CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada officials reported 960 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Monday, bringing the statewide totals to 110,982 cases and 1,852 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The virus’s autumn surge has not spared rural or urban communities. After a week of a record-setting number of newly reported cases and spiking infection rates, health officials flagged 10 of the state’s 17 counties as “high risk” — Clark, Churchill, Douglas, Elko, Eureka, Lincoln, Lyon, Nye and Washoe Counties as well as Carson City.
In the state’s hospitals, three out of every four beds is currently occupied due to COVID-19 and other causes. The Nevada Hospital Association reported 891 beds were occupied by confirmed or suspected COVID-19 patients — the highest number since mid-August.
In Nevada, the latest average positivity rate is 11.8%. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Nevada, the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by total test encounters, using data from The COVID Tracking Project. In the past week, one in every 355 Nevada residents tested positive for COVID-19. For comparison: one in every 433 Americans tested positive in the past week.
The trends mirror similar surges in other states, including in neighboring Utah, where a spike led Republican Gov. Gary Herbert to declare a state of emergency and implement a statewide mask mandate. Nevada COVID-19 director Caleb Cage said his team was monitoring outbreaks in other states and believed, at the moment, concerns about hospital capacity were more grave in Utah than in Nevada.
“Their hospitals are in far more serious shape than ours are right now,” Cage said, noting that, in Nevada, a statewide mask mandate has been in effect since June 26.
Nevada’s coronavirus management strategy has been to impose statewide minimum guidelines — including social distancing requirements and a 250-person cap on most gatherings — and allow counties to implement stricter measures if they deem them necessary. Officials said they planned to discuss mitigation measures with local officials at a Thursday task force meeting but did not mention any plans to tighten statewide guidelines as the surge continues.
Since the state delegated decisions to counties, few have advocated a significant rolling back of reopening guidelines. Nevada Department of Public and Behavioral Health Deputy Administrator Julia Peek said, regardless of policy decisions, individuals could take steps to contain the virus, including telecommuting and postponing gatherings.
“You don’t necessarily need to have restrictions imposed to change your behavior. So I would just encourage Nevadans to think about how they can personally change behaviors and impact the course of this disease,” Peek said.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.