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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 information

COVID-19 Update: Why Hesitate?

COVID-19 is still spreading, though that pace of spread seems to be slowing down again here in Nevada. For now, it just seems like our stats continue to stagnate. At least, hospitalizations and deaths remain well below the levels we experienced during prior “waves” of infection surges. 

As vaccinations also seem to be proceeding at a slower pace here in Nevada and nationally, President Joe Biden delivered a speech today to try to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated. Will Biden’s speech work, or might it be time for policymakers and public health authorities to try a different strategy to combat this seemingly stalwart vaccine hesitancy?

Today’s Nevada COVID-19 check-up: Infection rates come down (again), hospitalizations and new deaths remain low, and over half of Nevadans have at least started the vaccination process.

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has slipped further to 0.98, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 98 new infections. Carson City (0.70), Churchill (0.73), Douglas (0.78), Lyon (0.78), Elko (0.82), Washoe (0.90), Humboldt (0.94), and Clark (0.99) Counties all have infection rates under 1.00, while Nye (1.03), White Pine (1.48!!!), Lander (1.61!!!!), and Lincoln (2.17!!!!!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 11.9 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Nye (2.8), Churchill (3.4), Washoe (5.7), Eureka (7.0), Douglas (9.3), Carson City (11.0), Elko (9.7), Lyon (13.2), Carson City (13.3), Clark (13.4), and Storey (17.3) Counties are all reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day, while Humboldt (22.1) and White Pine (40.3) Counties are 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” steadily hovers at 5.7%. And according to the Mayo Clinic, our statewide seven-day test positivity average sits at 7.02%, which is right in the middle of a 4.2% to 9.2% range we’ve been in for the past month. (Apparently, we’re having a hard time finding the testing data based on the “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day” and cumulative test positivity metrics we’ve used in the past, so that’s why I don’t have those new numbers for you here today.) 

In the last week, hospitalizations have crept up slightly. According to Nevada Health Response and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 data tracker, our hospitals are treating 310 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 78 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 388 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,480 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and this week we’re averaging around six COVID-19 deaths per day.

According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 11:30 AM today), 2,540,440 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 2,108,787 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,238,938 first doses have been administered thus far, meaning an estimated 40.2% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 51.3% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 896,881 of these patients have been fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 29.1% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 37.4% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I got my second vaccine dose last Friday, and I’ll post more updates as I await my fully vaccinated future!)

“Getting vaccinated is patriotic. It’s the key to returning to normal, saving lives, and bringing about economic recovery. Fortunately, scheduling an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine in Nevada has never been easier.” 
– Rep. Dina Titus, during her address to the Nevada Legislature yesterday
Dina Titus, COVID-19, Joe Biden, American Rescue Plan, stimulus
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

During her presentation to the Nevada Legislature yesterday, Rep. Dina Titus (D-Las Vegas) declared, “Our job as public servants – yours here in Carson City and mine in Washington – is to give our fellow Nevadans hope. Hope that they can keep a roof over their heads, hope that their children can learn in a safe and healthy environment, hope that they get back to work without fear of illness.”

From there, she proclaimed the American Rescue Plan as a major step towards fulfilling this promise. As Titus noted, “The State of Nevada, our counties, and cities will receive over $4 billion in flexible funding to help address budget gaps, accelerate vaccine distribution, keep frontline workers on the payroll, and provide rent and food assistance to the most vulnerable.”

Dina Titus, COVID-19, Joe Biden, American Rescue Plan, stimulus
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

Yet when asked about Nevada’s and the nation’s slowing pace of vaccination during a press conference following her address, Titus demurred and instead focused on Nevada’s overall progress in vaccinating more people. “What’s been done to improve vaccination is targeted outreach into more reluctant communities,” Titus said. 

Getting back to her address to the Legislature, Titus also made her own pitch for the vaccines: “Please remind your friends, family, and constituents that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, free, and available to everyone regardless of [immigration] status. Getting vaccinated is patriotic. It’s the key to returning to normal, saving lives, and bringing about economic recovery. Fortunately, scheduling an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine in Nevada has never been easier.”

You can’t say we didn’t tell you so, and you shouldn’t get too excited about herd immunity just yet.

