It may be 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic still rages on. As America continues to reel from last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol and new threats of additional violence in the lead-up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, this other deadly threat of COVID-19 continues to take its toll here in Nevada and throughout the nation.
Today’s COVID-19 check-up: Hospitalizations are down, but new case numbers and the infection rate surge again.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s overall infection rate has rebounded to 1.07, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 107 new infections. Lander (0.70), Elko (0.82), Carson City (0.83), White Pine (0.85), Humboldt (0.90), Douglas (0.90), Nye (0.92), Lyon (0.93), and Washoe (0.87) Counties still have infection rates under 1 (indicating slower spread), while Clark (1.09), Lincoln (1.12), and Churchill (1.15) Counties are once again suffering more rapid spread. Just as we feared last week, we’re seeing more signs of a “fourth wave” heightened outbreak of COVID-19.
Only Storey County (6.9) is reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Elko (29.0), Lyon (30.1), Lander (31.0), Esmeralda (32.7), Douglas (33.6), White Pine (35.8), Pershing (36.1), Eureka (42.2), Nye (43.7), Elko (37.1), Lyon (42.2), and Mineral (44.4) Counties are over that benchmark. Even worse, Washoe (50.3), Carson City (54.9), Lincoln (57.9), Humboldt (59.4), Clark (89.1), and Churchill (90.0) Counties are all reporting over 50 new cases per 100,000 per day. According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate has hit a new record high of 20.0% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), though our seven-day average has recently dropped below 40%. These figures remain far above the WHO’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening.
— Las Vegas Locally 🌴 (@LasVegasLocally) January 3, 2021
According to the Nevada Hospital Association, our hospitals are treating 1,649 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 128 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 1,777 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. This amounts to 32% of Nevada’s total number of patients in our hospitals. As of this morning, Nevada’s hospitals are reporting overall occupancy rates at 80% of staffed beds, 71% of adult ICU beds, and 45% of ventilators being used. While Northern Nevada experienced another significant drop in hospitalizations last week, Southern Nevada hospitals remain stubbornly closer to their recent record highs.
Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 3,500 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today. In the first full week of 2021, we averaged over 35 COVID-19 deaths per day. This week, state public health authorities have flagged all counties but Storey and White Pine for elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission. As of this morning, the state has administered 58,651 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, and so far most of those have been the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“Our hospitals have done an amazing job in trying to coordinate. They are doing their best amidst this crisis.”
– Julia Peek, Nevada Health Response
Today, we hopped onto the Nevada Health Response press call to hear from state health officials on recent COVID-19 developments. In response to a question on Southern Nevada’s high hospital occupancy rates, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Administrator Julia Peek said, “Our hospitals have done an amazing job in trying to coordinate. They are doing their best amidst this crisis.”
In response to another question on what’s causing this “fourth wave”, Peek noted, “We expect this week to show the impact of New Year’s events.” However, Peek also noted that Washoe County health officials have provided data indicating that smaller family and neighborhood parties remain the biggest factor in rising COVID-19 infections there.
Tonight, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) will provide an update on the state’s vaccine plan along with a status update on the “statewide pause” on looser health safety rules. We’ll provide another update on these pages following Sisolak’s briefing.
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check with Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, and check with 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.