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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: New Mandate?

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, travel, San Clemente, Orange County, California

COVID-19 continues to spread, and America continues to try to find our way out of this pandemic. Now, some Americans are looking to COVID-19 vaccine shots for children for some kind of hope. Here’s what you need to know about booster shots, vaccines for kids, and our overall COVID-19 outlook.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Nevada’s overall outlook is starting to take another turn for the worse. Infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are slightly higher. Some rural areas are now trending lower, but the rest of the state is suffering higher transmission. And finally, over 53% 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 jumped to 1.08, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to 108 new infections. White Pine (0.72), Lincoln (0.77), Lyon (0.96), Elko (0.85), and Mineral (0.89) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Churchill County is at 1.00 exactly, and Lyon (1.01), Clark (1.07), Lyon (1.07), Humboldt (1.12), Washoe (1.13), Carson City (1.16), and Douglas (1.24!) Counties suffer more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 25.7 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Clark (18.7), Pershing (23.4!), Storey (27.7!), Washoe (37.5!), Nye (38.1!), Eureka (42.2!), Lyon (44.0!), Elko (47.6!), Esmeralda (49.1!), Lander (49.1!), Douglas (50.2!!), White Pine (55.2!!), Carson City (59.0!!), Churchill (63.2!!!), Lincoln (66.2!!!), and Humboldt (200.3????!!!!) Counties are all reporting over 10 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” ticked higher to 6.98%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has jumped to 9.94%. According to the Scripps Institute’s Outbreak.info, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant: Delta and its sub lineages account for at least 93% of new cases in the last 30 days, at least 93% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 81% of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since February. 

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations are up again. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 638 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 65 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 703 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 7,778 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about 15 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 4,481,390 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,732,146 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1.973,989 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 64.1% of Nevadans (and more specifically, about 75.3% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 77.3% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,646,482 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 53.5% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 62.8% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 64.8% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I got my own COVID-19 vaccine booster shot late last month, and here’s where you can read more about my own booster experience. And coming up tomorrow, we’ll have a new “This Week in Corona Scams” to break down the latest in medical disinformation.) 

Mandate Update: January 4 is the new big deadline to watch. Will it work?
Joe Biden
Photo by Andrew Davey

Last Thursday, President Joe Biden released a more detailed set of workplace vaccination rules through OSHA. Specifically, businesses that employ 100 or more workers have until January 4, 2021, to begin requiring proof of vaccination or weekly negative COVID-19 test results. The new set of rules also includes a new requirement for companies to report work-related COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths to OSHA, the establishment of workers’ right to access their respective workplaces’ vaccination numbers, a mask rule for all unvaccinated workers, and the requirement that employers provide up to four hours of paid time for workers to get every necessary vaccine dose. 

In a USA Today op-ed explaining Biden’s decision, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients stated, “A strong majority of Americans support a requirement for employers to ensure their workers are vaccinated and unvaccinated workers are tested at least once a week. And importantly, the new OSHA rule establishes a floor for safety—not a ceiling. Many businesses have already agreed to institute a full vaccination requirement without a testing option.”

Late last month, 19 state attorneys general sued to try to block Biden’s earlier and narrower vaccine mandate for federal contractors. We’ll have to see how this lawsuit goes, especially now that Biden has this more expansive mandate coming online. But in some surprisingly good news for the Biden administration and public health authorities, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a very brief order in Does v. Mills on October 29 that denied anti-vaxx health care workers an injunction to prevent Maine’s vaccine mandate for health care workers from taking effect. The vote was 6-3, and Justice Amy Coney Barrett indicated the majority exercised their discretion not to take this case despite the plaintiffs utilizing a “religious freedom” argument that seemed to be tailor-made for Barrett and her fellow Republican-appointed Justices. This is no guarantee of what will happen now that these anti-vaccine mandate lawsuits are heading to the Supreme Court – the far-right majority Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a similar challenge, as expected – but at least we now have a majority of Supreme Court justices on record in support of some kind of mandate.

