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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.

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COVID-19 Update: Omicron Has Arrived

Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron

COVID-19 continues to spread, even as 2021 nears its end. Though we have some good news to be thankful for, we also have to be careful with the Omicron variant’s recent arrival. Here’s what you need to know about booster shots, new spin on old habits, best practices for the winter holiday season, and our overall COVID-19 outlook.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Nevada’s overall outlook still looks rough. Hospitalizations and deaths appear stable, but infections are looking pretty sideways. Some rural areas and Washoe County are trending lower, but Clark County and other rurals are still surging higher. Finally, over 55% of Nevadans have had at least two COVID-19 vaccine doses, and almost 24% of Nevadans have received booster doses.
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has slid a bit to 1.07, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to 107 new infections. Humboldt (0.78), Lincoln (0.79), Carson City (0.87), Churchill (0.88), Douglas (0.91), Lyon (0.91), Mineral (0.94), Elko (0.96), Lander (0.96), Nye (0.98), Washoe (0.98) and Pershing (0.99) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Clark County (1.09) suffers more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 23.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. White Pine (3.0) and Mineral (6.3) Counties now have lower caseloads, while Lander (12.9), Lincoln (16.5), Carson City (18.1), Washoe (19.6), Eureka (21.1!), Lyon (21.6!), Douglas (22.8!), Clark (24.8!), Elko (25.2!), Pershing (27.6!), Churchill (31.0!), Nye (31.6!), and Humboldt (42.4!!) Counties all report 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 down slightly to 7.5%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has ticked down to 9.1%. According to the Scripps Institute’s Outbreak.info, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant for now: Delta and its sub lineages account for at least 82% of new cases in the last 30 days, at least 89% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 85% of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since February. We’ll be on the lookout in the coming days to see when the Omicron variant (or B.1.1.529) begins to show up in our data.

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations have ticked higher. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 617 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 85 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 702 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 8,244 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about 14 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 4,924,010 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 4,142,356 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 2,092,580 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 67.9% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 72.3% of all Nevadans aged five and up, and 80.8% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process. 1,712,063 Nevada patients have had at least two mRNA vaccine doses or one J&J/Janssen dose, meaning that the CDC currently considers an estimated 55.6% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 59.1% of all Nevadans aged five and up, and 66.8% of Nevada adults) to be fully vaccinated. 409,480 Nevadans thus far have opted for COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, meaning that 23.8% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 49% of Nevadans aged 65 and up) have opted for additional vaccine protection.

It’s official: Omicron is now spreading in Nevada.
COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron, airport, Harry Reid International Airport, Las Vegas, Clark County
Photo by Andrew Davey

Yesterday, the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) issued a long-awaited announcement on the Omicron variant. In a statement issued by Nevada Health Response, SNHD Health Officer Dr. Fermin Leguen stated, “We knew that it was only a matter of time that we would identify the Omicron variant in Southern Nevada.” More specifically, a fully vaccinated resident in her 20’s tested positive for COVID-19, then her infection was identified as Omicron.  

In the Nevada Health Response statement, Dr. Leguen said, “People can protect themselves from all variants of the COVID-19 virus by getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster when they are eligible, wearing a mask in public indoor settings, regardless of their vaccination status, and staying home and getting tested if they are sick.”

Indeed, as we’ve previously noted, early data indicate that the COVID-19 vaccines continue to hold up against Omicron in preventing life-threatening illness, and vaccine booster shots probably do much more to prevent illness entirely. Between the vaccines and additional public health protection measures (like masking), we already know how to care for ourselves and each other. Please stay safe out there.

Stop obsessing over “lockdown” rhetoric. Start asking for actual plans, goals, and solutions.
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

During today’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, President Joe Biden’s top public health advisors doubled down on their current COVID-19 action plan. Now that Omicron has been found in Nevada and 35 other states, the Biden administration is staying put. 

As CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, “Getting vaccinated and getting boosted is extremely helpful. Our guidance on masking has not changed. We recommend indoor masking for the 90% of U.S. counties with high community transmission.” And though political media pundits have gone wild with chatter and speculation over “lockdowns”, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients declared, “We have the tools to fight Omicron. […] There is no need to lock down.” 

Yet even though the Biden administration seems to be committing to some arbitrary “no lockdowns” pledge, America continues to lack any clear strategy on public health protection. This continues to fuel bad faith hot take artists’ “lockdown” attacks on Biden and other Democrats. At the same time our infection, hospitalization, and death statistics remain far worse than most of the rest of the developed world (according to Our World in Data), and we shouldn’t keep kidding ourselves into believing that this heightened amount of disease and fatality is somehow “good for the economy”.

Vaccine/Booster Update: How do they hold up against Omicron?
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

In better news, Dr. Rochelle Walensky and NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci presented new data showing how the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines hold up against the Omicron variant, particularly when vaccinated patients get booster shots. As he pored through Pfizer’s most recent data on their vaccine, Dr. Fauci reiterated his confidence in the efficacy of the vaccines… And gave some side-eye to Moderna executives who declared that a reformulated vaccine is necessary. According to Dr. Fauci, “Boosters enhance the vaccine protection against Omicron. Our present vaccination and booster regime works. At this time, there is no need for a variant specific booster.”

As she cited recent data from nursing homes showing hardly any increase in infections among vaccinated and boosted nursing home patients, Dr. Walensky stated, “These data show that those who are fully vaccinated and have a booster dose are ten times less likely to get COVID-19 than those who received only a primary series or are unvaccinated.” She continued, “When boosters are used, that protection works.”

Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccines, Omicron
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

But since these and other data points show diminishing efficacy for the original two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna regimen and the original one-dose J&J regimen, since the CDC and FDA have not yet approved boosters for children, since most Americans have not yet gotten their own booster doses, and since the official CDC definition of “fully vaccinated” remains two Pfizer or Moderna doses or one J&J dose, don’t we need to take more action to protect more people sooner and encourage more people to get boosted? 

As reporters asked these questions, Dr. Walensky responded, “We are continuing to follow the science, and it evolves daily. As we update our data, we will adapt based on the scientific data.” She also said, “Vaccination, boosting, and masking are especially critical for those who are vulnerable, including seniors, pregnant people, and those who are immunocompromised.” While she has a point there, it remains to be seen whether the federal government can adapt fast enough to keep up with the ongoing challenges of this pandemic. 

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care
Photo by Andrew Davey

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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