COVID-19 is still spreading, though we have more evidence indicating that the spread is slowing nationally and here in Nevada. Even though vaccinations continue at a slower pace, we are seeing more signs that our earlier rapid rollout of a more robust vaccination program is providing some real return on investment.
Here’s the latest on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, across America and here at home.
Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Infection rates and caseloads drop lower, hospitalizations and deaths remain very low, and over 35% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate appears stable at 0.84, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 84 new infections. Carson City (0.66), Lyon (0.67), Washoe (0.77), Clark (0.82), Douglas (0.82), Churchill (0.89), and White Pine (0.93) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Elko (1.04), Humboldt (1.11), Nye (1.13), Lander (1.55!!!!), and Lincoln (3.41!!!!!!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 7.8 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Washoe (2.7), Churchill (4.0), Carson City (5.4), Lyon (5.7), Eureka (7.0), Clark (8.7), Nye (9.2), Douglas (9.3), Pershing (10.6), Humboldt (12.7), and White Pine (19.4) Counties are all reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Elko (20.6) and Lander (25.8) Counties are well over that benchmark.
According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard, Nevada’s 14-day test positivity average based on “new positives as a percentage of new test encounters” has slipped further to 4.4%, which is the lowest we’ve seen in the last 11 months. And according to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average clocks in at 5.69%, which sits at the low end of a 5.3% to 7.9% range we’ve been in for the past month.
Appointments are still available for these upcoming COVID-19 Vaccination events! A limited number of walk-ins will be accepted. At this time Pfizer is the only COVID-19 vaccine authorized for those ages 12 and older! To schedule an appointment visit https://t.co/LakBUReSeb. pic.twitter.com/Tppe4FSjV8
— Carson City Health (@CCHealthEd) May 25, 2021
We have plenty of appointments available this week at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center. Book an appointment here: https://t.co/i40kpJCNaD
— COVID19Washoe (@Covid19Washoe) May 24, 2021
This week, COVID-19 hospitalizations remain low and stable. According to Nevada Health Response and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 data tracker, our hospitals are treating 231 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 43 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 274 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,563 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we continue to average four to five COVID-19 deaths per day.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 11:30 AM today), 2,822,990 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 2,443,724 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,370,128 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 44.5% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 56% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,100,149 of these patients have been fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 35.7% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 45.6% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I got my second vaccine dose late last month, and I’ll post an update this Thursday on my impending fully vaccinated future!)
Is this gamble really worth it?
As Southern Nevada prepares for our first major indoor convention since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are entering the first major test of whether Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) pivot to a more aggressive reopening regime is “good for business” or a recipe for another viral disaster. Since our June 1 full statewide reopening is mostly unconditional, our attention turns to our slow but fairly steady upticks in vaccinations to get a better sense of whether we can survive this latest rush to reopen en masse.
While Nevada public health agencies have turned to opening more pop-up vaccination clinics to reach more people and administer more doses, other states have adopted more eye-popping vaccination strategies. Ohio has particularly attracted plenty of attention over Governor Mike DeWine’s (R) launch of the “Vax-a-Million” “vaccine lottery” to entice more people to “get the jab”. Maryland and Kentucky have since launched their own versions of a “vaccine lottery”, and states like West Virginia, New York, and Maine have introduced “free giveaways” to essentially bribe residents into the vaccination clinic.
As is typically the case, we Americans tend to glamorize carnival shows and circus acts, and we tend to ignore or forget to get “back to basics” when necessary. While it’s increasingly looking like fully vaccinated people face very minimal risk of contracting COVID-19, we’re still not 100% risk-free so long as we have a significant chunk of our population who remain unvaccinated. Yet even as a growing number of businesses and state and local governments are rushing ahead to ditch the masks and “party like it’s 2019”, they’re not establishing any kind of regulatory standard to ensure that certain bad actors are not gaming the system and inviting unnecessary danger into other people’s lives.
As much as many of us want to fulfill the dream embodied by the famous 1985 Dire Straits song, we can’t realistically expect “money for nothing and checks for free”. Or to use the language of economics, we nearly always run into opportunity costs, and there really is no such thing as a purely “free lunch”. Either we accept some kind of “vaccine passport” to ensure that newly reopened businesses and public spaces remain safe environments, we continue to accept and enforce some universal baseline standards for mask wearing and social distancing as we work to get more people vaccinated, or we just accept the heightened risk of another wave of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths in the near-to-intermediate future by choosing neither of the first two options.
“The only way to win is to get vaccinated.”
– Andy Slavitt, White House Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response
During today’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, Senior Advisor for COVID-19 Response Andy Slavitt sought to put a more positive spin on all the recent “vaccine lottery” hype. After heaping a generous amount of bipartisan praise on DeWine for his effort to boost Ohio’s vaccination count, Slavitt declared, “The only way to win is to get vaccinated.” He also said, “People do care about getting vaccinated, but it turns out they have other things they care about too. Some of those things might encourage people to think about what might otherwise be a lower priority.”
Slavitt then added, “People may say that all of this is frivolous. I say that anything that works to get us out of this pandemic is worth it.” And a little later, Slavitt pivoted to a more serious message for holdouts who continue to refuse to “get the jab”: “Unless you’re vaccinated, you’re at risk. As this virus looks for a place to spread, it won’t go to a vaccinated person first. It will look to you.”
Slavitt also continued to plead with Americans to tune out the anti-vaxxers who flood our social media feeds and instead seek out trustworthy medical advice on vaccination and COVID-19 prevention: “Don’t let any guy on Facebook answer your questions when better answers [from real medical professionals] are available.”
“We need everyone in this effort if we are to be successful. […] Together, we can ensure that every community can make it to the other side of this pandemic.”
– Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, White House Senior COVID-19 Advisor
On the vaccination front, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci offered this assessment of the current landscape: “When you look at vaccines, things continue to look better and better.” Fauci specified that the most recent data suggest the vaccines that are currently available work well against all known variants, and that he’s encouraged by Moderna’s presentation of trial results showing that its vaccine works for 12-17 year-old adolescents.
White House Senior COVID-19 Response Advisor Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith also voiced confidence, thanks to recent data suggesting that America is closing the racial inequity gap on vaccinations. Still, Dr. Nunez-Smith said that there’s no work to do in closing the wealth gap in vaccine access, and in bringing more vaccination opportunities into rural communities. According to Dr. Nunez-Smith, “We need everyone in this effort if we are to be successful. […] Together, we can ensure that every community can make it to the other side of this pandemic.”
In a far cry from her warning of possible “impending doom” nearly two months ago, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky voiced more optimism amidst our renewed drops in infections, hospitalizations, and deaths: “I remain cautious but hopeful that we will continue to see this trend develop as more Americans get vaccinated.” She continued, “As more Americans get vaccinated, more of us can get back to living closer to normal. All of this is possible because vaccinations are going up, and cases and community spread are coming down.”
When asked later if she’s worried that Memorial Day weekend travel exposes Americans to greater risk of infection, Dr. Walensky pointed to the nation’s continuing (if slower now) progress in vaccinations as proof that we’re really at a better place now than we were at the start of the summer travel season last year. Still, just to make sure, she did slip in this timely PSA: “As the holiday weekend approaches, I encourage you to give yourself and your loved ones the gift of protection through vaccination. Please, everyone, enjoy a safe, healthy, and happy Memorial Day weekend.”
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check Immunize Nevada for more information on vaccine availability in your area, check Nevada Health Response for testing 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 when necessary.
The cover photo is a screenshot taken by me.