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Sisolak blames poor national leadership for vaccination delays

By Sudhiti Naskar
Governor Steve Sisolak answers questions at a press conference on July 9, 2020. Image: Pool Photo by David Calvert/Nevada Independent

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Monday said the state’s vaccination efforts faced challenges in part because of a lack of unity and leadership at the nation’s highest levels. He discussed the vaccine rollout in context of the chaos, disinformation and violence surrounding the 2020 election and President’s Trump’s ongoing refusal to admit that he lost. 

“When we do not operate together as united states of America, this is what happens,” he said. “Last week’s events, to me, were the culmination of the last four years of a lack of leadership at the top. It can feel like we are more divided now than ever before. The chaos and collapse did not happen last week. It has been developing steadily in the last four years. It had a far more rapid pace in the last 10 months.

“The divisiveness and lack of leadership has resulted in the lack of a unified national strategy to combat a deadly pandemic. It has pitted state against state in the open market trying to secure personal protective equipment and testing supplies. This has left each state and local government in a possible budget situation, trying to provide critical services in a crisis without additional and flexible balance. Except at this point, state and local resources are even further depleted than they were 10 months ago. It has resulted in the slow roll-out of the vaccine without a unified nation-wide strategy,” said Sisolak.

All of those who were struggling with trying to provide vaccines before, are “here with new, massive logistical challenges,” added Sisolak.

“During these difficult times, Nevadans deserve decency, humanity and respect… it is horrid” at a time when the whole nation is going through such tribulations, he added. “Right now our common goal must be to reach an end to this pandemic.”

Candice McDaniel, from the health bureau chief from the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, joined Sisolak on the call and added that the state is not receiving adequate doses of vaccine for each group from the federal government. 

An updated Vaccination playbook

In response to the lag in vaccinations, Nevada has once again revised the state’s Vaccination Playbook–now in its third version–following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and Nevada’s COVID-19 situation. 

The playbook “takes into account Nevada’s mortality data, to include prioritization for people 70 years and older with frontline essential workers, and those 65-69 years, individuals with disabilities, as well as people with underlying health conditions with other essential workers,” said a press release following the conference.

“We are focused on a science and policy-based distribution model, and the updates to the COVID-19 Vaccination Playbook ensure we continue on the best path for Nevadans,” said Sisolak.

The playbook’s new revised prioritization lists are here:

More information on Nevada’s plan for the COVID-19 vaccine can be found at https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/covid-19-vaccine/  

New cases continue to pile up

Over 200 additional people are catching the coronavirus every day in Nevada compared to last week, based on the state’s 14-day rolling average. On Monday, Nevada also reported it had topped more than a quarter million COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.

There are 1,866 daily new cases on a 14-day-rolling average, said Deputy Administrator of Community Health Services Julia Peek during a statewide weekly COVID-19 update. That’s up from last week when the governor’s task force reported 1,680 daily new cases.

All of the counties have been marked with elevated disease transmission, except Storey and White Pine. All counties also meet the criteria for high disease transmission supported by high test positivity rate.

The state has completed 2,235,084 cumulative tests, and the test positivity rate is 21.1% in the last 14 days. Only Lincoln and Storey were counted for low average test rates per 100,000 population.

Julia Peek
Julia Peek. Image: Jeramie Lu Photography

Peek said COVID-19 tests remain challenging in rural areas for a number of reasons. “The quantity of the population is not huge,” Peek said, resulting in fewer tests compared to urban areas.

However, Peek pointed out that more needs to be done by the state as small counties work directly with the state. “We might be looking at how to incorporate more point-of- care tests in addition to the molecular tests,” said Peek. Some of the rural counties struggle with couriers and transportation of tests to laboratories. For this reason, “the point-of-care-test will be really great,” said Peek.

To maintain transparency on vaccination, the state officials have been communicating with Nevadans clearly. During the state call, Dr. Carmen Ponce, an epidemiologist with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, updated Nevadans about how vaccination actually works.

“The transmission is from an infected person to a number of noninfected persons; if the non-infected person is immunized, the transmission will stop, while the non-immunized/non-infected person will get sick and will continue the disease transmission to another number of people,” said Ponce.

Ponce also talked about the side effects of the vaccine including headaches, chills, muscle pain, joint pain, fever, fatigue, pain and swelling in the injection site, as well as nausea and feeling unwell. These reactions are not unlike those people may encounter from other vaccines.

Mitigation measures for another 30 days

Additionally, the Governor announced he plans to extend the current COVID-19 mitigation measures for another 30 days. The State will remain flexible and if situations change, the state will adjust. 

A full list of the current mitigation measures can be found online at NVHealthResponse.nv.gov.

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