Governor Steve Sisolak (D) made some eye-popping news at his press conference in Carson City tonight: “I am very confident that every county will be able to reopen at 100% capacity by June 1.” No really, Sisolak just announced that he will end statewide social distancing requirements on May 1, and that the state is setting a new goal of all counties returning to 100% capacity by June 1.
Also: What the hell is going on with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine? If you’ve come here searching for answers, at least we’re trying to get you some.
First, as promised, a quick breakdown of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine news
6 cases out of 7 million doses.
This is an extremely rare (less than 1 in a million) “safety signal.” Its normal for FDA to investigate, and to pause while it does out of caution.
I got the J&J vaccine 8 days ago. I’m not losing sleep over this. https://t.co/J56BtGSCG3
— Dr. Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen) April 13, 2021
I think it should do the latter.
Think of it this way: It's pretty hard to claim there's a vast conspiracy to suppress secret deaths and side effects when the whole damn system literally stops because it found 6 cases of a thing out of 7 million doses. https://t.co/m9OmcKpm6l
— Maggie Koerth (@maggiekb1) April 13, 2021
Just before I posted that story on the beginning of my own vaccination experience, I saw the news alerts on the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen, or J&J) vaccine. So what the hell is going on with the J&J vaccine? Long story short: Federal regulators have recommended a “pause” in J&J use due to six patients experiencing blood clots due to a very rare condition that’s so far been found in these six patients among the 6.8 million+ patients who’ve received J&J vaccine shots.
In fact, it’s far more likely for patients to experience blood clots as a result of COVID-19 infection than from either J&J or the AstraZeneca adenoviral vector based vaccine. Nonetheless, this “pause” in J&J vaccine administration shows how the pharmaceutical regulatory system works in taking action on even the most remote of potential patient safety issues. Contrary to claims from the anti-vaccine movement about some “big guv’mint/big pharma conspiracy!”, this offers further proof that there is no conspiracy to inject “toxins!” into people. And contrary to former President Donald Trump’s baseless, rumor-mongering statement from earlier today, there is no evidence of the FDA favoring certain vaccine suppliers over others.
If anything, more medical and public health experts are more worried about misinformation about the J&J vaccine fueling more “vaccine hesitancy” than they are about the safety of the J&J vaccine. And even though the J&J vaccine has only provided about 5% of the vaccine doses administered nationally, this nonetheless complicates America’s vaccination hopes going forward because J&J was expected to provide an easier one-dose regimen in communities who will be harder to reach with the more cold storage dependent and two-dose recommended Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
“No, it doesn’t change our plans at all. We are awaiting further guidance on the J&J vaccine.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak, claiming that the J&J vaccine “pause” will not harm the state’s prospects for more vaccinations and wider reopening
Following the joint announcement from the CDC and the FDA on the J&J vaccine, Nevada state health officials confirmed that they would abide by the feds’ request to “pause” J&J use, and that they would “update Nevadans on the plans for the mobile vaccine units” that were carrying J&J vaccine doses. At his press conference in Carson City moments ago, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) simply said this: “No, it doesn’t change our plans at all. We are awaiting further guidance on the J&J vaccine.”
Sisolak then added, “We’re awaiting future guidance. We will follow along accordingly,” regarding future FDA announcements on when they will endorse the administration of J&J vaccine doses again. Sisolak also confirmed that he was on a White House call with Governors earlier today to discuss the recent J&J developments. (Editor’s Note, and April 14 UPDATE: Nevada Health Response confirmed that they and FEMA will redeploy the mobile vaccination units that had embarked on a rural vaccination tour with Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses and plan to return three weeks after their initial visits to administer second doses.)
Because Nevada has been receiving so many more Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine doses in recent weeks, Sisolak voiced confidence that vaccinations will remain open to all Nevadans aged 16 and up. He also promised, “As more vaccine doses become available, state health officials will work with counties to provide more equity in providing more vaccine doses where they are most accessible.”
And more than that, Sisolak insisted that more Nevadans schedule their vaccination appointments in order to guarantee an even more robust reopening schedule going forward: “If counties continue to follow these guidelines, wear a mask and get a vaccine, we should be fine. […] Another day that goes by when we get another shot in the arm is another good day for us.”
