COVID-19 continues to spread across Nevada and America more slowly, but due to the more voracious pace of America’s COVID-19 epidemic last year the nation mourns the loss of over 500,000 people to this disease. And following the recent Texas blizzard, Nevada and the rest of the nation experienced some delays in COVID-19 vaccine distribution. However vaccine distribution now appears to be back on track, and the White House’s COVID-19 Response Team had an announcement on making masks more accessible to more people.
“We’re doing the work. We will waste no time in getting these life-saving doses into people’s arms.”
– Jeff Zients, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator
Early this morning, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that its scientists have found that Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine is 66% effective at preventing moderate-to-severe COVID-19 infections. At first this news reads like a big disappointment, but tucked in the details is evidence that it’s 85% effective at preventing severe COVID-19 disease, and that the people who received the single dose in its large clinical trial suffered zero hospitalizations and zero deaths. And because this Johnson & Johnson vaccine is single-dose and requires no special cold storage, it will likely be logistically easier (including cheaper) to deliver and administer.
During today’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients stated that 3-4 million Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses will go out next week if the FDA grants emergency use authorization, and 20 million doses should go out by the end of March. It’s lower than earlier estimates suggesting that as many as 40 million doses could be distributed by late March, but this still keeps the Biden administration on track to meet Biden’s goal of having more than enough vaccine doses for all American adults thanks to Biden securing commitments from Pfizer and Moderna to provide a total of 600 million doses of their two-shot vaccine doses by late July.
Zooming out to the overall U.S. vaccination strategy, Zients admitted that the Texas blizzard made a real dent in vaccine distribution: “We’re committed to providing clarity in our progress, including when we hit bumps in the road.” While the current seven-day average of 1.4 million doses administered per day remains well above the 860,000 daily average America experienced when Biden first took office, this is lower than the 1.7 million per day the U.S. achieved pre-blizzard.
But now that the blizzard is behind us, the Biden administration is delivering the fifth consecutive week of supply increase: from 8.6 million doses per week in mid-January to 14.6 million doses this week for state and local health offices, and a separate 2.1 million doses this week for retail pharmacies that participate in the federal pharmacy vaccination clinic program. As Zients put it, “We’re doing the work. We will waste no time in getting these life-saving doses into people’s arms.” Zients also promised continuing progress going forward: “Every day, the president pushes us to improve on our whole-of-government efforts […] to vaccinate Americans as quickly, as efficiently, and as safely as possible.”
“One of the most impactful things we can do is wear a mask.”
– Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
As most Americans continue to wait for more vaccination opportunities to open up, fewer Americans will have to wait for masks to become available. Today, the White House announced that they will begin distributing masks to over 1,300 community health centers and some 60,000 food banks throughout America.
During today’s briefing, Zients said, “Any American who needs masks will be able to walk into any of these locations and obtain a high-quality mask. […] All comply with CDC guidelines, and all are made in the U.S.A. We are working to level the playing field by delivering high-quality masks.”
Counties in states with statewide mask mandates were 43% less likely to have rapid increases in #COVID19 cases during the summer of 2020. Nonmetropolitan counties were 67% less likely. For more information see @AnnalsOfEpi: https://t.co/jdeMBqAMs2. pic.twitter.com/HXpzStmQ9a
— CDC (@CDCgov) February 23, 2021
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky hailed today’s decision to provide more free masks, as the nation has far more work to do to get this pandemic under control: “One of the most impactful things we can do is wear a mask. […] The CDC continues to recommend that everyone over 2 years of age wear a mask [when outside one’s home].”
Shortly after today’s briefing, President Joe Biden officially extended the national emergency declaration on COVID-19. And pending Congress’ passage of the American Rescue Plan (the House may pass Biden’s stimulus bill as soon as this Friday), the Biden administration may soon have more funds available for further expansion of vaccination programs and the overall health response effort.
And finally, here’s today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate holds steady at 0.74, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 74 new infections. Nye (0.64), Lyon (0.68), Clark (0.72), Douglas (0.72), Churchill (0.76), Humboldt (0.77), Washoe (0.78), Elko (0.79), Carson City (0.80), Lander (0.87), and White Pine (0.92) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Lincoln County (1.06) once again suffers more rapid spread. Lander (2.6), Lyon (7.5), Douglas (7.6), Churchill (8.0), Pershing (8.5), Washoe (9.6), Carson City (11.5), Nye (11.7), Humboldt (11.9), Clark (12.8), Elko (14.9), and Mineral (15.9) Counties are all reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while White Pine County (35.8) 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 holds steady at 20.9% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), and our seven-day average recently dropped below 15% for the first time since last October. Nonetheless, these figures remain well above the World Health Organization’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening.
#COVID19: If you had an appointment for your second Moderna dose at Cashman or Las Vegas Convention Center, Feb. 18-20, your appointment for the second Moderna dose was canceled. If it hasn't been rescheduled yet, you can call 1-800-401-0946 for help: https://t.co/IYwwMQRgTQ pic.twitter.com/9rsN8nOcNo
— SN Health District (@SNHDinfo) February 23, 2021
According to the Nevada Hospital Association, our hospitals are treating 456 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 78 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 534 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. This amounts to 11% of Nevada’s total number of patients in our hospitals. As of this morning, Nevada’s hospitals are reporting overall occupancy rates at 71% of staffed beds, 61% of adult ICU beds, and 27% of ventilators being used.
Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 4,903 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today. So far this week, we continue to average just under 25 daily deaths. According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker, 719,880 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 598,423 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded, including 405,839 first doses and 181,901 second doses. As of this morning, an estimated 13.2% of Nevadans have initiated the vaccination process, and an estimated 5.9% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated.
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.