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COVID-19 update: Hospital resources strained by new cases

By Sudhiti Naskar

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86% chance of catching COVID if attending a gathering

Just days before Thanksgiving, one of the most important celebrations before Christmas, Washoe County Health District made a final appeal to inform people about the risks involved in gatherings with families and friends.

District Health Officer Kevin Dick during a media briefing Wednesday referred to a recent study and risk assessment tool by Georgia Tech that calculated the probability of being infected in gatherings.

“If somebody were to attend a gathering of 50 people, there’s a 82% probability that there’s going to be somebody there that is positive for COVID-19,” Dick said.

The probability rate for COVID infection calculated by the risk assessment tool has since increased in Washoe County — it is now 86%.

Amid a surging number of new cases in Washoe County and the death toll rising, the Health District’s weekly update had a tone of finality when Dick said that the gatherings during the Thanksgiving “will lead to additional cases” and result in “further strain” on the local health system.

Flagged for eight weeks

Washoe County has now been flagged for eight back-to-back weeks because of elevated levels of disease by the state’s tracking system. Dick regretted “a very high transmission occurring in the community.”

He has issued repeated warnings about increasing cases if people continue to gather together and floun mask wearing

The COVID-19 situation in Washoe County is a reflection of state and nationwide trends of high rates of infections and deaths from COVID-19.

The district is logging a seven-day-moving average of 380 new cases per day, identified by the district’s testing efforts, said Dick. COVID positivity rate is now at a high 16.9%, which is about 1,416 cases per 100,000 population over the last 30 days.

As of Wednesday there have been 222 deaths in the county from the pandemic. There are now over 5,000 active cases in the community and the situation is “critical,” Dick said.

Dick also mentioned that the county has been put under the very high-risk red zone by the Truckee Meadows COVID meter

Renown is readying its temporary care area constructed this spring in a parking garage to manage a surge of COVID-19 cases in the community. Image: Trevor Bexon

Some hope remains

The district is of the opinion that the governor’s Stay At Home 2.0 directive might lessen the number of new infections. Dick requested everyone in the county to help the district’s mitigation efforts by staying at home and minimizing their visits outside, if possible.

He said that the district is “encouraged” by the reported news of 95% effectiveness of COVID vaccines and hopes that the vaccines would become available before the end of this year. But, he is unaware of when the vaccine might be available in northern Nevada.

District seeking volunteers

As the district continues to have a shortage of qualified staff to help with an increased number of new cases, Dick said they are looking for volunteers to join a Medical Reserve Corps. The goal is to help local hospitals with the surging cases.

The corps exists to help out the health care systems during disaster situations. Nurses, doctors, and other individuals with medical training are highly encouraged to get in touch with the district to help hospitals and with a vaccination drive when that begins.

A form for the Corps can be found online.  One can also email [email protected] to get on a roster and eventually be signed up.    

Governor gives grim projections

Governor Steve Sisolak also spoke Wednesday with Nevadans during a statewide media call–his first since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on Nov. 13.

Despite the diagnosis, he said he remains in good spirits and is isolating in Carson City, carrying on his official duties. He was frank about his health conditions and said he has congestion, which is considered a mild symptom.

Sisolak said he is following recommendations by his doctors and has not been administered oxygen, treatment or medicine, so far. Come next week, he will be completing 10 days of isolation and doctors may advise him to end the isolation, if he is asymptomatic for 24 hours, per guidelines by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials.

Following his diagnosis, the governor’s family members, including his wife and daughters, were tested. All have been diagnosed negative for COVID-19, said Sisolak.

Nevada is in its second week of Sisolak’s Stay At Home 2.0 effort, and because of the heightened disease situations, Sisolak said he remains concerned. Nevada is not “currently experiencing a significant downward trend,” he added.

The governor is against another all-out shut down of the economy, but he strongly recommended proper compliance by businesses and individuals with health measures and protocols put in place by the state task force and local governments.

Numbers at-a-glance

Total COVID-19 cases in Washoe County: 19,742 up from 16,88, last week

  • Deaths: 222, up from 212 last week
  • Recovered: 13,642, up from 12,528 last week
  • Active Cases: 5,878 up from 4,141, last week
  • Tests performed: 212,597 up from 198,398, last week

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, in Washoe County as of Nov. 18:

  • 84% staffed hospital beds are occupied (+5% since 11/17)
  • 72% of all licensed hospital beds are occupied (+6%)
  • 38% of all Intensive Care Unit beds are occupied (-13%)
  • 31% of all ventilators are in use (+4%)

NOTE: Numbers are for all hospital patients in Washoe County and not just COVID-19 patients.

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