COVID-19 continues to spread in Nevada and throughout America, but Congress finally finished its work on legislation that will enable President Joe Biden to level up his plan to curb the pandemic through more robust public health investment and further expansion of his administration’s national vaccine strategy. Meanwhile closer to home, Nevada public health officials are urging everyone aged 65 and over to go ahead and make appointments to “get the jab”.
Here’s the latest on the state of the pandemic, nationally and here at home.
Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: New caseloads still look low, but infection rates are ticking up again.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate holds steady at 0.92, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 92 new infections, and statewide we’re seeing 11.8 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Nye (0.62), Elko (0.63), White Pine (0.69), Churchill (0.79), Douglas (0.83), Carson City (0.84), Lyon (0.86), Humboldt (0.88), Clark (0.92), and Washoe (0.98) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Lander (1.07) and Lincoln (1.47!!!) Counties are suffering more rapid spread. Lander (2.6), Lincoln (2.8), Humboldt (3.4), Nye (3.7), Washoe (8.9), Douglas (9.1), Churchill (9.7), Lyon (9.9), Elko (10.0), Storey (10.4), Carson City (11.8), Pershing (12.7), and Clark (12.9) Counties are all reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Mineral County (22.2) is still above 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 20.7% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), and our seven-day average continues to hover just above 15%. These figures remain well above the World Health Organization’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening.
Help a senior get their COVID-19 vaccine by finding their county’s vaccine info at https://t.co/obS7xMpV06 or by calling 1-800-401-0946. Check to see if they need a follow-up appointment. If there is a clinic available, help them get to it — You might save a life. #NVCOVIDfighter pic.twitter.com/p9ggL3VhP0
— @NVHealthResponse (@NVHealthRespon1) March 10, 2021
According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 302 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 65 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 367 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. As of today, COVID-19 hospitalizations are the lowest we’ve seen since last October in Southern Nevada, Northern Nevada, and Rural Nevada communities.
Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,054 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today. So far, we continue to average around 12 daily deaths, which is the lowest we’ve experienced since last November. According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker, 1,124,830 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, 878,645 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 553,065 first doses have been administered thus far, meaning an estimated 18.0% of Nevadans have initiated the vaccination process, and 304,199 second doses have been administered, meaning an estimated 9.9% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated.
“Even if we have 80% immunity nationwide but regions that are only 50% immunized, we can still suffer major outbreaks. We need this level of protection per basis across all our communities in this country.”
– CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, on the importance of reaching vaccine herd immunity throughout the U.S.
Just minutes before the White House kicked off its COVID-19 briefing, news broke of President Joe Biden securing an additional 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (also known as the Janssen, or J&J) vaccine by late June. Especially since Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine only requires one shot for full efficacy, and now that Merck is aiding in the production of Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses, this further accelerates America’s timeline in securing enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to inoculate all adults. While Johnson & Johnson has developed what’s called a viral vector vaccine that utilizes adenovirus technology, as opposed to the mRNA technology behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, all available evidence points to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine being effective in preventing severe illness and restricting further transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
Between the growing future supply of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and recent success in securing more supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, White House Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response Andy Slavitt proclaimed, “This order allows the president to plan for the future. […] It gives us maximum flexibility for our upcoming needs.”
Of course, this news is prompting many Americans to ask the question on top of their minds: When can we go “back to normal” again? As Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Chief Medical Advisor to President Joe Biden, explained, “We anticipate that the herd immunity level will be about 70-85%. We are hoping to get to that point by the end of the summer or early fall.”
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky also stressed that it will take more time, more resources, and especially more vaccinations before anyone can honestly declare “Mission Accomplished”. As Walensky noted, “Even if we have 80% immunity nationwide but regions that are only 50% immunized, we can still suffer major outbreaks. We need this level of protection per basis across all our communities in this country.”
“It will put shots in arms, money in people’s pockets, workers in jobs, and children safely back in schools.”
