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Health district reports a “wildfire situation” with more than 300 new COVID cases per day


En Español

Washoe County Health District was open today, the Veterans Day holiday, reporting a deeply troubling scenario for the COVID-19 situation in the county. 

There is a “wildfire situation” going on with elevated disease transmission in Washoe County, said district health officer Kevin Dick on Wednesday during the weekly COVID-19 briefing.  There are three-and-a-half as many cases now every day as in the beginning of October, said Dick. 

The seven-day moving average for new cases stands at 337.4 per day, up from 187 cases per day reported last week. “We have a very high level of disease transmission, alarming levels!” said Dick. He also reported that there are over 3,800 active confirmed COVID-19 cases in the county. 

Dick was sporting a mask while he spoke; masking in the workplace was in compliance with a directive handed down by Gov. Sisolak Tuesday night which recommends masking at all times in public places. Dick expressed his support for the governor’s directive of Stay at Home 2.0.

Increasing hospitalizations 

The increasing hospitalizations have also been a major concern as hospitals all over Nevada, including in Washoe County, are anticipating becoming over-burdened by new critical hospitalizations for COVID-19, if the trends don’t change for the better. 

Dick referred to concerns shared Tuesday night by Renown Health CEO Dr. Tony Slonim during the governor’s press conference on the coronavirus situation. Slonim’s father died from the virus back in April, Slonim said, highlighting the personal losses faced by families surviving those deceased from COVID-19. He also urged people to understand that current hospital capacity can quickly become overwhelmed if high rates of disease go unchecked. 

Oxygen tanks have been readied inside Renown’s temporary care area constructed inside its parking garage to help manage an expected surge of COVID-19 cases. Image: Trevor Bexon

Just today Renown began re-erecting its temporary medical structure outside the emergency department to handle an increase in patients seeking care for respiratory illnesses. The tent was originally deployed in mid March during the early days of the pandemic.

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, there are 167 confirmed COVID-19 hospitalized patients in  local hospitals as of Tuesday. There are 59 suspected COVID-19 patients in the intensive care units. 

Dick also noted that COVID-19 hospitalizations span longer than usual hospitalizations. “That further exacerbates the burden on our hospital systems,” he explained. 

There are ill-informed conversations on social media suggesting the need for protecting only older people, as younger people are more likely to survive the disease. But health officials including Dick are imploring people to understand that for many the journey to survival is through hospitalization and healthcare. Overwhelming the healthcare system could be disastrous. 

Washoe County remains flagged 

The county is continuing to be flagged and this is why health district officials will meet the state task force again this Thursday, Dick said. Washoe County is on track to be flagged for eight consecutive weeks by the state county tracker. 

The health district does not recommend gatherings of more than 20 people outdoors following the governor’s recommendations, and ten or fewer people for indoor gatherings. Dick requested that people plan their Thanksgiving gatherings accordingly, if they must, but recommended against it.   

Referring to Stay at Home 2.0, Dick recommended “limited excursions” outside one’s home for essential needs such as work, getting food or medical attention, are recommended. 

“If we can do this for two weeks, let’s see if we can make an impact,” Dick added. “Nobody wants to be closing down business again,” but if the disease numbers keep growing, the state may adopt stricter compliance measures, Dick suggested. 

District thanked National Guard

Dick thanked Nevada National Guard for their help over the past seven months with support at drive-through test locations, disease investigation, contact tracing efforts, data entry and call center operations. 

“They have been a great resource and team members… we are certainly going to miss them as their engagement will end this December,” he said. “But they are certainly welcome to be engaged with us longer than that.”

Numbers at-a-glance

  • Total COVID-19 cases in Washoe County: 16,88, up from 14,486 last week
  • Deaths: 212, up from 203 last week
  • Recovered:  12,528, up from 11,600 last week
  • Active Cases: 4,141, up from 2,683 last week
  • Tests performed: 198,398, up from 185,073 last week

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, in Washoe County as of November 10:

  • 84% staffed hospital beds are occupied (+4% since 11/10)
  • 72% of all licensed hospital beds are occupied (+4%)
  • 63% of all Intensive Care Unit beds are occupied (+8%)
  • 25% of all ventilators are in use (+1%)

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

Sudhiti Naskar
Sudhiti Naskar
Sudhiti (Shu) Naskar is a multimedia journalist and researcher who has years of experience covering international issues. In the role of a journalist, she has covered gender, culture, society, environment, and economy. Her works have appeared on BBC, The National, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Reno Gazette-Journal, Caravan and more. Her interests lie in the intersection of art, politics, social justice, education, tech, and culture. She took a sabbatical from media to attend graduate school at the University of Nevada Reno in 2017. In this period, she has won awards, represented her school at an international conference and successfully defended her thesis on political disinformation at the Reynolds School of Journalism where she earned her Master's in Media Innovation.