COVID-19 continues to spread, and our numbers still look pretty rough. As Americans again ask why this is still happening, we must again remind everyone that the warning signs have been in front of us for quite some time.
Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Clark County’s outbreak may finally be subsiding, but infection rates remain quite high in Washoe County and much of Rural Nevada. Hospitalizations and new deaths have slipped lower, but remain well above our springtime lows. Vaccinations continue to tick higher, as over 46% of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has landed at 1.03, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 103 new infections. Only Elko (0.91), Clark (0.98), and Nye (0.99) Counties have infection rates under 1.00, while Lyon County is at 1.00 exactly, and Humboldt (1.02), Douglas (1.04), Carson City (1.05), Lincoln (1.07), Churchill (1.09), Washoe (1.20!), White Pine (1.27!), Pershing (1.28!), and Lander (1.29!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 37.6 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Pershing (14.9), Lincoln (19.3), Storey (20.8!), Mineral (22.2!), Elko (23.3!), Humboldt (29.7!), Lander (33.6!), Nye (33.8!), Clark (34.3!), White Pine (35.8!), Douglas (42.1!!), Carson City (42.7!!), Churchill (44.7!!), Washoe (53.2!!), and Lyon (56.9!!!) Counties are all suffering high caseloads (as in, over ten new 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” has come down to 14.1%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has slipped further to 13.82%. According to the Scripps Institute’s Outbreak.info, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant: Delta accounts for 57% of new cases in the last 30 days, 57% of new cases in the last 60 days, and 49% of Nevada’s cumulative confirmed COVID-19 cases. However, the newer AY.4 sub lineage of Delta seems to be gaining steam – It now accounts for 33% of new cases in the last 30 days and 24% of cases in the last 60 days.
COVID-19 vaccinations have been given to 50% of eligible Nevadans! 60.53 percent of those 12 and older have started immunizations.
The COVID-19 vaccine is available to anyone over the age of 12. No need for insurance. Find a vaccine clinic near you at https://t.co/GR360kInBI.
— @NVHealthResponse (@NVHealthRespon1) August 23, 2021
This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations have leveled off a bit but remain high. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 1,191 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 84 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 1,275 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients – a slight recovery from earlier this month, but still matching “Winter Surge” levels when the vaccines weren’t yet available to the general public. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 6,352 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and our average daily death rate has slipped a little yet remains high at about 18.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 3,590,410 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,143,369 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,756,773 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 57% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 69.1% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,441,961 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 46.8% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 57.5% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I posted a special story yesterday on my own family’s COVID-19 pandemic experience in hopes of revealing the real human stories behind the seemingly cold, hard statistics.)
Finally, the FDA gave the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine its full approval. Will this make a difference? (And if so, how?)
Yesterday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finally granted full approval for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine after months of speculation over why FDA regulators were dragging their feet. Perhaps the most consequential result of the FDA’s Pfizer-BioNTech approval is that even more public agencies and private companies are adopting their own respective vaccine mandates. Even before the FDA made this announcement, lawsuits against vaccine mandates were already starting to fail in federal courts. This FDA decision and the growing private sector enthusiasm for such mandates probably give the U.S. Supreme Court more reasons to reject these challenges should any of these cases reach their docket soon.
Then, we have the court of public opinion. Since some polling data suggest that a large segment of Americans may be swayed by this FDA decision due to worries over the pervasive internet rumors of “vaccine injury”. I’ve personally been wary of this take, as recent polling data have also shown hardening and increasingly polarized opinions of the vaccines, along with a fairly narrow yet very deep well of distrust of medical science and public health authorities in general. I doubt this FDA decision alone convinces millions more Americans to get vaccinated, but public health authorities may yet make good use of this if they can tie this into a more compelling narrative explaining why these vaccines truly are safe and effective.
Closer to home, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) has moved to tighten Nevada’s state vaccine rules with two new actions: Emergency Directive 049 to allow exemptions to the mask mandate only for large events that require universal proof of vaccination, and the exemptions only apply to fully vaccinated individuals; and Sisolak signing an emergency regulation proposed by the State Board of Health to require proof of vaccination for in-person attendance at Nevada’s public colleges and universities beginning November 1.