In their USA Today op-ed, Walsh and Zients said, “To save lives and protect our workers, we need to get more Americans vaccinated. Unvaccinated people are more than ten times as likely as fully vaccinated people to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19, and more vaccinations will accelerate the end of the pandemic. That’s why President Biden has led by requiring vaccinations for federal employees and contractors, while calling on employers to do the same.”

Treatment Update: U.K. health regulators approve molnupiravir, and paxlovid enters the chat. 

Last month, Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics released trial results that suggested that the antiviral drug molnupiravir could be highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death if a patient who tests positive for COVID-19 takes it during the early stage of the disease. Last week, the U.K.’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA, or the equivalent of our FDA) officially approved molnupiravir and recommended that it be taken immediately upon testing positive for COVID-19 and within five days of developing symptoms.

As we’ve previously discussed, molnupiravir alters the SARS-CoV-2 virus’ reproduction cycle by tricking the virus into changing its RNA coding in a way that inhibits its viral replication capability. More specifically, molnupiravir induces a mechanism known as lethal mutagenesis where an unbearably high mutation rate kills off an organism such as a virus where no genetic “master copy” is preserved. It’s a fairly similar process for Paxlovid, Pfizer’s new antiviral drug specifically designed to treat COVID-19. According to Pfizer’s internal data, patients who took paxlovid as part of a “cocktail” of antiviral medications during clinical trials had 89% lower risk of hospitalization and death than patients in the placebo group. 

On a conference call with Wall Street analysts and investors last week, Pfizer executives made some good news and bad news. On the good side, they claimed to have capacity to produce four billion doses of their COVID-19 vaccine next year, and they voiced confidence in paxlovid’s ability to provide complementary treatment and relief. On the bad side, they suggested that COVID-19 will be endemic indefinitely, and they seem to be basing their business strategy on the need for annual vaccine booster shots and treatments like paxlovid going forward. 

Next, an update on breakthrough infections
COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, Orange County, Santa Ana, California, travel
Photo by Andrew Davey

According to the November 4 Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) report, only 1.05% of fully vaccinated Clark County residents (11,695) have tested positive for COVID-19, only 0.0527% (587) have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, and only 0.017% of fully vaccinated residents (190) have died of COVID-19. In contrast, 26.76% of unvaccinated Clark County residents (322,231) have tested positive for COVID-19, and 4.83% of unvaccinated residents (5,811) have died of COVID-19.

Once again the actual evidence shows a tiny risk of fully vaccinated Americans succumbing to COVID-19, in stark contrast to the mounting evidence of the grave danger facing unvaccinated Americans. And while we occasionally see reports of vaccinated patients experiencing side effects and adverse reactions, these remain incredibly rare and pose far less of a risk than contracting COVID-19.

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 these vaccines are highly effective in saving people’s lives and curbing further spread of an increasingly preventable disease. 

Finally, some odds and ends
COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, Orange County, Santa Ana, California, travel
Photo by Andrew Davey

Nevada’s larger mask rule for publicly accessible indoor spaces continues to be updated weekly based on two weeks’ worth of CDC COVID-19 transmission data. Esmeralda County is currently the only Nevada county without the universal masking rule. But if Esmeralda doesn’t drop below substantial level next week, then Esmeralda County will once again have to operate under the mask mandate late next week. As of today, all Nevada counties are reporting high levels of transmission

After a volatile summer, Nevada’s vaccination rate is back on the rebound. According to CDC data, our seven-day moving average of daily vaccine doses administered has dropped a little to 9,251. This still marks a 81.82% increase from our July 10 record low at 5,088, but this also marks a 10.46% drop from our previous October 29 high of 10,332. It’s possible that we’re seeing another rebound at least partially due to already vaccinated patients seeking booster shots, and we’ll have to keep an eye on this once younger children start to get 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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