Ohio, a district court judge ruled in favor of a plaintiff’s demand that a hospital give ivermectin to her spouse who’s suffering a severe COVID-19 despite the hospital’s protocol of adhering to CDC guidelines for COVID-19 treatment. 

And of course, far-right and anti-science “influencers” continue to go viral with their pro-ivermectin shitposts. Dr. Robert Karas, the Arkansas doctors who’s overseen the ivermectin operation at the Washington County Jail, is trying to reframe his actions as some “heroic life saving” effort as Arkansas law enforcement offices open investigations into this jailhouse ivermectin scandal. U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) falsely claimed that federal health agencies are “unwilling to objectively study” ivermectin despite the existence of plenty of research on ivermectin on COVID-19 (that so far overwhelmingly point to ivermectin’s lack of efficacy against COVID-19). And back online, “alt-right” uber troll celebrity Milo Yiannopoulos shitposted that he contracted COVID-19, and that he’s been self-medicating with ivermectin. If anyone still wonders why I warn so often of the severity of this Influencer Infodemic, wonder no more.

Before we go, an update on breakthrough infections
COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, travel, San Clemente, Orange County, California
Photo by Andrew Davey

According to the most recent Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) report, only 0.66% of fully vaccinated Clark County residents (7,084) have tested positive for COVID-19, only 0.0325% (349) have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and only 0.0097% of fully vaccinated residents (105) have died of COVID-19. Once again the actual evidence shows tiny risk of fully vaccinated Americans succumbing to COVID-19, in stark contrast to the mounting evidence of the grave danger facing unvaccinated Americans.

Even if you think SNHD’s data is skewed and/or incomplete, we still have ample evidence elsewhere showing how the COVID-19 vaccines work to prevent severe disease and reduce the potential for further spread. As we’ve discussed before, this does not mean that the mere existence of these vaccines alone solves all our COVID-19 problems. Rather, this means that we need to continue to utilize a multi-layered mitigation and prevention strategy while we work to get more people vaccinated. 

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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  1. […] Thursday President Joe Biden signed executive orders to require vaccinations for: all federal workers; all workers at businesses […]

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