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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-19HealthNevada LegislatureNews and informationThe Economy

COVID-19 Update: Vaccine Chronicles, Stimulus Edition

COVID-19 continues to spread in Nevada and throughout America, though we’re now seeing some mixed signs on whether we’re entering a “fourth wave” of increasing infections or resuming further improvement of our stats following a brief uptick in infections. In more clear-cut news, America’s and Nevada’s COVID-19 vaccination stats continue to improve as the Biden administration prepares to invest even more in expanding vaccine access.

Here’s the latest on the state of the pandemic, nationally and here at home.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: New caseloads still look low, but infection rates are ticking up again.

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has rebounded to 0.92, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 92 new infections. Nye (0.60), White Pine (0.65), Elko (0.70), Churchill (0.81), Humboldt (0.86), Douglas (0.88), Lyon (0.88), Carson City (0.90), Clark (0.91), and Washoe (0.96) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Lander (1.04) and Lincoln (1.43!!!) Counties are suffering more rapid spread. Lander (2.6), Lincoln (2.8), Humboldt (5.9), Nye (6.1), Washoe (8.2), Douglas (9.6), Lyon (9.9), Elko (10.0), Churchill (10.3), Storey (10.4), Clark (12.4), Pershing (12.7), and Carson City (13.0) Counties are all reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Mineral County (22.2) is 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 has slipped to 20.7% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), and our seven-day average is back around 15% after rebounding past 20% last week. Nonetheless, these figures remain well above the World Health Organization’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening

According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 309 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 77 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 386 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. As of this week, COVID-19 hospitalizations are the lowest we’ve seen since last October in Southern Nevada, Northern Nevada, and Rural Nevada communities.

Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,040 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today. So far this week, we continue to average around 12 daily deaths, which is the lowest we’ve experienced since last November. According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker, 1,033,680 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 855,890 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded, including 539,447 first doses and 293,644 second doses. As of this morning, an estimated 17.5% of Nevadans have initiated the vaccination process, and an estimated 9.5% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated.

“Every time there’s a surge in travel, there’s a surge of cases in this country. We’re really trying to discourage [high-risk, long-distance] travel at this time.” 
– CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

During this morning’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Response Team acknowledged the bad news of America’s stubbornly high caseloads, infection rates, and death rate alongside the good news of America’s rapid progress in administering more vaccine doses. As CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted the nation’s average daily new caseload at around 59,000 and daily death rate of just under 2,000, she stated, “The pandemic remains a very serious situation with a high level of COVID-19 transmission.”

In better news, the CDC released new guidance for Americans who’ve already been fully vaccinated, and that guidance essentially gives the green light for fully vaccinated individuals to meet each other in-person in small gatherings with no masks or social distancing, and even the green light for fully vaccinated individuals to gather with lower-risk unvaccinated individuals from one household with no masks or social distancing. However when it comes to larger events involving more unvaccinated people from more households, and especially longer-distance air and train travel, the CDC still recommends masks, social distancing, and the rest of the standard COVID-19 precautions. 

In her effort to explain why this guidance includes all these caveats instead of some Prince-esque permission to “party like it’s 2019”, Walensky stated, “The science of COVID-19 is complex, and our knowledge of this disease continues to evolve.” Then when reporters pressed for a more thorough explanation, Walensky said more bluntly, “Over 90% of the population are not yet vaccinated.” She also pointed out, “Every time there’s a surge in travel, there’s a surge of cases in this country. We’re really trying to discourage [high-risk, long-distance] travel at this time.”

“It gives America the resources we need to beat the pandemic.” 
– Andy Slavitt, White House Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response, on the Senate’s approval of the American Rescue Plan
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Over the weekend the U.S. Senate passed its own version of the American Rescue Plan on a party-line 50-49 vote, and we’ll have more details tomorrow on what kind of stimulus aid Nevadans can expect in the days ahead. In the meantime, let’s just focus on the $46 billion that the Senate approved for the federal government’s COVID-19 public health response, including improvements to vaccine distribution and administration. 

In hailing the Senate’s passage of the Rescue Plan, White House Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response Andy Slavitt declared, “It gives America the resources we need to beat the pandemic.” He continued, “Turning [vaccine allocations] into more vaccinations requires more vaccinators and more vaccination sites. The American Rescue Plan includes tens of billions more [funding] for vaccinations.”

Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

White House COVID-19 Senior Advisor Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith later added that should the Rescue Plan finally be ready for Biden’s signature later this week, the Biden administration is ready to expand on what they’ve already accomplished thus far with existing federal dollars: 18 community vaccination centers in seven states with the ability to administer 61,000 vaccinations per week, at least 2.5 million vaccine doses administered per week through the federal retail pharmacy vaccination program, and 250 community health centers across the U.S. selected thus far to establish federally backed on-site vaccination clinics.

As she explained why the Biden administration seeks to more aggressively expand these targeted community vaccination programs, Nunez-Smith declared, “Equity is at the foundation, at the center, of the administration’s COVID-19 response.” While Nunez-Smith thanked Nevada and other states that are putting in effort to factor in racial equity to their COVID-19 response, she also declared that this mission of public health equity is far from fully accomplished: “All the evidence points to one simple truth: We can do this. […] We still have work to do to meet communities where they are.”

“We’re looking at how we can invest in public health in perpetuity, and not just in the short term.” 
– Julia Peek, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Deputy Administrator of Community Health Services
COVID-19, Steve Sisolak, Caleb Cage
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Even as thousands of Nevadans eagerly await notice of new $1,400+ “stimulus checks” arriving in their bank accounts, Nevada state health officials aren’t counting any “stimulus chickens” before the legislative eggs fully hatch. During today’s Nevada Health Response press call, Nevada DHHS Deputy Administrator of Community Health Services Julia Peek indicated that state health authorities are considering how they can get the most bang for these bucks: “We’re looking at how we can invest in public health in perpetuity, and not just in the short term.” 

Peek also acknowledged, “Nevada has not had large opportunities to invest in public health in the past. […] If more funding comes, we’ll look at all the funding and where we have the greatest need.” So far state officials are considering investing in more mobile health units to further expand testing and vaccination availability, and they’re waiting to see how the federal government will distribute Rescue Plan dollars to help Nevada continue the testing and contact tracing programs that launched last year under previous federal grants.

As for current vaccination efforts, Candice McDaniel, Chief of DHHS’ Bureau of Child, Family, and Community Wellness, stated that Nevada state health authorities have yet to fully evaluate the CDC’s new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans. She also reiterated state and federal policies on vaccine costs for patients receiving them

As McDaniel pointed out, “The vaccine is at no cost to any individual. Their insurance companies may be billed, but there is no out-of-pocket cost whatsoever.” And for any Nevada residents who worry they may not have the right paperwork, McDaniel said, “We still need identification, but there is no [minimum residency] requirement. They will not be turned away.”

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.

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