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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.

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COVID-19 Update: What the Mu?

COVID-19, COVID-19 Vaccines, vaccine science, health care, Orange County, Santa Ana, California, travel

COVID-19 continues to spread. The pandemic drags on, even though we do have some hopeful signs that it’s finally starting to wane again here in Nevada. Here’s the latest on the state of the pandemic, including a heads-up on a couple of variants that are making headlines.

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Our statewide infection rate finally drops below 1.00 as Clark County’s outbreak continues to subside. Hospitalizations and new deaths are also trending lower, but remain well above our springtime lows. Vaccinations continue to tick higher, as over 48% of Nevadans are now fully vaccinated. 
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has dropped to 0.98 – the first time since May, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 98 new infections. Nye (0.83), Clark (0.93), Humboldt (0.94), and Lincoln (0.96) Counties have infection rates under 1.00, while Carson City (1.01), Elko (1.03), Douglas (1.04), Washoe (1.04), Lyon (1.07), Lander (1.14), White Pine (1.14), Churchill (1.19), Pershing (1.25!), and Mineral (1.29!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 33.3 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Storey (10.4), Esmeralda (16.4), Nye (20.6!), Clark (26.0!), Pershing (31.9!), Elko (36.3!), Carson City (39.9!), Humboldt (45.8!!), Lander (46.5!!), Douglas (47.3!!), Washoe (58.0!!!), Lyon (59.9!!!), Eureka (63.4!!!), Churchill (91.2!!!!!), White Pine (116.3????!!!!), and Mineral (161.7????!!!!) 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 slightly higher to 12.3%. According to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average has slipped slightly lower to 12.61%. According to the Scripps Institute’s, the Delta variant (B.1617.2) remains dominant: Delta and its sub lineages account for at least 92% of new cases in the last 30 days, 91% of new cases in the last 60 days, and about 70% 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 1,075 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 62 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 1,137 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 6,637 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and we’re averaging about 14 COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of this morning), 3,784,610 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 3,255,635 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,809,303 patients have received at least one vaccine dose, meaning an estimated 58.7% of Nevadans (and more specifically, about 71% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 1,497,539 Nevada patients are now fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 48.6% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 59.4% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. 

Summer is (practically) over. Why isn’t COVID-19?

Nearly six months ago, a group of pied pipers in Florida shouted, “COVID is over, baby!”, as they lured tourists back to their crowded beaches and clubs despite evidence that COVID-19 remained far from “over”. Nearly 18 months ago, then President Donald Trump insisted that America only needed “two weeks to stop the spread”, even as he had no plan or intent to deploy anything resembling a coherent public health defense. Just over two months ago, current President Joe Biden cheerfully announced, “America is back!“, even as evidence mounted of a growing Delta Surge and lagging vaccination rates

As much as Americans want this pandemic to end already, real life doesn’t work like those Mervyn’s ads we used to see on TV. We can’t just shout, “Open, open, open!“, and expect great sales inside. In order to end the pandemic, we actually must take significant action to curb infections. We’ve had vaccines on hand for the last nine months, we’ve always had tools like masks and social distancing on hand, and we’ve had the capacity to do more to stop further spread.

So why is COVID-19 still raging here in America? Simply put, far too many politicians and “business community stakeholders” have lacked the will and/or the desire to take sufficient action. We could have expanded our testing and contact tracing capacity to enough of a level where we could have better isolated active infections and safely tapered off the oft-condemned “lockdowns” last year, but we didn’t. We could have put together a comprehensive vaccination strategy that included equitable distribution and plans to combat anti-vaccine disinformation. While the Biden administration put some effort into the former, they waited far too long to act on the latter.

It’s been quite clear all along that we need a better strategy to survive this pandemic – one that’s based on science and rooted in truth. Instead, far too many politicians and pundits want to continue “debatingnostrums that don’t work on COVID-19 while largely outsourcing vaccination policies to the private sector and arguing over whether to “pause” legislation that could encourage more Americans to get the health care they need. We don’t even have any kind of overarching national goal of what our COVID-19 endgame should be. This is simply unsustainable.

How much should we worry about Lambda and Mu?
Joe Biden, White House, White House COVID-19 Response Team, COVID-19
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

As America continues to suffer from the Delta variant, a new variant has entered the chat. Medical scientists first uncovered the Mu variant in Colombia, and Mu has already been detected in 49 U.S. states as of Monday. Rumors began to fly about Mu allegedly being “vaccine resistant”, but what’s the actual truth behind these rumors?

So far we only have an Italian lab study involving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, yet that lab study suggested that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine still offers significant protection from Mu. And for all the similar “vaccine resistant” rumors surrounding the Lambda variant, which was first detected in Peru in August 2020, early trial data also suggest the vaccines hold up fairly well against Lambda. Though there’s plenty more we need to learn about the Mu and Lambda variants, we probably already have the solutions we need – the vaccines, and basic prevention tools like masking, social distancing, testing, and contact tracing. 

Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, Michelle White, Ellie Graeden, Candice McDaniel, Nevada Health Response, COVID-19 Vaccines, COVID-19 Vaccine
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

At last Thursday’s White House COVID-19 Briefing, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci stated, “We’re certainly aware of the Mu variant. We are keeping a very close eye on it. But so far, it is nowhere close to dominant.”

At last week’s Nevada Health Response press call, Dr. Ellie Graeden of Talus Analytics said, “We are tracking the state and continuing to sequence. It is new, and we will continue to monitor for it.” Dr. Graeden also reiterated that more vaccinations are the “primary way to stem the flow” of COVID-19 and inhibit its ability to mutate into new and potentially more dangerous variants.

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 is a screenshot taken by me.

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