Tonight Governor Steve Sisolak (D) addressed Nevadans’ concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including questions about America’s problematic vaccine rollout. As the state continues to try to fully utilize its limited supply while managing Nevadans’ demand, Sisolak also confirmed that the “statewide pause” on relaxing health safety rules will continue for another 30 days amidst the “fourth wave” spike in COVID-19 infections.
“If someone in the chain of transmission is immunized, then the transmission stops. COVID-19 is not an exception. Vaccination will accomplish this goal.”
– Dr. Carmen Ponce, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services
During the Nevada Health Response press call earlier today, Dr. Carmen Ponce of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services did a crash course on the COVID-19 vaccines. Early on, Dr. Ponce explained, “Vaccinations have two important goals: Immunize people from the disease, control the epidemic by disrupting the chain of transmissions.”
A little later, Dr. Ponce added, “If someone in the chain of transmission is immunized, then the transmission stops. COVID-19 is not an exception. Vaccination will accomplish this goal.”
Team members from the NV Health Dept. use their expertise in immunization, emergency prep planning and more to enhance the COVID vaccine plan both before and during the response. Learn more at https://t.co/yiLOiagPys. pic.twitter.com/mbuS9s4z1S
— @NVHealthResponse (@NVHealthRespon1) January 3, 2021
As the call continued, Dr. Ponce walked us through the mRNA technology used for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. She confirmed the effectiveness of these vaccines in breaking the chain of COVID-19 transmission, yet she also confirmed the potential side effects: pain, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, fever, lymph node swelling, redness, nausea, and remote chance of allergic reactions (including swelling of face, rashes, and weakness).
Though some may experience any of these side effects, that does not mean these vaccines are any kind of “Mark of the Beast”. Rather, clinical trials throughout 2020 proved the safety of these vaccines, but that doesn’t mean no one will ever experience any of these side effects. For anyone who takes either of these vaccines and experiences side effects, Dr. Ponce advised, “Be prepared to stay in the location for 15 minutes. If you or anyone in your family has a severe allergic reaction, please notify your medical provider. Please be prepared to stay in the facility for another 30 minutes.”
“Our essential frontline workers and high-risk populations will move into parallel lanes. They will be vaccinated concurrently.”
– Candice McDaniel, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services
As of tonight, the State of Nevada has received 170,400 doses from the federal government. State and local health officials have overseen the delivery of 61,444 doses into Nevadans’ arms, including over 8,700 second doses to guarantee fuller inoculation. While these numbers remain well below outgoing President Donald Trump’s promises of fast vaccinations upon the launch of “Operation Warp Speed”, keep in mind that public health offices across the nation are suffering similar understaffing and overall lack of funding. While Congress passed a “stimulus” package late last month that includes new funds for vaccine delivery, federal, state, and local health authorities must now play catch-up.
During his briefing just moments earlier, Governor Steve Sisolak reiterated, “There’s hope on the horizon with vaccines, but full-scale vaccinations will probably not occur until mid-year.” But in a new effort to try to speed up this timeline on their end, Sisolak and officials from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) confirmed that the tiered system is out and “concurrent lanes” are in Nevada’s new vaccine strategy, mainly one lane characterized by workforce and another lane marked for general population.
As Candice McDaniel, Health Bureau Chief at the Bureau of Child, Family, and Community Wellness in DHHS’ Division of Public and Behavioral Health, explained, “Our essential frontline workers and high-risk populations will move into parallel lanes. They will be vaccinated concurrently.” Or in other words, while public health officials continue to focus on ensuring frontline health care workers get vaccinated, they will also provide new openings for seniors aged 70 and older to get vaccinated as well.
In the workforce lane, workers are placed in various “priority buckets”, such as public safety, “community support”, supply chain and logistics, and hotel/casino workers. In the general population lane, after 70+ seniors go first in line for vaccines, Nevadans aged 65-69 will be next in line for vaccinations, followed by Nevadans aged 18-64 with pre-existing conditions pointing to higher risk of COVID-19 illness, followed by Nevadans aged 18-64 who are overall “in good health”.
“We only find out our [vaccine] allocation week to week. We don’t find out how much we get until the week we get it.”
– Candice McDaniel, Nevada DHHS
When asked why Nevada’s vaccine rollout has been so slow, Sisolak pointed to the overall slow pace of vaccinations across the U.S. and the Trump administration’s ongoing failure to protect Americans from COVID-19. As he compared the current vaccine dilemma to earlier struggles to obtain sufficient funding and support for COVID-19 tests, Sisolak noted, “We didn’t have a plan from the federal government, so we had to adapt. Once again we didn’t have a plan from the federal government, so we have to adapt.”
As President-elect Joe Biden prepares to announce his new vaccine strategy that may include more rapid release of vaccine doses to states and invocation of the Defense Production Act to rapidly increase America’s vaccine supply, state officials continue to note that the federal government’s release of vaccine supply to Nevada dictates how quickly they can deliver more vaccine doses. Or as Shannon Bennett, Immunization Program Manager for DHHS’ Division of Public and Behavioral Health, explained, “Nevada’s allocation remains low, which is why it’s important for us to prioritize who gets vaccinated when.”
McDaniel also pointed out, “We have a set allocation ordered by the federal government. The current limit on supply makes this challenging.” She then revealed, “We only find out our allocation week to week. We don’t find out how much we get until the week we get it.”
“Do you think I condemn it. You bet, I condemn it! The false allegations of an election without any wrongdoing must end!”
– Governor Steve Sisolak, on the ongoing far-right coup attempt and election disinformation campaign
As state officials continue to try to speed up vaccine delivery on their end, Sisolak admitted that Nevada’s still severe COVID-19 stats won’t improve if he loosens health safety rules now: “Community spread is high, and many of our hospitals are strained.” So instead, Sisolak authorized the 30 day extension of the “statewide pause”, meaning that current COVID-19 health safety rules will remain in place through mid-February.
Sisolak also addressed the national crisis that’s only been exacerbated since the January 6 terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol. After condemning last Wednesday’s “chaos” of a coup attack, Sisolak also condemned the Nye County Republican Party’s endorsement of violence and ongoing far-right lies about last year’s election: “It is an embarrassment to the entire state. Do you think I condemn it. You bet, I condemn it! The false allegations of an election without any wrongdoing must end!”
When asked whether he’s concerned about continuing calls to violence throughout the far-right “web of hate”, including potential threats to COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Sisolak promised, “I’m confident that our law enforcement agencies will be able to [maintain security] going forward.”
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check with Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, and check with 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.