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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: September Spike

COVID-19 continues to spread in Nevada and across America. While this may not seem as “sexy” of a story as the vaccine rumors, the rumors of other “game changing miracle cures”, and other material that necessitated the launch of our “This Week in Corona Scams” series, we should not delude ourselves into pretending it doesn’t matter any more.

Remember: Over 200,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and the death count continues to rise. This pandemic is far from over.

Well, that didn’t last. Here’s this week’s check-up on Nevada’s COVID-19 stats. 

Earlier this month, it appeared that Nevada was finally on a sustainably downward trajectory in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths. However, new infections are on the rise again. According to Covid Act Now Nevada’s statewide infection rate has rebounded to 1.09, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will cause another 109 new infections. While COVID-19’s spread has slowed down in former hotspots Douglas County (0.94) and Carson City (0.70), Washoe (1.15), Clark (1.09), Nye (0.98), and Elko (0.82) Counties have worsened further since last week.

As we can see from the official Nevada Health Response database and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, test positivity remains stubbornly high: 11.4% cumulative, and the seven-day average has once again breached 12%. This is over double the WHO’s recommended 5% benchmark for safe reopening, and this provides more evidence that the double-whammy of Labor Day Weekend crowds and President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies knocked our infection rate back up.

Nevada’s current COVID-19 death toll stands at 1,585, with the state averaging under 10 deaths per day for the last week. And as of today, we have 442 (confirmed and suspected combined) hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and UMC’s specific capacity tallies further illustrate how hospitals have improved since the worst days of the “summer surge”. But as I’ve said before, deaths and hospitalizations tend to be lagging indicators. With our infection rate and test positivity percentages on the rise again, it’s too soon to definitively declare that the worst is completely over.

“We have seen a slight uptick, then leveling off of new cases over the last two to three weeks.”
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response

Late last week, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) announced that he will make another announcement this week on loosening more health safety restrictions. When September began, this didn’t seem too outlandish, as our COVID-19 stats were finally calming down. But now that the September Spike is underway and resulting in an eye-popping resurgence of the virus in the state’s two most populous counties, should Nevada really continue to loosen health safety rules?

So far, state health officials aren’t indicating that Sisolak plans to change course. During today’s press call, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said, “The health districts are reporting a normal amount of cases, what we’d expect out of Labor Day Weekend. We have seen a slight uptick, then leveling off of new cases over the last two to three weeks.” 

Cage then suggested that just enough people may have let up on mask wearing and social distancing to contribute to this latest spike in infections. He and Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Director for Public and Behavioral Health Julia Peek called on Nevadans to “remain vigilant” and not let up on basic precautions, even when (and really, especially when) the state loosens the rules.

What else is happening on the COVID-19 front?

Steve Sisolak, Nevada Legislature, COVID-19
Photo provided by the Office of Governor Steve Sisolak

In the past month, we’ve been noticing the gradual improvement on contact tracing. According to Peek, Nevada has successfully contact traced 24.9% of our total COVID-19 infections. That is a big improvement from June and July, but Covid Act Now still estimates that the state only has 29% of the staff levels needed to contact trace 90% or more new infections within 48 hours. In better news, hospital capacity remains manageable: 70% overall, and 58% in the hospitals’ ICU units.

Peek also confirmed that the state is on track to meet the federal government’s November 1 deadline to prepare for a possible vaccine, even though it’s incredibly unlikely that any vaccine will actually be ready for wide distribution before 2021. At the very least, it helps to prepare for the challenges ahead. Yet in the meantime, there’s plenty of evidence indicating that we still have challenges to tackle right here and now.

If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health DistrictWashoe County Health DistrictCarson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For 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.

The cover image is a screenshot captured by me.

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