“It’s a commonsense bargain. If we all continue to wear masks, we can all prepare to reopen on June 1.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
In another big development, Sisolak announced, “I am very confident that every county will be able to reopen at 100% capacity by June 1. […] We will remove the statewide social distancing requirement as of May 1.” This comes amidst Nevada’s continuing progress in administering more vaccine doses, yet this also comes amidst another spike in new COVID-19 infections.
Despite the recent resurgence in new COVID-19 cases, and despite the pleas from both the Biden administration’s public health team and outside public health experts for states and localities to slow down their rapid relaxation of health safety rules, Sisolak indicated that the state is on track to not just stay the course, but actually race at a faster pace. While Sisolak said he’s been in communication with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) about the worsening outbreak in her state, he also said he’s not worried about the recent “slight increases” in infections here in our state.
In response to questions on whether this move is a reaction to some counties’ insistence on a more rapid reopening schedule and an end to the statewide mask mandate, Sisolak retorted, “We’ve got three weeks left. Businesses wanted time to plan. […] I’m not interested in who gets credit. We have made the best decisions we can. This is the best news we’ve been able to deliver in a long time.”
And regarding the mask mandate, Sisolak declared that will remain in place statewide. According to Sisolak, “The mask mandate is a statewide standard. Counties have no authority to pass resolutions against enforcing it.” He continued, “It’s a commonsense bargain. If we all continue to wear masks, we can all prepare to reopen on June 1.”
And finally, here’s tonight’s extra special Nevada COVID-19 check-up.
According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s statewide COVID-19 infection rate has held steady at 1.14, meaning that every 100 COVID-19 infections will lead to another 114 new infections. Douglas (0.78), Lyon (0.85), Elko (0.90), White Pine (0.91), and Washoe (0.93) Counties and Carson City (0.94) all have infection rates under 1.00, while Nye (1.07), Churchill (1.14!), Clark (1.20!!!), Humboldt (1.25!!!), Lincoln (1.44!!!!), and Lander (3.46!!!!!!) Counties are all suffering more rapid spread. Statewide, we’re seeing 13.8 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day. Nye (3.1), Washoe (6.0), White Pine (6.0), Pershing (6.4), Storey (6.9), Lyon (8.9), Elko (9.5), Douglas (11.1), Churchill (12.6), Humboldt (15.3), Clark (16.1), Carson City (16.9), and Lincoln (19.5) Counties are all reporting under 20 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 per day.
According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard and The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate holds steady at 20.3% (according to the Indy’s calculation of “new positives as a percent of new people tested each day”), while our seven-day average is back to that 15%-20% range we were stuck in for much of February and March. These figures remain well above the World Health Organization’s recommended 5% test positivity benchmark for safe reopening.
The health and safety of Nevadans is our top priority. While none of the reported cases of these rare reactions are located in Nevada, out of an abundance of caution, we are following the FDA/CDC’s recommended pause on Janssen vaccine administration. Here are details. pic.twitter.com/AERYsiKDgO
— @NVHealthResponse (@NVHealthRespon1) April 13, 2021
So far, hospitalizations remain fairly stable. According to Nevada Health Response, our hospitals are treating 251 confirmed COVID-19 patients and an additional 69 patients who probably have COVID-19, for a total of 320 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalized patients. Nevada public health officials are reporting a total of 5,339 confirmed COVID-19 deaths as of mid-day today, and this week we’re averaging six to seven COVID-19 deaths per day.
According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker (as of 4:30 PM today), 2,033,580 total doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to Nevada, and 1,692,135 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered and recorded. 1,050,539 first doses have been administered thus far, meaning an estimated 34.1% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 43.7% of Nevada adults) have at least initiated the vaccination process, and 666,537 of these patients have been fully vaccinated, meaning an estimated 21.6% of Nevadans (and more specifically, 27.9% of Nevada adults) are fully vaccinated. (Editor’s Note: I got my own first vaccine dose last Friday, and you can read more about it here.)
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 is a screenshot taken by me.