COVID-19 is still spreading, though we are noticing more signs locally and nationally that this spring’s spike in infections may finally be subsiding. Meanwhile, 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 lower, hospitalizations and deaths remain very low, and we’ve finally crossed the 1,000,000 fully vaccinated benchmark.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has inched lower to 0.94, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 94 new infections. Lyon (0.58), Carson City (0.67), Humboldt (0.69), Elko (0.73), White Pine (0.74), Nye (0.76), Churchill (0.87), Douglas (0.87), Washoe (0.93), and Clark (0.96) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Lander (1.64!!!!) and Lincoln (3.91!!!!!!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 10.7 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Nye (1.2), White Pine (1.5), Lincoln (2.8), Mineral (3.2), Storey (3.5), Humboldt (4.2), Churchill (4.6), Lyon (5.0), Washoe (5.3), Carson City (6.6), Eureka (7.0), Elko (8.7), Douglas (11.4), and Clark (12.5), and Lander (15.5) Counties are all reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day.
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 lower to 4.9%, which is the lowest we’ve seen since June 2020. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average sits at 7.74%, which is in the high end of a 5.3% to 7.9% range we’ve been in for the past month.
Free #COVID19Vaccine clinic today, 4:30-7 p.m., Toshiba Plaza, anyone 12 and older — just before the @GoldenKnights return to battle against the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup first round. Let's protect some more of Nevada's #3MillionReasons! https://t.co/iStyOJdetf
— Immunize Nevada (@ImmunizeNV) May 18, 2021
NO APPOINTMENT VACCINE POD @TownofPahrump
The County is offering #COVID19Vaccine First-Doses on Wednesday, May 19th, from 7 am to 11 am at Emergency Management, 1510 Siri Lane. No appointment necessary#modernavaccine and #janssen for 18+ @ImmunizeNV @NVHealthRespon1 pic.twitter.com/LrVwieywrR
— Nye County, Nevada (@nyecounty) May 18, 2021
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 258 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 45 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 303 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,540 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and this week we’re averaging five COVID-19 deaths per day.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 10:00 AM today), 2,727,720 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 2,343,297 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,315,517 first doses have been administered thus far, meaning an estimated 42.7% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 54.2% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,046,594 of these patients have been fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 34% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 43.4% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I got my second vaccine dose late last month, and I’ll post another update next week on my impending fully vaccinated future!)
“Ultimately, those who are not vaccinated will end up paying the price. The vaccinated will continue to be protected against severe illnesses, but others may not be if you’re not vaccinated.”
– President Joe Biden, during a presentation on the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy yesterday
Shortly after I posted our last COVID-19 update and noted a recent Vox article featuring epidemiologists and other public health experts explaining the lower risk that fully vaccinated Americans face in returning to more of their pre-pandemic habits and lifestyles, the CDC suddenly announced new guidance on masks: If you’re fully vaccinated, you no longer need to wear masks in almost all outdoor and the vast majority of indoor settings.
So is the CDC finally catching up to the science on the COVID-19 vaccines, or is this crass political calculation? On one hand, the scientific evidence is quickly piling up and pointing towards the vaccines’ effectiveness against all the currently identified SARS-CoV-2 variants, and the vaccines’ power in saving lives and preventing illness. On the other hand, the political evidence has been piling up for some time that anti-vaxxers are so vehemently opposed to acknowledging any of the reality of COVID-19 that they’re totally ready, willing, and able to lie about their vaccination status just to (continue to) waltz around town maskless. Whatever ultimately pushed the CDC into releasing this new guidance, the Biden administration has more or less decided to place the onus on unvaccinated Americans to make a choice: “get the jab”, or suffer the consequences.
During his speech yesterday, President Joe Biden tried this argument by reminding everyone of the effectiveness of the vaccines, and by claiming that the still unvaccinated will be the ones most likely to suffer if they choose to break the rules. According to Biden, “Ultimately, those who are not vaccinated will end up paying the price. The vaccinated will continue to be protected against severe illnesses, but others may not be if you’re not vaccinated. But given that the vaccination is convenient and free, it will be a tragedy if — and a needless one — to see COVID cases among those who do not get vaccinated go up.”
