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Home > Featured > COVID-19 cases trending downward but highly contagious “UK strain” a concern

COVID-19 cases trending downward but highly contagious “UK strain” a concern

By Sudhiti Naskar

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Washoe County is seeing positive signs with reduced new cases of COVID-19.

“We are seeing some good trends,” said District Health Officer Kevin Dick during the Washoe County COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

Dick’s assertion is supported by data reported this week by the county, which reflects the lowest seven-day moving average of new cases since mid-October. The current seven day-moving average is 119 new cases per day and is consistently down from 193 daily new cases last week.

“We are hoping to continue to see this decrease,” Dick said. However, he acknowledged there were more than 200 deaths in December, a number which points to the deadly impact of the pandemic in Washoe County. The health district anticipates about 100 more deaths by the end of January.

“Of course, every one of those numbers is a terrible tragedy,” Dick said, adding that the district is “glad to see a decline.”

The district also reported the first flu-related death of this season and three new cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) among children aged 10 and younger. Two cases had previously been reported, one in September and another in December.

The disease is linked to previous COVID-19 infections and can lead to various symptoms among children, including inflammation of organs like the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs.

The district also remains concerned with the discovery of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 in Nevada. The variant was first discovered in the United Kingdom in late 2020.

“We are not surprised by that,” given that the virus has been reported in other parts of the country, Dick said. This strain is colloquially called the “U.K. Strain,” and is reported to be more contagious, though health officials are not certain whether or not it might be more deadly.

There have been no reports of B.1.1.7 in Washoe County so far, but the district anticipates that the new strain might already be in the county, spurring officials to suggest there may be another surge of new cases in the near future as this new strain spreads faster.

Masking, social distancing and handwashing continue to be essential despite the curb of disease trend in the county.

Vaccination

On Tuesday, the district vaccinated 1,240 people through its point of distribution (POD) operation at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center–a record day for vaccination, according to Dick.

The POD remained open Wednesday afternoon despite snow and cold weather. Approximately 900 people were scheduled to get their second doses of vaccine at the POD this afternoon.

The vaccination efforts in such weather would not have been possible without health district staff, Nevada National Guard personnel, the Medical Reserve Corps and volunteers, including the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Dick thanked this team for helping the district to maintain its vaccination schedule.

As of Tuesday, the health district has administered 18,140 vaccines in total, including 3,768 second second doses.

Nevada’s vaccination efforts have been slowed by one of the lowest vaccine allocation rates per capita among all of the states. To date, Nevada has given the first dose to just under 5% of the population, whereas Alaska has reached 11.4% of its population with the first dose.

Gov. Steve Sisolak has been vocal about Nevada’s need for more vaccines from the federal government and this week sent a letter to the Biden administration asking for greater equity in vaccine distribution to the state.

As early as next week, the state anticipates a 15% increase in vaccine shipments, Dick said, adding that he hopes the district gets more doses of vaccines as a result.

Awards

The district plans to give out two awards at Thursday’s district board of health meeting. The excellence in food safety award will go to BJ’s Barbeque, and an Extra Mile Award will be given to Gold ‘N Silver Inn for becoming one of the first gaming establishments in the county to go smoke-free. The casino and restaurant made the decision after prohibiting smoking during pandemic-related business closures.

Numbers at-a-glance in Washoe County

  • Total COVID-19 cases in Washoe County: 40,818 up from 40,680 (from 1/26)
  • Deaths: 589 (+2)
  • Recovered: 27,761 up from 27,487
  • Active Cases: 12,468 down from 12,606
  • Hospitalized: 132 down from 140

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, in Washoe County as of Jan. 27:

  • 68% staffed hospital beds are occupied (+2% since 1/26)
  • 67% of all licensed hospital beds are occupied (+2%)
  • 48% of all Intensive Care Unit beds are occupied (+5%)
  • 26% of all ventilators are in use (+1%)

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

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