COVID-19 is still spreading. Though we’re obviously in a better place now than we were a year ago, it feels awfully premature to simply “declare independence from the virus”.
In advance of the July 4 holiday, here’s a special check-up on the state of our pandemic-era public health.
Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Infection rates and daily new cases surge, hospitalizations are creeping up again, and almost 42% of Nevadans are fully vaccinated. Clark County’s outbreak continues to worsen, and most of the rest of the state isn’t looking so great any more.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has inched even higher to 1.21, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 120 new infections. Douglas (0.77), Elko (0.88), and Carson City (0.92) Counties have infection rates under 1.00, while Nye (1.01), Washoe (1.01), Lyon (1.02), Lincoln (1.03), Churchill (1.06), Lander (1.11), White Pine (1.18), Clark (1.22!), and Humboldt (1.36!) are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 15.0 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Pershing (2.1), Nye (2.8), Humboldt (3.4), Douglas (3.5), Washoe (3.9), Carson City (4.9), Storey (6.9), and Churchill (8.0) are all reporting under ten new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Lyon (10.7), Elko (13.1), White Pine (16.4), Lander (18.1), Clark (18.5) Counties are all suffering higher caseloads.
According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 data tracker, Nevada’s 14-day test positivity average based on “new positives as a percentage of new test encounters” has jumped to 5.5%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has inched higher to 12.20%, which is the highest we’ve seen in the past two months.
— SN Health District (@SNHDinfo) June 29, 2021
COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics in Pahrump every Wednesday, 7 am to 11 am, Community Health Nurse Office, 1981 E Calvada Blvd.
Call 775-751-7070 for more information or to make an appointment
Vaccines by Pfizer (ages 12+), Moderna (18+) and 1-Dose Janssen (18+) available pic.twitter.com/hJOOfWrW8K
— Town of Pahrump (@TownofPahrump) June 30, 2021
This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to climb. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 352 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 79 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 431 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,681 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about four COVID-19 deaths per day.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 2:00 PM today), 3,076,270 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 2,776,098 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,529,482 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 49.7% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 61.4% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,291,822 of these patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 41.9% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 52.4% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I am now fully vaccinated, and I will post more updates in the weeks ahead on my new fully vaccinated life. Also, here’s a reminder that we’re taking next week off for the July 4 holiday.)
As expected, we’re raining on the Resorts World parade. #SorryNotSorry
Last week, Las Vegas went wild over the first new casino resort to open on The Strip in over a decade: Resorts World. Everyone from top Resorts World and Hilton executives to multiple prominent travel bloggers and international media outlets to Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) and multiple Clark County Commissioners were on hand to celebrate the grand opening and the joyous occasion of what might have felt like a “Great Las Vegas Comeback, Baby!”
Leave it to me to be the “bad news bear”, but here goes: As you can see above, our COVID-19 numbers still look rough. In fact our infection rate, caseload, and hospitalizations have actually been trending in the wrong direction in the last week. And as we noted yesterday, the Delta variant is already spreading quite quickly throughout Nevada. Though we’re at least nowhere near the horrific levels of COVID-19 spread that we witnessed this time last year, we are suffering more severe spread now than we were a month ago, when it appeared that our spring surge in vaccinations had succeeded in disrupting the chain of new infections.
As we’ve been documenting for the last month, the rate of new vaccine doses administered has tapered off from our mid-April peak. And as we’ve been discussing for the last month, our lagging vaccination rate puts us at greater risk of another COVID-19 surge, but this time led by the Delta variant that’s more infectious and may result in more severe disease.
Once we factor in the cold, hard facts that only 45% of Clark County’s population have at least initiated the vaccination process as of today (according to Nevada Health Response), and that only 37% of Clark County’s population are fully vaccinated and best prepared to take on Delta, all the maskless crowds at Resorts World start to look less like a victory lap and more like a major public health concern.
Let’s pass on the “Liberate v. Lockdown” red herring and focus on some facts and figures.
