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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 information

COVID-19 Update: New Year, Yet Same Old Pandemic

COVID-19, Nevada Legislature, primary, caucus

It may be 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic still rages on. With the national “vaccine strategy” still woefully lacking, and with state and local authorities still left to pick up the pieces, the new year already looks a whole lot like the old year we allegedly left behind.

With all that said, here’s our first COVID-19 report card for 2021.

Today’s COVID-19 check-up: Infection rate finally falls under 1.00, but other metrics remain high.

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s overall infection rate has finally fallen under 1 to 0.94, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 94 new infections. Lander (0.54), Nye (0.61), Humboldt (0.72), Carson City (0.76), Elko (0.80), Churchill (0.82), Washoe (0.87), Douglas (0.88), Lyon (0.93), Clark (0.96), White Pine (0.98), and Lincoln (0.99) Counties all have infection rates under 1. Though this is undoubtedly welcome news following our horrific “third wave” outbreak last fall, keep in mind that the winter holiday crowds in Las Vegas were disturbingly large, so we’ll have to wait a few more days to see whether or not a “fourth wave” resurgence comes our way.

Returning to our present COVID-19 stats, Storey (3.5) and Pershing (14.9) Counties are reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, but Lander (23.2), Nye (27.9), Elko (37.1), Lyon (42.2), Mineral (44.4), Douglas (45.0), Lincoln (46.9), White Pine (49.2), and Washoe (49.3) Counties are over that benchmark. Even worse, Churchill (57.4), Humboldt (65.4), Clark (68.8), and Carson City (90.2) Counties are all reporting over 50 new cases per 100,000 per day. According to the official (and newly improved) Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate is at 19.4% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), while our seven-day average has again surpassed 40%. These figures remain far above the WHO’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening.

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, our hospitals are treating 1,738 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 141 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 1,879 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. This amounts to 35% of Nevada’s total number of patients in our hospitals. As of this morning, Nevada’s hospitals are reporting overall occupancy rates at 78% of staffed beds, 72% of adult ICU beds, and 44% of ventilators being used. While Nevada’s overall COVID-19 hospitalization counts are off their record highs, Southern Nevada hospitals remain near their record highs while Northern Nevada hospitals have thus far experienced a more sustained drop in hospitalizations over the past two weeks.

Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 3,206 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today. As 2020 has given way to 2021, we’ve mostly been averaging 25-35 COVID-19 deaths per day for the last month. And as it’s been for nearly a month, state public health authorities have flagged all counties but Storey for elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

“It was a risk to go out and gather on New Year’s Eve. The Governor made it clear.” 
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response, on the unauthorized New Year’s Eve parties in Las Vegas

During today’s Nevada Health Response press call, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage flatly stated, “It was a risk to go out and gather on New Year’s Eve. The Governor made it clear. […] As Nevadans, we must do what we can to protect one another.” For those who participated in the unauthorized New Year’s parties and other large holiday gatherings, Cage advised, “Act as though you may have contracted COVID-19. Be extra mindful of your interactions with others.”

So what happens next? When it comes to health code violations, Cage promised, “We may very likely follow up on enforcement measures.” Yet when asked whether Governor Steve Sisolak (D) will make any changes to the state’s public health rules any time soon, Cage merely responded that they’re trying their best to “navigate the very tricky balance” as the federal government is still not providing additional aid to state and local governments.

In response to questions on whether Sisolak will again extend the current “statewide pause” on reopenings and rule relaxations, Cage just said that the Nevada Health Response team are evaluating the data and waiting for post-New Year’s weekend numbers in order to make recommendations to Sisolak.

What about the vaccines?

Yes, we know that several COVID-19 vaccines are now available, and that more may soon come online. However we also know that state and local health authorities’ vaccine supply remains low, and that the federally supervised supply chain remains a massive hot-@$$ mess. So far just over 25,000 Nevadans have received their first vaccine dose, the vast majority of Nevada adult residents probably still won’t be eligible for any of the COVID-19 vaccines any time in the near future.

Nevada state authorities reported a(nother) cut in federal vaccine allocation last month, multiple other state and local governments have experienced similar cuts in vaccine supply from the federal government, and even Dr. Monsef Slaoui, the Trump administration’s chief adviser for “Operation Warp Speed”, admitted on CBS’ Face the Nation yesterday, “We need to improve.”

Joe Biden
Photo by Andrew Davey

Since outgoing President Donald Trump’s original goal of 20,000,000+ vaccinated Americans by December 31, 2020, was nowhere near fulfilled, President-elect Joe Biden has been revising his COVID-19 action plan to adapt to this and more of America’s failures thus far to contain COVID-19. During today’s press call, Julia Peek, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services’ Deputy Administrator Division of Public and Behavioral Health and Community Health Services, stated that state health officials will seek to ensure that those who got the first round of vaccine doses get their necessary second dose in order to be fully inoculated. Peek also stated that the state has no plan to deny or delay future second doses to those who’ve already received their first doses, despite growing speculation over whether federal health officials might endorse that and/or smaller vaccine doses to get more first doses out to more people.

If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check with Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, and check with 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.

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