Yesterday, The New York Times and The Washington Post said the quiet part out loud: America is unlikely to reach a high enough herd immunity threshold to prevent another massive COVID-19 outbreak any time soon. This is due to the vexing combination of vaccine hesitancy becoming vaccine refusal among a significant chunk of our population, and the ongoing emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants that have the potential to break through the vaccines if we continue to have so many unvaccinated people catching and spreading these new variants.

The Post also reported on another of famed Republican strategist Frank Luntz’s recent focus groups, and the feedback from that focus group of vaccine-hostile Trump voters hews closely to what we’ve been covering in our recent editions of “This Week in Corona Scams”: Vaccine hesitant Americans have completely tuned out “establishment” public health officials like NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci; they’re less afraid of fake vaccination cards than they are of the vaccines; they’re probably paying closer attention to social media “influencers” than to any major public health authorities; and they might be more inclined to listen to their own personal doctors. 

As President Joe Biden launched a special press conference today to announce his new vaccination strategy, it seemed like he was starting to realize that what worked for the first three months of his vaccination strategy probably won’t work as well going forward.

“Now, we’re going to have to bring the vaccines to those who are less eager.”
– President Joe Biden
Joe Biden, Electoral College
Photo by Andrew Davey

Just before Biden began his presentation, the White House released its new vaccination strategy that aims for a minimum 70% of Americans who have at least initiated the vaccination process by July 4. This new strategy better acknowledges the new reality we’re facing by shifting resources away from mass vaccination sites that don’t attract big lines any more, and towards community vaccination clinics and pharmacy clinics where people can walk in for vaccine shots without appointments. Biden is also announcing nearly $250 million for community organizations to help with vaccine outreach, an additional $130 million+ for vaccine outreach targeting historically underserved communities, $250 million for state and local governments to ramp up their own vaccine outreach programs, and over $100 million in American Rescue Plan funds along with additional vaccine doses for rural community vaccination programs (and another $850 million+ in Rescue Plan funds for testing and other COVID-19 mitigation efforts).

To those Americans who have had a hard time navigating the vaccination system up until now, Biden reassured, “I know some people find making an appointment inconvenient. That’s why pharmacies will start to offer walk-in hours. We’re also encouraging our state and local partners to offer walk-in locations as well.” And he added, “We know vaccines are farther away from many rural areas. That’s why we’re working to get vaccines closer to rural communities.”

As Biden celebrated America’s progress in vaccinating over 56% of adults and over 44% of the overall population thus far, he also acknowledged that the nation’s mission must shift from reaching those who’ve already wanted vaccines to reaching those who are trying to decide whether they want to vaccinate: “Now, we’re going to have to bring the vaccines to those who are less eager.”

Biden also announced a new federally run website, vaccines.gov, to provide nationwide vaccination information and assistance: “Go there now. Find a location to get your shot.” He also offered a text-in option: “Text your zip code to 438829. They’ll text back to you with your nearest vaccination center locations.” 

“There are a lot of younger Americans in their 20’s and 30’s who believe they don’t need it. In reality, they do need it. We are still losing hundreds of Americans under age 65 every day. Please, give these [vaccines] a chance.”
– President Joe Biden
Joe Biden
Photo by Andrew Davey

As soon as the FDA approves a COVID-19 vaccine for younger teenagers, as looks likely for Pfizer-BioNTech authorization extending to 12-15 year-old’s, Biden promised the federal government will be ready to extend its vaccination efforts to middle- and high-schoolers, including a guarantee that pre-teens and teens will not be required to get both mRNA vaccine doses at the same location.

Getting back to the overall vaccine landscape, Biden expressed hope that, “As more and more Americans see their friends and family get vaccinated, they’ll be more willing to get vaccinated themselves.” And for zoomers and millennials who are more inclined to believe Joe Rogan over Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden pleaded with them to choose science over fiction: “There are a lot of younger Americans in their 20’s and 30’s who believe they don’t need it. In reality, they do need it. We are still losing hundreds of Americans under age 65 every day. Please, give these [vaccines] a chance.”

Biden closed with a softer pitch for Americans to seek out help from community leaders they trust the most: “There is now plenty of information for Americans to do their homework. Go to someone you trust: a physician, a pharmacist, a faith leader. […] This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. The science of vaccines has been known for decades.” We’ll keep checking over the next two months to see how this works.

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 from people outside your household.

The cover photo was taken by me.

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