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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: Zooming Out, Yet Close Within

Every week, we’ve been digging deep into the COVID-19 pandemic and paying particularly close attention to our outbreaks here in Nevada to get a better sense of how this disease is spreading and what we can do to stop it. 

We’re definitely doing more of that today, but first let’s zoom out and see what’s happening in the rest of the U.S. to see how severe the outbreak remains. Also, we find out just how close to home COVID-19 has spread here in Nevada.

Yes, it’s really this bad. Come and see for yourself.

There are reasons why we continue to urge adherence to proper precautionary measures like wearing masks and social distancing. These are largely the same reasons why we also harp on governmental policies on testing and contact tracing. And just looking at how President Donald Trump contracted COVID-19 himself and turned the White House into a COVID-19 hotspot, it seems pretty obvious enough.

But for those who need or want to understand further, let’s look at the country overall. Looking at Covid Act Now’s map of the U.S., we see the most red in the Northern Rockies, the Upper Midwest, and the South – areas where we find some of the states that have done the least to contain COVID-19. The COVID-19 infection rate is above 1.00 (or every 100 infections lead to over 100 new infections) in most of the country. The seven-day average positive test rate exceeds the WHO’s recommended 5% safe reopening benchmark in most of the country. And most states now have daily new caseloads exceeding 10 per every 100,000, including nine states in the Upper Midwest and the Rockies with daily new cases exceeding 30 per every 100,000.

For far-right pundits’ trumpeting of cherry-picked data points to claim that “lockdowns don’t work” because “people don’t want the government telling them what to do”, we only have to look at America’s continually bleak COVID-19 stats to see otherwise. Especially when we compare and contrast COVID-19’s trajectory in the U.S. to that in other highly developed countries, it’s not too hard to notice the difference between Trump’s policy of “liberating” easy spread of COVID-19 and these other developed nations’ more public health centered policies

Even if you’ve already seen that at least 219,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, don’t minimize it or “explain it away”. Look at this terrible truth, and examine the larger picture of rising infections and hospitalizations. If the federal government and more state and local authorities had taken proper action earlier this year, we could have saved thousands of lives, and we possibly could have even begun to loosen health safety restrictions this year with less tragic consequences.

“At this time, it’s unclear how I’ve been exposed and where I contracted this virus. What we know is that COVID-19 is highly contagious and travels through the air.” 
– Caleb Cage, Nevada Health Response
COVID-19, Steve Sisolak, Caleb Cage
Screenshot provided by Andrew Davey

During today’s Nevada Health Response press call, Director Caleb Cage made a stunning announcement: “I was confirmed to have COVID-19 on October 6.” Cage then described the symptoms he’s experienced since last Tuesday, but stressed that he’s had a mild case and that he’s feeling better now.

In response to questions on how he got it, Cage stated, “At this time, it’s unclear how I’ve been exposed and where I contracted this virus. What we know is that COVID-19 is highly contagious and travels through the air.”

Michelle White, Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) Chief of Staff, also joined today’s call to clarify the Governor’s Office’s protocols on COVID-19. She promised that they will notify the press and the public as soon as Sisolak tests positive for COVID-19 if that ever happens, but she also stated that they adhere to federal and state laws on patient privacy in declining to identify specific staff who test positive. Still, she said that they will continue to notify the press and the public whenever anyone on Sisolak’s staff tests positive. Both White and Cage also explained that the Governor’s Office adheres to stricter than CDC protocols in mandating 14 day quarantines and universal testing and contact tracing whenever anyone tests positive, as Cage did in Sisolak’s Carson City office last week.

Now, here’s our weekly COVID-19 stat check.
Nevada Legislature
Photo by Andrew Davey

According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide infection rate remains at a dangerously high 1.10, or every 100 COVID-19 infections leading to another 110 new infections. Clark County’s 1.11 infection rate still tops most other Nevada counties, but Lyon’s is now the worst in the state at 1.12. Nye (1.04), Washoe (1.03), Douglas (1.00), Elko (1.00), and Carson City (0.94) are off their September highs, but their respective infection rates are still above their late summer lows. Daily case growth remains high in Washoe County at 22.2 per 100,000, though Lander County now has the highest case growth in the state (at 31.0 per 100,000) and Clark County isn’t too far behind (at 17.5 per 100,000).

As we can see at the official Nevada Health Response data dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s statewide cumulative test positivity rate (as measured by the Indy) remains at 11.6%, and the seven-day average has reverted to the 15%-20% “trading range” that we last witnessed during the worst weeks of our “summer surge” after staying in the 10%-15% range for most of September.

After several weeks of hospitalizations hitting lows we hadn’t seen since June, statewide COVID-19 (combined confirmed and suspected) hospitalizations have crept back up to 509. Nevada has counted 1,664 confirmed COVID-19 deaths so far this year. While our death rate has averaged below 10 per day for most of the last month, keep in mind that the death rate tends to be a lagging indicator. And even if newer strains of COVID-19 ultimately prove to be less lethal, we’re only beginning to learn about the long-term damage that COVID-19 inflicts on surviving patients.

“It will take everyone’s continued effort to defeat this disease.” 
– Julia Peek, Nevada Health Response
COVID-19, Steve Sisolak
Screenshot by Andrew Davey

During today’s press call, Cage stated that he himself used the state’s official COVID Trace app to identify his own infection and notify close contacts of their potential exposure. Cage himself said, “Mitigation measures can work the faster we can identify and contain cases, the more we can minimize spread to our friends, family, coworkers and loved ones.” And Deputy Administrator Julia Peek added, “It will take everyone’s continued effort to defeat this disease.”

Zooming out from there, Nevada’s public health agencies have successfully contact traced 25.3% of our total COVID-19 infections so far this year. In the days ahead we’ll see how the state’s contact tracing efforts have affected this outbreak in Sisolak’s Carson City office, and we may eventually get a better understanding on whether the state’s policies will prove more effective in curbing COVID-19 in Sisolak’s office than Trump’s have been when it comes to COVID-19’s spread in and around the White House.

If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health DistrictWashoe County Health DistrictCarson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For 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.

The cover photo is a screenshot captured by me.

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