– Rep. Dina Titus, in a statement following her vote for final passage of the American Rescue Plan
— Dina Titus (@repdinatitus) March 10, 2021
Today, I cast one of the proudest votes of my career to pass the #AmericanRescuePlan.
The passage of this bill means critical relief is on the way to Nevadans, including $1,400 survival checks and funding to crush this virus & lift millions of children out of poverty. pic.twitter.com/o4yFBKjpTh
— Rep. Steven Horsford (@RepHorsford) March 10, 2021
In describing the overall national state of the pandemic, Dr. Walensky lamented, “We still have too many infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. These are somber reminders that we must remain vigilant.” However, she also voiced hope over the nation’s infection rates, hospitalizations, and death rates dropping again after a brief uptick last week, as well as the nation’s growing vaccine supply: “We are on the cusp of having enough vaccine doses to protect every adult in the United States. We are so very close to ending this pandemic.”
In a major boost to the Biden administration’s plans to achieve this, the House formally concurred with the Senate’s amended version of the American Rescue Plan on a near party-line 220-211 vote earlier today. As we’ve been discussing all week, the American Rescue Plan includes $20 billion to expand Biden’s national vaccination strategy, $50 billion to expand COVID-19 testing capacity, $350 billion in state and local government aid that includes $2.95 billion for the State of Nevada and $1.2 billion for Nevada’s municipal authorities (and this includes $439.6 million for Clark County), and $130 billion for K-12 public schools that includes $830.4 million for the Clark County School District (CCSD). Reps. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas), Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas), and Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) all voted for the amended version of the Rescue Plan, while Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) voted against, and Biden is expected to sign this stimulus bill into law on Friday.
In her official statement following the House’s final vote, Rep. Dina Titus said, “[The American Rescue Plan] will put shots in arms, money in people’s pockets, workers in jobs, and children safely back in schools. […] I worked tirelessly to ensure that this legislation will distribute relief to our state, county, and city based in part on our unemployment rate. This provision alone will provide Nevada with an extra billion dollars to accelerate vaccine distribution, expand rent and food assistance, keep frontline workers on the payroll, and help get our economy back on track.”
“All Nevada counties are now allowing vaccinations of everyone aged 65 and over. We encourage all Nevadans to help each other develop a plan for vaccinations.”
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response
Know a senior who's waiting to receive a COVID-19 vaccine? Ask them to check their email inbox and spam folder! We sent out 4,000 invites over the weekend to schedule an appointment and it looked something like this: pic.twitter.com/5cufFxHT8p
— Washoe County Health (@WashoeHealth) March 8, 2021
While state officials are waiting for Rescue Plan dollars to begin flowing in our direction, they’re continuing to do as much as they can with current resources. On today’s Nevada Health Response press call, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage dispensed with the usual walk-through of recent data to deliver this message: “All Nevada counties are now allowing vaccinations of everyone aged 65 and over. We encourage all Nevadans to help each other develop a plan for vaccinations.”
Yet while some areas are still struggling with lower vaccine supply, the Southern Nevada Health District is struggling with the opposite problem of doses at risk of going unused at some of their vaccination sites. In response to questions on whether the state will open up more vaccinations to younger people sooner, Cage demurred: “We’ve had challenges with doses on shelves or appointments not being filled. As with every other phase of this project, we will work with local health districts on […] identifying solutions to these challenges.”
Candice McDaniel, Chief of Nevada DHHS’ Bureau of Child, Family, and Community Wellness, put a more positive spin on the high demand for vaccines and the state’s generally improving vaccination stats: “We see it as a good sign. We’re still at a place of limited allocation and distribution, so it’s wonderful to see this much interest.”
As Nevadans await Biden’s signature of the American Rescue Plan and the beginning of Rescue Plan resources flowing into our state, we can already see areas where these dollars are sorely needed: for more vaccination sites, more vaccination site staff, and more assistance for people trying to navigate the vaccination system, just for starters. In the weeks ahead, we’ll begin to see what happens when more words are not just matched with deeds, but also with critical dollars that attach far more value to such deeds.
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.