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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.

2020 ElectionCOVID-19HealthNews and informationThe Economy

COVID-19 Update: It’s Still Here

COVID-19 remains a public health crisis. Regardless of whether we want to believe it’s still spreading, it’s still here. Regardless of whether we want to believe it’s still killing people, it’s still here. Regardless of what we want to believe about how COVID-19 continues to spread, it’s still here.

COVID-19 is on the rise (again) nationally. This should come as no surprise.

Sadly, this hasn’t been a surprise for the last seven months. Actions have consequences, and that includes inaction. President Donald Trump has consistently refused to take COVID-19 seriously, even after he contracted it himself, and he continues to refuse to even help state and municipal authorities contain COVID-19, let alone have the federal government take more action to contain COVID-19. Trump prefers to spread baseless conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 death count and take action against state and local officials who move to protect public health, rather than take action to lower the death count. 

Really, is it any surprise that the White House is scrambling over another COVID-19 outbreak (this time, among Vice President Mike Pence’s staff)? Is it any surprise that after the (Republican-appointed justices on the) Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ (D) health safety rules, Wisconsin’s COVID-19 outbreak has become one of the worst in the nation? Is it any surprise that as Trump continues to encourage more “COVID Fatigue”, and as many federal, state, and local authorities continue to give up on containing the virus, America’s overall COVID-19 stats have taken another turn for the worse?

Now, with all this said, we can see a few scattered bright spots. After contending with one of the earliest COVID-19 outbreaks in early March and responding with a broad societal shutdown, San Francisco is gradually reopening while also keeping its caseload down. As we’ve been saying all along, there is no sustainable economic recovery absent sufficient action to protect public health. This may not be a sexy message, but it’s a message we can’t ignore just because we don’t want to take heed.

So what’s happening here in Nevada?

As Donald Trump prepares to do another rally in Bullhead City this Wednesday, let’s assess the reasons why state officials are enforcing the rules that convinced Trump to do this rally on the Arizona side of the Colorado River, where Governor Doug Ducey (R) refuses to tighten his state’s health safety rules. According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s overall COVID-19 infection rate remains stuck at a disturbingly high 1.13, or every 100 infections leading to another 113 new infections. While Lyon (0.82) and Douglas (0.86) Counties’ infection rates have finally come down, Carson City (1.05) and Clark (1.12), Nye (1.12), Washoe (1.17), and Elko (1.21) Counties continue to suffer more rapid spread of the virus.

According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate has soared further to 12.1%, and the seven-day average breached 20% again yesterday. COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to creep upward, as the combined confirmed and suspected total now sits at 531. 

Nevada’s overall COVID-19 death count now stands at 1,749. While the seven-day average daily death toll remains low, it tends to be a lagging indicator. The death rate is already accelerating in Wisconsin, so there’s no guarantee the same won’t happen here if our infection rate and case growth remain this high.

“What we’re asking for is for these local leaders to come to the table and discuss what they are doing and how we can assist them.” 
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response, on why the state task force will hold an emergency meeting with Washoe County officials this Thursday
COVID-19, Steve Sisolak, Caleb Cage
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Later in the day, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) held another press conference to discuss COVID-19 and the state’s efforts to comply with federal plans to distribute any potential future COVID-19 vaccine. However, we probably already had the more pertinent story playing out with the state’s COVID-19 task force planning to hold an emergency meeting this Thursday with Washoe County officials to assess the worsening COVID-19 stats in the Truckee Meadows.

In light of Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dicks publicly sounding the alarms last week over Washoe’s latest COVID-19 spike, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage explained why the state task force will hone in on Washoe this Thursday: “We want to know what their mitigation measures are, and how they are reacting collectively and whatever barriers they might have. […] What we’re asking for is for these local leaders to come to the table and discuss what they are doing and how we can assist them.”

Photo by Andrew Davey

He and Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Administrator for Public and Behavioral Health Julia Peek later added that they want to know what Washoe County has done since August to better coordinate its health safety enforcement plan with the City of Reno, the City of Sparks, Washoe County School District (WCSD), and other municipal authorities. When asked whether the state will close in-person classes at WCSD if the school board refuses to amend its learning plan amidst this latest COVID-19 surge, Cage reiterated that the state will leave it up to WCSD to decide how to keep its schools up and running.

The state continues to flag Washoe County alongside Clark, Elko, Lincoln, and Lyon Counties for heightened risk, and state health officials added Carson City and Humboldt and Nye Counties to the task force’s county watch list today. 

“We’re not ’rounding the curve’. We have some tough choices to make, and we’re going to make these choices together.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
COVID-19, Steve Sisolak
Photo provided by the Office of Governor Steve Sisolak

 Moments ago, Governor Steve Sisolak held a press conference in Carson City to update the public on the state’s vaccination plan that health officials submitted to the federal CDC on October 16. He later turned the floor to Candice McDaniel and Shannon Bennett from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services to clarify that while certain vaccine candidates are already being manufactured, none will be distributed to the public until they’ve completed Phase III trials and have been approved for general use

When asked about Trump’s ongoing insistence on an “imminent” vaccine announcement, Sisolak said, “I’m relying on the FDA, the CDC, and medical science experts. I’m not relying on any politician.” And earlier in the program, Sisolak countered Trump’s denial of the severity of these latest outbreaks: “We’re not ’rounding the curve’. We have some tough choices to make, and we’re going to make these choices together.”

COVID-19, coronavirus, Steve Sisolak
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae

Sisolak made some news by announcing his goals of resuming in-person public school classes statewide as soon as they’re confident it’s safe to do so, and of resuming large conventions and other events at up to 50% capacity on January 1, 2021. However, Sisolak told everyone, “It’s all up to you. You are the deciding factor on whether or not we can make this happen.” He once more called on all Nevadans to adhere to the state’s health safety rules and stop the spread of COVID-19.

With Trump set to do his own rally in Bullhead City this Wednesday followed by Vice President Mike Pence holding a rally at the Reno-Tahoe Airport on Thursday, along with U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) campaigning in Reno and Las Vegas for Joe Biden tomorrow,  Sisolak called on the White House and all other political operatives not to subject Nevada to another round of Trumpian super-spreader rallies: “If you’re coming to Nevada as a guest, follow our protocols. […] When you’re here in Nevada, follow our rules.”

If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health DistrictWashoe County Health DistrictCarson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For 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.

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