COVID-19 continues to spread, and nationally that spread appears to be accelerating again. So are we nearing a state of “impending doom”, or is “COVID over, baby”? Yes, growing vaccinations are a positive sign of light at the end of this long and dark tunnel. But as long as we’re still in the tunnel, we should hold off on those “Mission Accomplished!” pool parties.
Here’s the latest on the state of the pandemic, nationally and here at home.
Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Infection rates and new daily caseloads tick up again, but hospitalizations are still moving lower.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has rebounded slightly to 0.88, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 88 new infections. Nye (0.74), Lyon (0.75), Carson City (0.78), Clark (0.81), Churchill (0.82), Elko (0.86), and Douglas (0.88) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Humboldt (1.03), Washoe (1.04), Lincoln (1.09), White Pine (1.12!), and Lander (1.97!!!!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 8.8 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Humboldt (2.3), Churchill (2.5), Nye (3.7), Lyon (7.5), Clark (8.2), Washoe (8.8), Carson City (9.5), Elko (10.3), Douglas (12.3), Storey (13.9), and Esmeralda (16.4) 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 tracker, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate holds steady at 20.5% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), and our seven-day average is just under 10% again after last week’s spike pushed the seven-day average back above 10%. Still, these figures remain above the World Health Organization’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening.
Feeling lucky? 7 days from now, you could be getting your COVID-19 vaccine. It may be 21 to gamble, but it’s just 16 to #takeyourshottostopcovid19. And unlike your favorite slots, it’s FREE! pic.twitter.com/mlcjd3py6T
— SN Health District (@SNHDinfo) March 29, 2021
#COVIDVaccination appointments in Town of Tonopah for surrounding areas, including Esmeralda County residents, are available for tomorrow, March 30th
— Nye County, Nevada (@nyecounty) March 29, 2021
As of this morning, hospitalizations remain stable and low. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 210 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 55 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 265 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,237 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today. So far we’re averaging about nine deaths per day, which is only slightly above the record low death rate we hit earlier this month.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 11:30 AM today), 1,548,430 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 1,328,018 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 842,620 first doses have been administered thus far, meaning an estimated 27.4% of Nevadans have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 483,961 second doses have been administered, meaning an estimated 15.7% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated.
“What we’ve seen over the last week or so is the steady rise in cases. What we’ve seen before is that when cases rise like this, we have the potential to surge, and surge big.”
– CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Throughout this month, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other top public health officials have been warning against the recent rush across America to ditch health safety rules and follow the lead of some shirtless pied piper who screams, “COVID is over, baby!”, from his Miami Beach street corner. Surprise, surprise (but not really), this shirtless pied piper is also a raging anti-vaxxer, and he clearly has no actual credentials in epidemiology, virology, or public health policy. And on this note, neither is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), one of the nation’s foremost preachers of the “lockdowns are over” gospel that’s facilitating the current nationwide rebound in COVID-19 infections.
Perhaps you’ve already seen some of Dr. Walensky’s impassioned plea from this morning’s White House COVID-19 Briefing. But in case you haven’t, or if you have but need more context, here goes: In light of the recent rebound in infections and hospitalizations alongside the rebound in air travel and general slacking off on public health, Walensky “lost the script” and spoke on more personal terms about the danger of returning to this Trump-era trajectory of attempting some delusional Power of Positive Thinking to wishcast COVID-19 away.
This morning, Dr. Walensky said, “We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are, and so much reason for hope, but right now I’m scared. I know what it’s like as a physician to stand in that patient room — gowned, gloved, masked, shielded — and to be the last person to touch someone else’s loved one because their loved one couldn’t be there.”
So why did Walensky actually talk about “impending doom”? Here’s what she noted: “What we’ve seen over the last week or so is the steady rise in cases. What we’ve seen before is that when cases rise like this, we have the potential to surge, and surge big.” She continued, “When we see more travel like this, I worry we will experience another surge in cases like we saw last summer and last winter.”
“We really need to hold onto the public health measures as we get more and more people from two- to three-plus million people vaccinated every day.”
– Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden
Following Dr. Walensky’s comments, Dr. Fauci pulled up some slides detailing the real-world effects of COVID-19. Usually during these briefings, Fauci focuses more on vaccines and treatments. But today, he also took some time to add exclamation points to Walensky’s warnings on the potential future trajectory of COVID-19 in America if people continue to pay more attention to shirtless pied pipers in Miami Beach (and the infamous “Florida Man” celebrities who enable them) than actual medical science.
According to Fauci, “The bottom line: Hang in there, as Dr. Walensky said. We really need to hold onto the public health measures as we get more and more people from two- to three-plus million people vaccinated every day. It will be a race between the vaccine and what’s going on with the dynamics of the outbreak. And we can win this by just hanging in there a bit longer.”
But as we’ve previously witnessed over the past two months, the Nevada Health Response team struck a somewhat different note during their own press call. While he did leave open the possibility of Governor Steve Sisolak (D) ordering another “statewide pause” if a severe “fourth wave” of surging infections materializes, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage indicated, “We could have to increase statewide mitigation measures, but that is absolutely not our goal. Our goal is to turn it over to county authorities on May 1.” Cage also reminded everyone that certain public health rules, such as the mask mandate, will remain in place statewide after most other public health regulatory power returns to local authorities on May 1.
Nevada State Biostatistician Dr. Kyra Morgan also chimed in and indicated that she thus far has not found evidence of a “fourth wave” crashing on Nevada: “We have not seen a significant increase in cases as we’ve increased from 35% to 50% capacity. It’s indicative that we have a better chance now than [during past surges in infections].” Morgan then added that the current data showing record-low hospitalizations even during this uptick in infections point towards the potential that the growing number of vaccinated Nevadans is helping to mitigate upticks in infections like the slight rebound we’re experiencing now.
“We need to keep increasing vaccine supply, the number of vaccinators in the field, and adding more safe and convenient places for Americans to get vaccinated.”
– Andy Slavitt, White House Senior COVID-19 Advisor
It’s sometimes wild for me to just remind myself of this, but it’s really about to happen: Next Monday, April 5, all Nevadans aged 16 and up will become eligible for vaccination. And as more American Rescue Plan funding continues to come online, the Biden administration is promising to ensure that 90% of Americans will be within five miles of a vaccination site by April 19.
During the White House Briefing, White House Senior COVID-19 Advisor Andy Slavitt provided this assessment of America’s continually improving vaccination stats: “This is good news. We’re headed in the right direction, but we can’t slow down. […] We need to keep increasing vaccine supply, the number of vaccinators in the field, and adding more safe and convenient places for Americans to get vaccinated.”
Indeed, we can see for ourselves how many more Americans have “gotten the jab” since Biden took charge of the nation’s COVID-19 strategy (and actually gave us one to work with) on January 20. But as long as a critical mass of Americans continue to deny the reality of COVID-19, and as long as too many “civic leaders” continue to downplay the danger of refusing to practice scientifically sound mitigation measures, we’re going to experience more whiplash in seesawing infection numbers. There’s definitely “hope on the horizon” with growing vaccine access, but we’re not quite done with this superstorm of a pandemic just yet.
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, check Immunize Nevada for more information on vaccine availability 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 from people outside your household.
The cover photo is a screenshot taken by me.