Last night, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) unveiled Nevada’s new COVID-19 response plan, a plan that ditches the phased reopenings for noncompliance crackdowns. So what else is changing as a result of this new response plan? Let’s begin with the data we use to determine where we actually stand.
So where are we on COVID-19?
As of today, Nevada… has had some trouble reporting testing results. According to Nevada Health Response, they’ve begun reporting test positivity rates on a five-day lag and base them on the sample collection date. So with this change factored in, the new cumulative test positivity rate sits at 10.2%, while the most recent one-day rate lies at 16.2%. The state has reported 980 new positively tested cases today.
When it comes to other critical stats, the prognosis has improved in some areas, but remains grim elsewhere. The state is reporting another 15 deaths today, bringing Nevada’s total COVID-19 death toll to 862. And when it comes to hospitals, total (confirmed and suspected) COVID-19 hospitalizations ticked down slightly to 1,146, but hospital occupancy remains high at 75% overall, while ICU occupancy sits at 72% and 45% of Nevada’s ventilators are in use.
Following Governor Steve Sisolak’s announcement of the state’s new COVID-19 response plan, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage and Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Deputy Administrator of Community Health Services Julia Peek spoke with reporters about this change in testing data reporting and the overall new response plan.
“We have the benefit of four months’ worth of data to look back on as we realized we needed to change our response.”
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response
So why is the state changing how it reports COVID-19 testing data? According to Caleb Cage, “We have the benefit of four months’ worth of data to look back on as we realized we needed to change our response.” He continued, “We have a growing number of people in our communities who are being tested multiple times. Over 20% of the tests being conducted are for people who are being tested more than once, which is a significant change from where we were four months ago.”
Julia Peek later added, “What we wanted to know was who was being tested and where they were being tested to calculate test positivity by region.” She and Cage then suggested that this overhaul in test data reporting will also help them and Sisolak’s office carry out the new COVID-19 response plan as they more closely track data in each of Nevada’s 17 counties.
During these press calls, state health officials regularly provide updates on the contact tracing program that’s mostly being carried out by Deloitte. Peek noted that the state has identified 7,562 new COVID-19 infections thanks to contact tracing. While that’s far from zero, Covid Act Now still estimates that only 8% of new infections are being contact traced within 48 hours. Keep in mind that as the state has put up enough of its own resources and get enough federal money to plan to deploy as many as 600 contact tracers, our caseload remains so high that we may need at least eight times as many contact tracers to get over 90% of new infections contact traced within 48 hours.
Also keep in mind that both the testing and contact tracing difficulties are not unique to Nevada. Rather, it’s a nationwide crisis. And again, this is a big reason why America’s been struggling with our sclerotic reopenings while countries like South Korea and Germany have had more success following early and robust contact tracing implementation. But with the Trump administration still refusing to provide more assistance in areas like contact tracing and testing, and with state and local leaders (such as Sisolak here in Nevada) facing pressure to keep higher-risk businesses (like casinos) open to try to make up for lost tax revenue, we’re essentially stuck in the “worst of both worlds” in simply hoping that enough people take enough precautions on their own to get the numbers moving downward again.
Cover photo provided by the Office of Governor Steve Sisolak.
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.