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COVID-19: Health District reports lowest daily new cases since November

By Sudhiti Naskar
Volunteers and public health nurses prepare to vaccinate individuals at Washoe County Health District's POD.

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Washoe County Health District is recording a decreased number of COVID-19 infections, with about 193 new cases per day. “That’s the lowest it has been since early November,” said health officer Kevin Dick during the weekly COVID-19 update on Wednesday.

 “We have been moving in the right direction,” Dick added.

The regionally developed COVID-19 meter, too, is recording that the county is within the orange “High” risk area, a few notches removed from the “Very High” zone it was in a few weeks before.

Despite the drop in new cases per day, the district is still not out of the high-risk assessment provided by the state; 193 is still quite a high number, said Dick. 

Currently the test positivity rate has also decreased and rests at 17.3%. 

In fact, the county remains flagged for a high positivity rate under the state’s county-tracking system for both the number of daily new cases as well as the positivity rate. The state considers a county to be below the high-risk disease level when the test positivity rate is 8% or less. 

Dick said the mitigation efforts have been successful as people of Washoe County are  following the social distancing, handwashing and masking up measures. 

“What we have seen is that when we are all working together and taking actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 that can have a positive impact for our community… I am grateful for the action that everybody has taken,” Dick said. 

The governor’s “Pause” policy and the compliance to policy guidelines by businesses, bars, casinos and schools has had a positive impact on the disease mitigation as well, said Dick. He added that in the near future the governor could be “easing some of the restrictions” that are currently in place.

Yet, the district does not want to get complacent. 

As of Wednesday, the county is recording a total of 573 deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. On a state level, the Governor’s Task Force reported that Nevada lost 71 lives to COVID-19 today. “This is the highest increase in deaths the state has seen and a stark reminder of how deadly this virus can be,” the task force noted in a statement.

Last October, the district witnessed a period of low rates of infections followed by fewer restrictions, resulting in serious surge in disease. “We let our guards down,” said Dick. The district does not want to make the same error again.

“So it’s great that we are moving in the right direction. We need to pat ourselves on the back for the progress we made, but we need to continue down that path of fewer cases in the community.”

The University of Nevada, Reno will resume receiving students and conducting in-person classes. Middle and high school students in the county will also begin a hybrid session to get instruction partly in-person and partly remote. 

The health district will keep an eye on these increased in-person interactions.

Vaccination 

The health district has dispensed 11,176 COVID-19 vaccine doses as of Wednesday through the point of distribution (POD) at the Reno Livestock Events Center out of a total of 17,545 doses received to-date by the district. Yesterday the district received about 6,100 doses.   

In the first couple of days this week the district vaccinated about 1,300 Nevadans. Frontline essential workforce including educators and workers at childcare facilities and tutoring centers are currently being vaccinated. The district is simultaneously finishing up vaccinating law enforcement groups and agencies.  

Nevada System of Higher Education is also working with the health district to execute effective POD plans to get their frontline staff vaccinated.  

Dick said that the health district is working toward vaccinating more Nevada seniors. Both Renown Health and Saint Mary’s vaccinated people over the last weekend, and Smith’s and Walgreens have now made vaccines available for seniors through their pharmacies. 

The district has invited about 1,800 seniors aged 70 and above off of its waiting list for vaccination. The vaccination for this age group started Tuesday; more seniors will receive vaccination this Friday, said Dick. 

Numbers at-a-glance in Washoe County

  • Total COVID-19 cases in Washoe County: 39,982 (+68 from 1/19)
  • Deaths: 573 (+5)
  • Recovered: 24,600 (+198)
  • Active Cases: 14,809 (-135)
  • Tests performed: 330,126 (+1,290)
  • Hospitalized: 176 (+1)

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, in Washoe County as of Jan. 20:

  • 68% staffed hospital beds are occupied (-6% since 1/19)
  • 67% of all licensed hospital beds are occupied (+2%)
  • 54% of all Intensive Care Unit beds are occupied (+5%)
  • 22% 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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