“We know some Americans have been waiting for the completion of the FDA process. For those Americans, the wait is over.”
– Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator
During today’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said that the FDA’s approval for Pfizer-BioNTech offers Americans further confirmation that, “The vaccine is safe and effective.” He continued, “We know some Americans have been waiting for the completion of the FDA process. For those Americans, the wait is over.”
According to U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, “The approval will help doctors and nurses instill more confidence in the vaccines. […] They are the most powerful voices for their patients.” And touching upon what we just discussed earlier, Murthy indicated that the Biden administration already has a plan to utilize their network of local community corps alongside the FDA decision to counter the Influencer Infodemic that’s been undermining America’s confidence in the vaccines: “We’ve been building this people-powered movement for months because we believe communities deserve information from local sources they trust.”
Speaking of America’s vaccine confidence, when asked about the Biden administration’s recent rush to accept a regimen for third dose (for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, second dose for Johnson & Johnson) vaccine shots eight months after the second dose (and immunocompromised patients possibly getting their third doses even sooner) following months of them pushing back against the pharmaceutical companies’ initial rush to promote third doses and booster shots, Murthy and Zients stressed that the White House is following the science and being as transparent as possible with the American people.
“If you are unvaccinated, you are at the highest risk.”
– CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky
As the briefing continued, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky cited data collected in Los Angeles County (California) from May to July to stress the point that these vaccines work: “People who were unvaccinated were nearly five times more likely to get infected and nearly twenty times more likely to get hospitalized than those who were vaccinated. If you are unvaccinated, you are at the highest risk.”
Though NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci used his time today to walk everyone through the process of obtaining access to monoclonal antibody treatment after getting infected (but preferably before COVID-19 intensifies to the point of hospitalization), he did answer questions on when America might finally turn the corner on this latest infection surge. “If we can get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can, […] we can end this pandemic even sooner than that,” Fauci insisted. He continued, “We have the capability among ourselves to cut down the timeframe. Get vaccinated, and the timeframe will be truncated dramatically.”
During his segment of the presentation, Murthy issued his plea for vaccinations in a more personal way: “Please do it. Please get vaccinated. Do it for your own health. Please do it for your own children, as they can’t yet get vaccinated [if they’re younger than 12]. Do it for health care workers, as they are running on fumes as they care for our communities. Do it for your community, who need you to get vaccinated in order to ‘return to normal’.”
As we’ve been saying all along, public health and a healthy economy go hand in hand.
For nearly 18 months, far too many media pundits have peddled the false narrative of “health versus the economy”. In reality, our economic well-being has always depended upon the state of our public health.
The American Prospect’s David Dayen’s new deep dive into how the Delta Surge upended the Biden administration’s plans to spend this summer celebrating America’s full recovery shows exactly what we’ve been talking about on these pages all along. Despite the early warning signs of stagnating vaccination rates and the emergence of more potent COVID-19 variants (such as Delta), the White House endorsed the CDC’s very lax mask guidance in May and promoted an “America Is Back!” narrative that – regardless of whether they intended to give this perception – suggested that the pandemic was mostly behind us.
Fast forward to here and now, and we’re confronting a new round of supply chain disruptions, slowing sales and business activity, the cancellation of plans to resume business travel schedules and rehirings of laid-off workers, and waning consumer confidence that can easily be traced back to this summer’s rebound in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. Neither fear over “lockdown” rumors nor “generous unemployment benefits” created new challenges for America’s economic recovery (and for that matter, Democrats’ political agenda). COVID-19 itself did, and President Joe Biden probably waited too long to adapt to this rather simple reality that public health and economic well-being truly go hand in hand.
Oh, and a few more things…
Before we go, here’s a quick update on Nevada’s mask mandate benchmarks: Only Eureka County is reporting low transmission today according to the CDC, so Esmeralda and Lander Counties have one more week to turn the tide, Storey County looks likely to enter into the universal mask mandate unless they report lower numbers tonight, and the rest of the state will remain under the mask mandate for at least a couple more weeks.
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.