Though the U.S. has reached a point in the pandemic where new “lockdown” mass closures don’t seem feasible any more, there’s a huge difference between “no more lockdowns” and “drop almost all health safety rules”. While Hawaii and all the New England states have so many vaccinated residents that they’re reaching the herd immunity level that makes it safe to drop nearly all safety rules, most of the rest of America is just not there yet. And though some “young invincibles” may think COVID-19 is “no big deal” for them, the ongoing mysteries of “Long COVID” strongly suggest otherwise.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada leads the nation this week in both daily new cases and infection rates. Meanwhile on vaccinations, we are #30 in the amount of residents with at least one dose. In a very anticlimactic turn, Massachusetts and Vermont sport the nation’s lowest daily new caseloads while the rest of New England are all below the national average for daily new cases. Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts are also among the Top 10 states with the lowest infection rates, and the rest of New England and Hawaii all had infection rates under 1.00.
Unpopular opinion: Vaccinated people need to mask, particularly indoors.
The WHO has now said it.
The CDC now calls for vaccinated workers in homeless shelters to mask.
While they are not likely to get severely ill, they may get infected and contribute to community spread.
— Rhea Boyd MD, MPH (@RheaBoydMD) June 29, 2021
Per SNHD, 95% of people who have been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated. https://t.co/159MU0bAva
— Megan Messerly (@meganmesserly) June 30, 2021
Look, I get it: It’s human nature to seek out shortcuts and choose the supposed “easy way out” over the more difficult path. But when the more difficult path ultimately leads to a safer and healthier outcome, versus the “easy way out” shortcut that leads to a dead end and a steep cliff, we have to ask ourselves if the “easy way out” is really worthwhile if we’re just going to end up at rock bottom. For the past year “no more lockdowns” pledges have felt like the politically “easy way out”, but we’re once again having to learn the hard way that basing public health decisions on potential campaign ads instead of sound medical science ultimately makes life harder for all of us.
We know more now than we did 16 months ago on how COVID-19 spreads and how we can stop the spread. Fortunately we now have vaccines that prevent severe disease and help in curbing further spread, but those vaccines only work if we actually use them. Unless and until we’re seeing sufficient vaccine uptake to generate the level of herd immunity where we can safely loosen health safety rules, especially on masks and social distancing, we have to decide how much fire we feel comfortable playing with as we continue to struggle with our low vaccination rate while simultaneously welcoming growing crowds of tourists again.
Before we go, here’s one more round of Vaccine Chronicles.
Yesterday, we examined new evidence that reinforces the conclusion that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against the current variants. However, this question still remains: What about patients who got the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen, or J&J) adenoviral vector COVID-19 vaccine?
Though there is no official guidance in place yet, some medical professionals who got vaccinated with J&J are now seeking Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna booster shots due to initial evidence suggesting lower efficacy against the Delta variant for the original one-dose regimen of J&J and two-dose regimen of AstraZeneca, which are both adenoviral vector vaccines. Again, there is no official guidance from health authorities just yet on whether J&J patients should schedule appointments for Pfizer or Moderna booster shots. But so far, the evidence is increasingly pointing towards the mRNA vaccines as our best tools to take on newer variants like Delta.
In a sense, America may have lucked out to a certain extent with the FDA’s slow-walking of AstraZeneca through the regulatory approval process, and with the temporary J&J pause that directed more Americans toward Pfizer and Moderna. But for those who’ve already received J&J “jabs”, we’re awaiting more data to better understand how many booster shots will need to be administered.
Oh, and one more thing: Enjoy the holiday weekend… wisely and safely.
I’m heading back to California to visit my father again, and this time I will be visiting with him being fully vaccinated. While I’ve been enjoying more maskless walks outside lately, I still have masks on hand, just in case.
If you’re not fully vaccinated yet, now is a great time to plan your first and/or second dose. If you are fully vaccinated, keep in mind these best practices for COVID-19 prevention when you’re at locations (especially indoors) that carry higher risk of COVID-19 infection. Many of us have plenty of reasons to celebrate this weekend and throughout the summer. Let’s just try to avoid turning reasons to celebrate into reasons for mourning.
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 maintain best practices to help stop the spread.
The cover photo was taken by me, and this story was updated at 2:08 PM to include newer vaccination data.