48.5 F

Washoe County death rate surges alongside hope of new vaccines


The COVID-19 death rate continues to rise in Washoe County. Over the past week, the county has had 50 COVID-19 related deaths. In the last month, the Health District reported 159 COVID-19 related deaths.

“Sadly, 159 [additional] people will not be celebrating with their family this year,” said District Health Officer Kevin Dick during the weekly COVID-19 briefing. “This is a very real and serious impact that we are experiencing from COVID-19.” 

The county is also recording 383 new cases a day on a seven-day-rolling-average. 

Officials were concerned that the Thanksgiving weekend would likely cause another surge of new cases if people didn’t follow the masking, social distancing and gathering requirements of the governor’s directives. During the briefing, Dick said that the district has yet to see a major surge from the Thanksgiving weekend, but he stressed that they do not want to be complacent, as the situation might change for the worse. 

Dick also pointed out the volatility of COVID-19 plateaus seen in Washoe County– plateaus, followed by a dip and then higher plateaus. 

“I think it’s very important for people to remember we are still in this for the long term,” Dick said.

Recommendations remain that people avoid gatherings and celebrate in their own households while also following public health guidelines. Dick said to avoid traveling.   

A Washoe County Health District employee wheels in a box containing the county’s first batch of COVID-19 vaccine. Image: Ty O’Neil

Vaccination underway for Tier 1 

Yesterday, the Pfizer vaccine arrived in Washoe County. The health district is actively involved in dispensing the vaccine, which Dick said was a solution for “winning this war with COVID-19.” 

“We are at the beginning of our first tier of the vaccine,” Dick said. “It can be provided to our frontline health care workers. And so, today the vaccine is being distributed to Northern Nevada Medical Center, Saint Mary’s Hospital and the Incline Village Community Center. I believe Saint Mary’s will start vaccinating their frontline staff today. Renown will start vaccinating their frontline health care workers tomorrow.” 

The health district will vaccinate some eligible candidates on Monday as well, said Dick. 

Dick also stressed that the vaccine is safe and effective based on clinical trials and data the health district received. Pfizer’s vaccine is 95% effective, he said. “Moderna’s [vaccine] is still being reviewed for emergency authorization. And we expect that authorization to probably occur around Friday,” Dick added.  

The health district anticipates receiving the first shipment of the Moderna vaccine next week. 

The Health District has been dealing with a large volume of calls over the past two weeks from concerned and eager Nevadans asking them questions about the vaccine. 

“Public, in general, will not have access to the vaccine right away,” Dick said. “We are working with the state under a tiered distribution system so that we can provide the vaccine to those workers that are at greatest risk of contracting COVID-19 and they are essential in our COVID response.” 

Those are health care workers, nurses and the residents and staff at the long-term care facilities. 

Vaccination will then move on to the broader health care population, including emergency responders and others. The health district will continue to work with the state and federal officials and make further adjustments if required, Dick said. 

“The situation is evolving right now and will require patience from people,” he said.

He also said that the health district will reach out to eligible people for vaccination. 

“We do not have the capacity at the district to respond to everyone’s questions…Respond to us when we reach out to you. What we need to focus on is our efforts at dispensing the vaccine,” said Dick. 

The district is also working on updating its website as a response to people’s questions on vaccination. Dick recommended people to check the Vaccine page of the county’s website.

Local special airs tonight

A show named “Fighting COVID Together” will air at 6 p.m tonight. It’s scheduled to air on several TV stations, including KNPB, KRNV and KOLO, along with radio stations up and down the AM and FM dials. Dick requested people to watch the show to learn how people can continue to deal with the pandemic as the district begins to dispense the vaccine. Dick also thanked the broadcasters for putting the program together.

Statewide update on COVID-19 

During a teleconference on Wednesday, COVID-19 Response Director for the State of Nevada Caleb Cage and Deputy Administrator of Community Health Services Julia Peek from the state task force briefed Nevadans about the overall COVID-19 situation in the state. 

  • As of today, Nevada has logged 194,098 cases, with the 14-day rolling average of daily cases being 2,138. 
  • For the most recent seven-day period, cases are growing at a rate of 1.4%, or 2,538 new cases per day. 
  • Nevada has now completed a total of 1,885,929 molecular tests since the beginning of COVID-19. 
  • The test positivity rate over the last 14 days is 20.7%.
  • According to the Nevada Hospital Association (NHA), there are currently 2,008 COVID-19 hospitalizations (1,857 confirmed; 151 suspected) 
  • NHA has reported, for the second time in the last three days, Nevada has had 2,000+ people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. 

Numbers at-a-glance in Washoe County

  • Total COVID-19 cases in Washoe County: 31,650 up from 28,927 last week
  • Deaths: 384 up from 338 last week
  • Recovered: 17,687 up from 16,802 last week
  • Active Cases: 13,579 up from 11,787 last week
  • Tests performed: 274,164 up from 260,327 last week
  • Hospitalized: 312 up from 266 last week

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, in Washoe County as of Dec. 16:

  • 87% staffed hospital beds are occupied (+0% since 12/15)
  • 74% of all licensed hospital beds are occupied (+0%)
  • 62% of all Intensive Care Unit beds are occupied (+2%)
  • 31% 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.