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COVID-19 update: vaccinations increase, younger seniors become eligible

By Jeri Chadwell

COVID-19 vaccination updates were provided Wednesday by both the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) and Governor Steve Sisolak’s Nevada Health Response team.

Washoe County COVID-19 news

According to Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick, storms across the country have resulted in a delay of this week’s allotment of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, though shipments of the Pfizer vaccine arrived on time. As a result, WCHD and other vaccine providers are working to reschedule appointments for people, including those who should be receiving their second doses of the Moderna vaccine.

On Feb. 16, WCHD administered nearly 1,500 doses of vaccine—split almost evenly between first and second doses. WCHD has administered 38,000 vaccines to Washoe County residents. That figure includes nearly 14,500 people who’ve now received the necessary two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected.

All told, nearly 93,000 Washoe County residents have received the vaccine either through the health district or other area providers. Of those, more than 31,000 are people who are now fully vaccinated. This amounts to 12% of the county’s eligible population having received at least one dose, and 6% having received both.

Health district officials are asking people to continue assisting the elderly in getting vaccinated. This includes not only providing transportation to vaccination sites but also helping seniors keep tabs on their emails to make sure communications from the health district concerning vaccination scheduling do not get lost in people’s spam folders.

As variants of the COVID-19 virus continue spreading throughout the world, there is concern of them appearing in Washoe County. According to Dick, a person who recently traveled from South Africa and back to Washoe County tested positive for the coronavirus and the state’s health lab is seeking to determine if that person was infected with the South African variant of the virus.

Health officials also warned that while the county’s test positive rate has fallen to 8.9%—with active cases falling below 7,000—and businesses have begun to increase their capacities to 35%, masks and social distancing requirements remain in place. Dick said the WCHD had gotten report that some business owners and patrons were under the impression that these mitigation efforts were no longer required.

He said not only are they required, but that they will continue to be even after local jurisdictions are handed the reins for COVID-19 mitigation management on May 1.

Statewide COVID-19 news

During Gov. Sisolak’s team’s update, Candace McDaniel of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services announced that her department’s Office of Analytics has launched a tab on the COVID-19 dashboard at nvhealthresponse.nv.gov that provides information concerning the demographics of people in the state who’ve been vaccinated. This information, she said, will be updated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays going forward.

Early this month, Sisolak announced a new initiative to address what he called alarming disparities in the rate at which communities of color, low-income households and working-class people were being vaccinated—especially in Clark County.

Under the new initiative, state officials are working with Clark County Emergency Management and the Southern Nevada Health District to clarify the state’s prioritization lanes for vaccination in order to ensure equitable access. In Washoe County, demographic information for vaccine recipients is also being collected. It should soon be available on the NV Health Response website as well.

According to the governor’s team, one step in ensuring equitable access to the vaccine was the creation of a statewide call center that can be used by people who may not have access to the internet. The call center can be reached at 1-800-401-0946, and help if available immediately in Spanish and English. Translation services through the call center for people who speak other languages, such as Tagalog, can also be arranged.

Pharmacy distribution points for the vaccine will begin scheduling appointments for people 65 and older next week. Sisolak said that by March 1, it is expected that other vaccine providers, including health districts, will also begin prioritizing this age group for vaccination.

Those who are currently eligible for vaccination are encouraged to visit NVcovidfighter.org to see appointment availability.

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