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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-19HealthNews and informationPolitical AnalysisThe Economy

COVID-19 Update: We Have a Mandate

Las Vegas, Las Vegas Strip, Clark County, COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to spread. The pandemic continues to rage, and Americans continue to wonder how the hell we got here. As summer nears its end, let’s assess how we’re doing and what else we must do to survive the fall.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Our statewide infection rate is back above 1.00. Clark and Nye Counties’ outbreaks continue to subside, but Washoe County and most of the rest of Rural Nevada are trending in the wrong direction again. Hospitalizations and new deaths are also trending lower, but remain well above our springtime lows. Vaccinations continue to tick higher, as over 49% of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated. 
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, COVID-19 vaccine, vaccine, mask
Photo by Andrew Davey

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has risen again to 1.03, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 103 new infections. Nye (0.68), White Pine (0.74), Clark (0.95), and Douglas (0.96) Counties have infection rates under 1.00, while Carson City (1.01), Humboldt (1.04), Churchill (1.07), Washoe (1.09), Lyon (1.14), Elko (1.16), Lander (1.22!), Lincoln (1.23!), and Pershing (1.30!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 33.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Nye (20.3!), Clark (24.1!), Storey (34.6!), Pershing (42.5!!), Esmeralda (49.1!!), Douglas (52.9!!!), Washoe (59.2!!!), Carson City (60.3!!!), Elko (63.6!!!), Humboldt (76.4!!!!), Lincoln (77.2!!!!), Churchill (87.2!!!!), Lander (87.8!!!!), Mineral (98.3!!!!!), Lyon (104.6????!!!!), and Eureka (116.3????!!!!) Counties are all reporting over 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day.

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” ticked lower to 11.28%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has rebounded to 13.76%. According to the Scripps Institute’s Outbreak.info, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant: Delta and its sub lineages account for at least 87% of new cases in the last 30 days, 91% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 71% of Nevada’s confirmed COVID-19 cases since February. 

This week, our COVID-19 hospitalizations are trending lower again. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 1,012 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 108 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 1,120 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 6,728 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging just over 20 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of yesterday), 3,844,840 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,284,302 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,822,289 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 59.2% of Nevadans (and more specifically, about 71.5% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,511,825 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 49.1% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 59.9% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. 

So how effective are the COVID-19 vaccines, really?

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, SEIU 1107, UMC, health care
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

With all the ongoing chatter over breakthrough infections, it can be incredibly easy to lose sight of the big picture on the COVID-19 vaccines. In recent days, we’ve found more data showing the efficacy of these vaccines. In Canada, the Dana Lalla School of Public Health found the COVID-19 vaccines in use have thus far been 85.1% effective against infection, 96.3% effective against the need for hospitalization, and 98% against the level of severe disease requiring ICU admission in Canada’s most populous Province of Ontario as of September 8. Canada currently offers the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson (Janssen, or J&J), and AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD COVID-19 vaccines.

Meanwhile here in the U.S., a CDC-led real world study just dropped in the New England Journal of Medicine last Thursday. This study included 63,000 hospital and urgent care clinic visits from January 1 to June 22, and it shows that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been 90% effective in keeping Americans aged 50 and older out of the hospital. 

Closer to home, the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) released updated data on breakthrough infections in Clark County on September 2. As of last week, only 0.75% of fully vaccinated Clark County residents suffered breakthrough infections, only 0.04% of fully vaccinated residents were hospitalized due to COVID-19, and only 0.01% of fully vaccinated residents died from COVID-19. So far only Clark County tracks infections, hospitalizations, and deaths among fully vaccinated individuals, but Washoe County has also begun to publicly release breakthrough infection data. In Washoe, only 0.67% of fully vaccinated residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

For all the rhetoric from anti-vaccine activists and astroturf front groups that “vaccines are unproven” and “the COVID-19 vaccines are more dangerous than COVID-19 itself”, that couldn’t be further from the real truth. We don’t need any more media pundits to sh–post any more “hot takes” on the “need for middle ground” on public health. We need to actually follow the science. The science clearly shows that these COVID-19 vaccines work.

So what will we do about it?
Joe Biden
Photo by Andrew Davey

Last Thursday President Joe Biden signed executive orders to require vaccinations for: all federal workers; all workers at businesses with active federal government contracts, including health care workers at facilities that benefit from Medicare and Medicaid funds; and all employers with 100 or more workers. It’s the greatest step yet that the Biden administration is taking to boost America’s vaccination rate and finally overcome the summer-long Delta Surge. 

After initially jumping into the worldwide lead on vaccinations, America has since fallen behind the U.K. and most of the European Union (E.U.). It’s really not that hard to figure out how and why this happened: Multiple E.U. member states have moved quickly to adopt and enforce vaccination requirements as part of their reopening plans, and fewer European policymakers have opted to turn public health into just another partisan political football.

I’ve tried my best to make it no secret that America took our head start on the COVID-19 vaccines and squandered that early advantage by succumbing to political hijinks. We have a whole lot of catching up to do, so it’s about damned time for federal, state, and local health authorities to step up.

Once more, with meaning: Public health and economic strength go hand-in-hand.

Here in Nevada, our state government and our state’s most powerful private-sector employers continue their own progression to adopt stronger vaccination rules. Last Friday, the Nevada State Board of Health approved 4-0 a new set of rules that require state workers at the Nevada Department and Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), as well as outside contractors who deliver services on behalf of DHHS and/or NDOC, to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 by November 1. 

Meanwhile at the Life Is Beautiful festival in Downtown Las Vegas this weekend, attendees will be required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of entry. Caesars Entertainment has already made its Harrah’s Resort and Casino in New Orleans America’s first casino to require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for general entry, and both MGM and Caesars appear to be in full agreement with Live Nation on requiring universal proof of vaccination or recent negative COVID-19 test results at concert venues like MGM’s House of Blues at Mandalay Bay and Caesars’ Brooklyn Bowl at the Linq Promenade.

Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care
Photo by Andrew Davey

Wynn Resorts has been requiring workers to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing since April 8. Salaried MGM Resorts workers who don’t exclusively work from home must provide proof of vaccination by October 15 in order to keep their jobs. Over the weekend, Resorts World and Westgate announced their own respective employee vaccine mandates: a vaccination requirement for new Resorts World workers starting today, and a universal vaccine mandate for all Westgate workers beginning October 15. 

As we’ve been saying on these pages all along, there has never been any real “conflict between health and the economy”. Public health is essential to economic well-being. As private sector “stakeholders” have been signaling for some time, and as a growing chorus of public policymakers are now coming around to recognize, we can’t sustain economic recovery absent sufficient public health recovery.

2020 Election, economy, Las Vegas Strip
Photo by Andrew Davey

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.

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