“I know it’s easy to think that if you’re young, this won’t affect you. While overall cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are down, hospitals are seeing younger patients.”
– Andy Slavitt, Senior White House COVID-19 Response Advisor
If Biden’s speech yesterday felt more like a “tough love” pep talk for vaccine hesitant Americans, today’s White House COVID-19 Briefing included softer pitches. In opening the program, White House Senior COVID-19 Response Advisor Andy Slavitt proclaimed that because of the success of the national vaccination strategy thus far, “There is light at the end of the tunnel.” From there, Slavitt explained why: “For the first time since the pandemic began, COVID cases are down in all 50 states. We are winning the war on the virus, and we need you to help us finish the job.”
Slavitt then got personal again in explaining the importance of converting vaccine hesitant Americans into fully vaccinated Americans. Nearly a month after superstar podcaster Joe Rogan publicly challenged National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci on the need for younger Americans and COVID-19 survivors to get vaccinated, Slavitt stepped into the fray with his own son’s story of surviving COVID-19.
According to Slavitt, “He’s young and fit and in the prime of his life. But six months later, he still suffers from tachycardia, shortness of breath, and ongoing and frequent flu-like symptoms. His hands are cold to the touch. Neither he nor his parents — my wife and I — are sure how long this will last. Many young people are in this situation, and many, many have it worse. ” Slavitt continued, “I know it’s easy to think that if you’re young, this won’t affect you. […] While cases and hospitalizations and deaths are down, COVID patients now tend to be younger. More than one in three COVID hospitalizations are people younger than age 50. ”
Though Slavitt didn’t mention this today, a recent study released by the advocacy group LongCovidSOS suggests some promising results on the vaccines’ potential to not only prevent new COVID-19 infections, but also possibly treat COVID-19 survivors who still struggle with “long COVID” health complications. As we continue to learn more about “long COVID” and about the COVID-19 vaccines, we may also find more reasons why these vaccines are critical for building a healthier future.
“We need to keep addressing structural barriers to access. We need to continue to work harder to meet people where they are.”
– Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Senior White House COVID-19 Response Advisor
Though a key focus of America’s COVID-19 vaccination strategy now is preventing more vaccine hesitant Americans from becoming full-blown anti-vaxxers, we shouldn’t forget another big challenge for the nation in this phase of pandemic response: Finally administering vaccine doses to those Americans who are not really opposed to the COVID-19 vaccines, but rather had difficulty navigating the earlier rounds of the nation’s vaccination program that tended to favor people with the fastest internet connections and most convenient transportation options.
In her return to the virtual COVID-19 briefing room, Senior Advisor to the White House COVID-19 Response Team Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith promised results in reaching those Americans who didn’t have an easy time finding vaccines near them earlier this year: “Achieving equity is not aspirational. It’s mission critical.”
Dr. Nunez-Smith then walked everyone through the progress we’re already seeing among America’s seniors: “Over 80% of seniors have had at least one shot. It’s a critical mark of progress.” As a result, we’re noticing huge drops in deaths among seniors overall, and this decline in COVID-19 deaths is also occurring among Black (about 70%) and Latinx (over 80%) seniors. About 60% of vaccine shots from FEMA-run vaccination centers went to people of color, about 70% of community health center vaccine doses have gone to communities of color, and 47% of the vaccine doses from current federal pharmacy vaccination centers have gone to people of color thus far.
Going forward, Dr. Nunez-Smith promised that the Biden administration will invest more American Rescue Plan dollars and other available resources into reaching rural areas with fewer pharmacies and doctors’ offices, as well as people who lack resources to book appointments online and/or drive to some far-away vaccination center. As Biden and others have already indicated, FEMA is shifting from running regional vaccination mega-clinics to deploying pop-up clinics and smaller community-based sites. In assessing this critical mission going forward, Dr. Nunez-Smith noted, “We need to keep addressing structural barriers to access. We need to continue to work harder to meet people where they are.”
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 is a screenshot taken by me.