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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: On Pause?

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

COVID-19 continues to spread more slowly and weakly, and that has a whole lot of Nevadans eagerly awaiting Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) announcement on the end of the “statewide pause” that has had stricter health safety rules in effect since November. But with new COVID-19 strains on the rise, and with state officials still waiting to see what federal policymakers decide on ramping up vaccinations and a new round of financial aid, we’re continually reminded that this pandemic ain’t over ‘til it’s actually over. 

Today’s COVID-19 check-up: A quick overview of how Nevada’s stats have changed under Sisolak’s “statewide pause” 

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate holds steady at 0.81, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 81 new infections. Carson City (0.62), Douglas (0.64), Lincoln (0.66), Churchill (0.73), Nye (0.73), Lyon (0.74), Humboldt (0.79), White Pine (0.79), Clark (0.81), Washoe (0.86), Elko (0.90), and Lander (0.94) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, meaning all reporting counties are experiencing slower spread. White Pine (8.7), Churchill (9.2), Douglas (11.1), Carson City (11.2), Humboldt (11.9), Lyon (13.7), Storey (13.9), Lander (15.5), Esmeralda (16.4), and Washoe (19.4) are reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Eureka (21.1), Nye (24.3), Elko (26.3), Pershing (27.6), Clark (29.2), and Mineral (41.2) Counties are over that benchmark. 

According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate remains at 21.0% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), and our seven-day average has dropped under 30% for the first time since last November. Nonetheless, these figures remain far above the World Health Organization’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, our hospitals are treating 872 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 92 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 964 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. This amounts to 22% of Nevada’s total number of patients in our hospitals, and this is the first time we’ve had fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals in nearly three months. As of this morning, Nevada’s hospitals are reporting overall occupancy rates at 71% of staffed beds, 63% of adult ICU beds, and 37% of ventilators being used. So far this week, hospitals up north and down south continue to receive fewer COVID-19 patients needing beds and urgent treatment.

Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 4,522 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today. Like last week, we’re still averaging under 35 daily deaths as of today. According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker, 427,800 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed in Nevada today. And according to state health officials, 348,045 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded to Nevada WebIZ, including just over 70,000 second doses. 

“Despite trends moving in the right direction, we continue to be in very serious condition.” 
– Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

During the White House’s COVID-19 briefing this morning, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky hailed the nation’s improving COVID-19 stats, but nonetheless cautioned, “Despite trends moving in the right direction, we continue to be in very serious condition. […] “We’re still having over 100,000 new cases per day. We have yet to control this pandemic.”

Though Walensky and the rest of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Response Team directed more of their warnings to states with few or no health safety rules in place, their warnings still hold relevance here in Nevada. When Sisolak announced the “statewide pause” on November 22, our statewide infection rate hit 1.19, seven-day test positivity surged above 35%, and our total death count was at 2,022. Though many of our stats have clearly improved since then, we can’t forget why Sisolak had to begin this “statewide pause”: Our numbers worsened following a hasty reopening with lax enforcement, just like our COVID-19 stats did last summer.

When asked about potential changes to health safety rules and enforcement protocol during the Nevada Health Response press call, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage merely responded, “We will be working on and making recommendations to the Governor. […] We’re trying to achieve this very delicate balance of ensuring we’re not causing any damage to public health while also not causing any undue harm to our economy.”

“It’s not just a matter of potency. It’s also a matter of the breadth of what you can cover.”
– Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden, on the importance of getting both doses of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccines
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

As Nevada and 33 other states are now contending with the newer COVID-19 strains (mostly B.1.1.7 [the “U.K. variant’], though the 501Y.V2 variant [or “South African variant”] has been found in at least six states), federal health officials repeated their call for qualifying Americans to get vaccinated. And in some pushback to calls to delay or cancel second doses of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to further expedite administration of first doses, White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci explained that while he’s been encouraged by the overall efficacy of these vaccines, there may be little or no efficacy left if too many Americans are denied that necessary second dose.

According to Fauci, “It’s not just a matter of potency. It’s also a matter of the breadth of what you can cover.” And in a nod to the growing likelihood that these new strains are more contagious and/or cause more severe illness, Fauci acknowledged, “We don’t have any data showing this is mutating into a less virulent strain. […] We don’t have any data indicating that is happening to SARS-CoV-2.”

Steve Sisolak, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Returning closer to home, state health officials hailed the new vaccination data as evidence of progress towards Biden’s and Sisolak’s goals of reaching herd immunity through vaccinations later this year. Still, with mounting evidence that whiter and wealthier Nevadans are having an easier time getting vaccinated than the working class and communities of color, state health officials promised that they will proceed with Sisolak’s new equity initiative to try to fix this imbalance. At the federal level, the Biden administration is moving ahead with its plan to expand vaccine access through new FEMA-backed community vaccination centers and a new pharmacy vaccine clinic pilot program. And during a call hosted by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) between all of Nevada’s members of Congress and federal health officials, the Biden administration signaled they will “work with the State of Nevada” on the federal formula that’s resulted in a low vaccine allocation for Nevada thus far.

If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, check Immunize Nevada for more information on vaccine availability 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 from people outside your household.

The cover photo is a screenshot taken by me.

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