When it comes to COVID-19, Nevada has regularly gone “one step forward, two steps back”. This seems to be the case again, as some of August’s improving stats are being cancelled out by a potential “September mini-surge”. While Nevada’s overall numbers don’t appear catastrophic, there are a few that may very well spell trouble in the days ahead.
First, here’s our weekly COVID-19 stat check.
As we can see from the numbers provided by the state’s official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s overall COVID-19 numbers remain remarkably stable. That’s really the good news and the bad news here.
After briefly dipping below 10% last week, Nevada’s seven-day test positivity average has returned to its usual 10%-12% range (according to how the Indy calculates test positivity), or just over double the WHO’s recommended 5% benchmark for safe reopening. Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate remains at 11.5%. And in a more troubling sign, Covid Act Now shows the statewide infection rate jumping to 0.94, or every 100 COVID-19 infections causing another 94 new infections.
While Clark (0.90) and Nye (0.91) Counties’ infection rates have risen quite a bit and Elko’s (0.62) is basically unchanged from last week, Washoe’s has surged to an alarmingly high 1.09. And in Douglas County, where county officials permitted President Donald Trump’s health code violating campaign rally earlier this month, their infection rate has soared to 1.02.
In the last month, we’ve taken note of Nevada’s gradual improvement on the contact tracing front. That’s mostly continuing, as the state has successfully contact traced 24.9% of all our COVID-19 infections within 48 hours. However according to Covid Act Now, Nevada still only has 37% of the staff we need to contact trace at least 90% of new infections within 48 hours. And Nevada’s total death count now stands at 1,556, as the state recorded another 10 deaths today and the seven-day death average has been hovering just above or below 10 per day.
“We don’t know quantity, and we don’t know the timeline.”
– Julia Peek, Nevada Health Response, in response to questions on when a vaccine will come online
During today’s Nevada Health Response press call, state health leaders fielded questions on potential vaccine development. On Donald Trump’s insistence that he will release a COVID-19 vaccine before the presidential election, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Administrator of Public and Behavioral Health Julia Peek clarified, “These are all plug in place plans,” or that the state is complying with the CDC’s recommendations to prepare for whenever a vaccine is approved for distribution. She then added, “We don’t know quantity, and we don’t know the timeline.” (Editor’s Note: For more on the reality behind Trump’s vaccine rhetoric, stay tuned for a special edition of “This Week in Corona Scams” tomorrow!)
Today’s call also featured plenty of talk on testing and various test types’ accuracy. More specifically, Nevada State Public Health Laboratory Director Dr. Mark Pandori explained that all Nevada labs that handle medical tests must undergo routine “quality assurance” inspections, validation of equipment, thrice per year “proficiency tests”, and competency tests for lab staff in order to obtain and maintain their state licenses. Pandori then agreed with the general medical consensus that molecular tests (such as PCR tests) tend to deliver more accurate results than antigen tests, such as the Abbott “ID NOW” test that the White House had promoted earlier this year.
With flu season now approaching, state health officials are hoping labs will soon be able to simultaneously test for Influenza and SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19. Development of such a test is now underway. And Pandori specifically expressed, “I’m hoping by the second week of October, that will be our full service: primary testing for Influenza and SARS-CoV-2.”
“We are seeing the beginning of some trends that can be tied to the Labor Day and other exposures that have happened in the last two weeks.”
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response
As noted above, we may finally be seeing fallout from the Labor Day Weekend crowds and the September Trump campaign rallies. Or as Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage put it, “We are seeing the beginning of some trends that can be tied to the Labor Day and other exposures that have happened in the last two weeks.”
So far state health officials have sent warning notices to Douglas County for permitting Trump’s campaign rally, but it remains to be seen whether Douglas County will face any official penalties. As the Nevada Current’s Dana Gentry noted last week, the City of Henderson probably safeguarded its $29.6 million CARES Act grant by levying a $3,000 fine on Xtreme Manufacturing, the host of Trump’s Henderson rally. Yet to hardly anyone’s surprise, The Daily Beast is reporting that Xtreme Manufacturing has been selling “decontamination stations” that probably would not have prevented asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 had they been used on rally day.
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 District, Washoe County Health District, Carson 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.