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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: Pills and Shots

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 booster shots for some kind of hope. Here’s what you need to know about booster shots, about our lagging vaccination rate, and our overall COVID-19 outlook.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Our infection rates are dropping throughout the state, but caseloads remain very high throughout the state – especially outside Clark County. Hospitalizations and new deaths are also trending lower, but remain well above our springtime lows. And finally, over half 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 has slipped a bit to 0.90, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to 90 new infections. Douglas (0.58), Lyon (0.65), Lander (0.68), Nye (0.73), Mineral (0.74), Carson City (0.76), Lincoln (0.77), Humboldt (0.81), Washoe (0.81), Churchill (0.85), Pershing (0.85), White Pine (0.86), and Clark (0.96) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Elko County is at 1.00 exactly. Statewide, we’re seeing 26.5 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Douglas (16.9), Nye (17.5), Clark (21.4!), Pershing (25.5!), Washoe (30.4!), Carson City (32.2!), Storey (34.6!), Lyon (40.2!!), Churchill (73.4!!!), Humboldt (99.3!!!!), White Pine (120.8????!!!!), Elko (128.3????!!!!), Eureka (133.8????!!!!), and Esmeralda (163.6????!!!!) 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 lower to 8.60%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has dropped to 9.86%. According to the Scripps Institute’s, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant: Delta and its sub lineages account for at least 90% of new cases in the last 30 days, at least 93% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 75% of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since February. (Editor’s Note: Nevada Health Response has recently changed its protocol for reporting testing data. Starting this week, the state’s data dashboard includes COVID-19 antigen test results and probable cases, so keep this mind while assessing this week’s spike in case counts.)

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to trend lower. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 799 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 50 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 849 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 7,221 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about 21 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 4,024,060 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,436,142 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,883,754 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 61.2% of Nevadans (and more specifically, about 71.8% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 73.8% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,573,552 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 51.1% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 60% of all Nevadans aged 12 and up, and 62.1% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. 

What’s this new Merck pill that everyone’s talking about, and why is it a big deal?

Last Friday, the pharmaceutical giant Merck announced its new oral antiviral drug that it developed in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics: molnupiravir. According to Merck’s interim analysis, “Molnupiravir reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%; 7.3% of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization, compared with 14.1% of placebo-treated patients. Through Day 29, no deaths were reported in patients who received molnupiravir, as compared to 8 deaths in patients who received placebo.”

In other words, molnupiravir may be a truly effective COVID-19 treatment that we’ve long been waiting for. Basically, it’s designed to alter the genetic makeup of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in order to inhibit its ability to reproduce in the human body. Its current price is less than half that of monoclonal antibody therapy, but at $700 per five-day course of treatment molnupiravir is still very expensive. And just like monoclonal antibodies and remdesivir, molnupiravir will likely require early detection and intervention in order to work should it prove effective as a COVID-19 treatment.

health care, COVID-19
Photo by Andrew Davey

Keep in mind that this good news is based on Merck’s press release, and outside medical science experts so far seem to be impressed by these initial numbers, but we don’t yet have full and independent peer-reviewed verification. Also keep in mind that while molnupiravir may turn out to be an effective treatment, neither molnupiravir nor monoclonal antibody therapy is no substitute for vaccination. By preventing further transmission of COVID-19 rather than just treating individual cases, we can guarantee more positive outcomes, prevent more people from falling ill in the first place, and prevent further strain on our health care system (including skyrocketing health care costs). 

(Editor’s Note: We’ll have a new “This Week in Corona Scams” later this week where we will go into further detail on molnupiravir, why it’s NOT the same drug as ivermectin, and why anti-vaxxers remain completely wrong about all things COVID-19.)

I usually try not to get “too political” in our COVID-19 Updates. But today, we need to talk about why the dumbest political games continue to bog us down.

Unfortunately, America’s COVID-19 public health response has always been bogged down by fight-to-the-death (sometimes, literally) political quarrels. But as we’ve been hinting for over a month, Democrats like President Joe Biden and Governor Steve Sisolak face far more political headwinds as the result of the Delta Surge than they ever have over far-right “lockdown” temper tantrums. And as we just saw last month with the California Recall special election, voters may be willing to reward elected leaders who actually put in the effort to contain COVID-19 and save people’s lives.

As we have said on these pages all along, “health versus the economy” is always a false dichotomy. Both go together hand-in-hand. And as politicians in both parties must now learn the hard way, the allegedly uplifting “America is back!” campaign ads will sink like lead balloons as long as COVID-19 continues to spiral out of control. 

Steve Sisolak, housing, eviction moratorium, housing aid
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and his campaign team now love to boast of Florida’s recovery, but Florida’s COVID-19 stats are only improving now because the Delta variant ravaged the Sunshine State throughout July and August akin to Delta’s early path of destruction through Missouri in June. Yet as of this morning, according to Covid Act Now, Florida’s COVID-19 daily caseloads and test positivity remain well above those of California, New York, Illinois, and the other blue states with higher vaccination rates that DeSantis has loved to mock on the campaign trail. Far too many Floridians died of COVID-19 while DeSantis sold “Don’t Fauci My Florida” merchandise at his campaign website, so is it any surprise that DeSantis’ poll numbers aren’t really firing up Florida Republicans?

Meanwhile, according to a national Marist poll released last Thursday, Biden has a dead-even 46%-46% approval score, yet solid majorities support Biden’s new vaccination rules. Closer to home, The Mellman Group’s new poll for The Nevada Independent shows a rather ugly 38%-60% job approval score for Governor Steve Sisolak (D) and a similarly upside down 38%-59% score on Sisolak’s COVID-19 strategy, yet most Nevada voters support the state’s masking and vaccination requirements. Between these polls and the larger polling landscape, we have evidence that premature rushes to brush aside public health have not resulted in sustained rising approval, and we have evidence that public health protection measures have decent popular support. Just do the math.

Finally, some odds and ends

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. Since the CDC still shows all Nevada counties but Lincoln with high community transmission (which is the most severe level), these 16 Nevada counties will likely continue to operate under the mask mandate. If Lincoln County manages to stay under substantial transmission later today and next week, then Lincoln County will no longer have to operate under the mask mandate

In even better news, Nevada’s vaccination rate is back on the rebound. According to CDC data, our seven-day moving average of daily vaccine doses administered has rebounded to 7,072. This marks a 38.99% increase from our July 10 record low at 5,088, and this marks a 38.69% drop from last week’s low of 5,099. It’s possible that we’re seeing a rebound at least partially due to already vaccinated patients seeking booster shots, and we’ll have to keep an eye on this to see if this rebound persists.

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 was taken by me.

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