Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2020

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Nevada readies plans for 6 counties with high virus spread

Drive-Thru COVID-19 Testing

John Locher/AP

Health care workers test patients in their cars at a drive-thru coronavirus testing site run by the UNLV School of Medicine and the Nevada National Guard, Friday, July 10, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Nevada officials said Friday they are developing plans to lower the possibility of contracting the coronavirus in six, high-risk counties that include the cities of Las Vegas and Reno.

The action plans in the works for Clark, Washoe, Elko, Humboldt, Lander and Nye counties are part of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s new approach that shifts away from broad rules to control the coronavirus to a more tailored reaction based on county-specific data.

It’s unclear what those new plans will call for or when they will take effect. The state’s COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage told reporters that county officials and members of the task force are still reviewing the plans and will meet Thursday to finalize them. The plans were initially expected Friday, but Cage said the process is new and it’s taking longer to get the first wave of plans in place.

Cage said each county’s plan could take effect on a different date. In the meantime, all current restrictions remain in place, including the closure of bars in Clark, Washoe, Nye and Elko counties.

The task force overseeing the data initially flagged eight counties last week that showed a higher risk of spread by examining new cases, testing rates or test positivity rates. But after reviewing another week’s worth of data on Thursday, the task force found improving rates in Carson City and Lincoln counties and allowed them to keep current restrictions in place.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Nevada was 13.3% as of Wednesday, according to the most recent state data available. The rate is well above a World Health Organization goal of 5% and has remained in double digits since June 24.

When asked if the state was considering more aggressive measures to lower the rate, Cage said the upcoming county plans will allow them to get to the heart of the virus spread.

“We are continuing to deal with COVID-19 and the burden of COVID-19 on communities throughout the state,” Cage said. “What we need is a targeted and tailored approach to ensure that we’re addressing the root causes of community spread and outbreaks of this virus.”

Nevada reported 1,099 new case of the virus on Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 59,749. The state also reported 15 more deaths, bringing the total to 1,045.

Statewide there are 948 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Cage said. Across hospitals in the state, 64% of the beds in intensive care units are occupied and 39% of ventilators are in use.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for up to three weeks. But older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.