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COVID-19 cases heading in “better direction”

By Bob Conrad

We’re not out of the woods yet, local officials said today, but, despite incredibly high numbers of COVID-19 cases, “we’re moving in the right direction.”

That’s according to Jeremy Smith, who built the risk meter, and is head of the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency.

Smith said Washoe County’s numbers are heading downward and have been steadily decreasing since Christmas. The risk meter considers daily positive tests and hospital bed occupancy for whether the meter ranks between low and severe.

“We’re quite a bit lower than where we were, which is great,” he said.

However, hospitals are still seeing large numbers of COVID-19 patients — above 80% of beds are occupied — and the risk meter shows the Truckee Meadows in the “very high” area, but not inching up toward “severe” as anticipated in December.

The Truckee Meadows COVID Risk Meter as of Jan. 12, 2021.

The area has been in the “very high” ranking since late October. Washoe County nearly hit the “severe” level in early December.

Dr. Bret Frey of Renown Medical Center agreed that the data are trending downward.

“We have much better ICU bed availability than we did two to three weeks ago,” he said.

He cited community awareness, including mask wearing and social distancing, as part of the trend. The Renown garage still has within it 20 patients being treated for COVID-19, but that number is half from what it was.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” Frey said.

Officials cautioned against getting complacent.

As of Jan. 11, nearly 540 people in Washoe County have died from the coronavirus disease. There are more than 15,000 active cases in Washoe County.Officials said behavioral and mental health impacts from COVID-19 remain critical and floated the idea of approaching the Legislature for additional resources — or to try to prevent cuts to mental health resources — to deal with lingering impacts from the global pandemic.

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