By SAM METZ AP/Report for America
Nevada officials reported fewer cases and deaths from COVID-19 on Monday than any time in December, but aren’t sure if the record-setting surge is truly decreasing or if the holiday affected testing.
Officials reported 868 new confirmed coronavirus cases Monday, and 21 additional deaths. Both figures are far less than the daily records set earlier in December of 3,194 cases and 57 deaths.
Before Monday, Nevada had reported at least 1,000 new confirmed cases each day since Nov. 2.
Officials said the downward trend’s cause was unclear and could be due to adherence to the state’s prevention measures, a decreased number of tests taken and processed over the holiday, or both.
“The reality is it’s probably a combination of all of the factors right now, with mitigation measures and with decreased testing,” Nevada’s COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage said. “We’ve been very careful about drawing a dark line connecting cause and effect because it’s incredibly difficult to make that assessment.”
Cage said Nevada health officials would have a better idea of whether the governor’s “statewide pause” restrictions were working and whether Christmas caused fewer people to get tested in the coming weeks. The restrictions include tightening capacity limits to 25% for casinos, churches and restaurants, mandating face-coverings at additional locations like gyms and limiting private gatherings — including holiday meals — to two households and no more than 10 people.
There have been 218,377 coronavirus cases in Nevada since the start of the pandemic and 2,973 deaths.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. However, the vast majority of people recover.
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.