Today, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) spoke with local reporters on Nevada’s COVID-19 stats and other recent SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus news. While Nevada’s latest COVID-19 stats show that the state is making some progress in containing the virus, these stats also illustrate why we continue to struggle some two months after Nevada was scheduled to move into another round of business reopenings.
COVID-19 Stat Check: More improvement underway, but we still have a long way to go.
Last Thursday, Nevada’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force agreed to allow (some or all) bars to open for business in Lander, Humboldt, and Nye Counties, while maintaining universal (non-food-serving) bar closures in Elko, Washoe, and Clark Counties. As Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage reminded everyone last Thursday, “We are doing all we can at this task force in order to avoid any further spike in deaths.”
Since then, we’ve actually seen some more good news on the COVID-19 front. As both the official state Nevada Health Response database and The Nevada Independent’s data page show, caseload growth is the lowest we’ve seen since June, when casino reopenings and a bump in tourism likely fueled Nevada’s “summer surge” of COVID-19. And while the cumulative test positivity rate has crept up some more to 11.5%, the seven-day average has stabilized in the 15%-20% range since early August, though that remains thrice as high as the WHO’s recommended 5% test positivity rate for safe reopening.
COVID-19 hospitalizations crept up a bit over the weekend before dropping again, but at 771 (confirmed and suspected combined), that’s still around the lowest we’ve seen since early July. According to Covid Act Now, Nevada’s infection rate remains low at 0.89, or every 100 new infections leading to another 89 new infections. Covid Act now also estimates that the state can now contact trace 20% of infections within 48 hours: That’s an improvement from earlier this summer, but still well below where we need to be. The average daily death rate has also come down after recording record high deaths counts last week, and Nevada’s total COVID-19 death toll now stands at 1,200 after the state recorded another three deaths today.
“This will not just be a conversation about bars. We know there’s much more that needs to be done.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Today, Nevada Health Response provided a very special guest for the weekday press call: Governor Steve Sisolak (D). On the new COVID-19 stats, Sisolak sounded encouraged over “positive trends in the past few weeks”. And on what the task force will do in the weeks ahead, he reassured reporters, “I know there will be tough decisions that we’ll have to make, but we will make them in a public forum with all the best data we have available.”
Last Thursday, we noted how the task force’s conversation was mostly laser-focused on bars and excluded businesses like casinos that probably pose a far greater risk. Sisolak promised that in the weeks ahead, “This will not just be a conversation about bars. We know there’s much more that needs to be done.”
While Sisolak didn’t directly mention Clark County’s challenge in securing sufficient cooperation with the City of Las Vegas, or for that matter Washoe County’s struggle to secure sufficient cooperation with Reno and Sparks, he did stress, “We want to work with local governments in a collaborative manner. […] We want to keep as many sections of our counties open as possible while continuing to stop the spread of this disease.”
“It’s an opt-in service, and it’s completely voluntary for Nevadans and for visitors to use.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak, on the new COVID Trace Nevada contact tracing app
In additional news, Sisolak announced the state’s new COVID Trace Nevada app. As Sisolak described this news, “I’m proud of the cooperation with the private sector and the public sector to develop this app that will help with our contact tracing efforts. […] It’s an opt-in service, and it’s completely voluntary for Nevadans and for visitors to use.”
While this new app may help in identifying more COVID-19 infections amongst travelers who venture beyond Nevada, it’s still unclear what else this state and other state and municipal public health agencies are doing to contact trace the likely amount of disease spreading that ProPublica’s recent investigation details. And really, this is yet another reminder of how President Donald Trump’s PR-focused actions and Congress’ insufficient legislative actions (as in, not much has become law since the CARES Act) have caused such an inadequate federal response and state and local authorities are still scrambling to pick up where the fed’s have left off.
Returning closer to home, Sisolak touted Nevada’s improving business compliance rates for health safety regulations (86% initial compliance, and 99% compliance upon follow-up). And he once more insisted that under the state’s new SB 4 rules, “Businesses that are not compliant and do not apply best practices do not qualify for legal immunity.”
Sisolak also promised more changes are coming to Nevada Health Response’s database. He said the state has consulted with CDC officials (who only recently regained control over federal data reporting after the White House made a power grab last month) on this redesign project, and he promised the end result will constitute more user-friendly “simple numbers” for Nevadans to look through.