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Washoe’s COVID-19 test positivity rate falls to 5%


Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick today said area vaccination efforts have resulted in more than 18% of the county’s population receiving a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. He said 11% of residents are now fully vaccinated.

This amounts to a total of about 140,000 vaccines administered in the county.

The health district is working with the county and the cities of Sparks and Reno to develop plans for the transition from state to local control over mitigation efforts and associated gathering and business rules. The change in authority over mitigation efforts is still expected to happen on May 1.

“We have some industry liaison groups that we’ll be meeting with…in the coming week,” Dick said. “The goal is to have some measures to communicate to the community in early April about what that plan will look like.”

Dick said the plan for Washoe County is still in its early phases but that it will likely include monitoring of the state and county’s tracking metrics for disease transmission as well as vaccination rates.

The county appears to have arrived at a plateau for COVID-19 rates, he added. The seven-day moving average of new cases rests at 42 per day. The number has varied between 34 and 46 new cases per day over the last week.

Right now, the county is at an average of 281 new cases over a 30-day period. That number is down from 740 new cases per 30 days as reported on Feb. 7. Dick credited the plateau to the gradual loosening of gathering and capacity restrictions at the state level.

The next phase of reopening is still expected for March 15, including an increase in public gathering sizes from 100 people or 35% capacity, to 250 people or 50% capacity, whichever is smaller.

“We need to learn from our experiences—and our experience has been that when we reopen we are at risk of having a sudden increase in the number of cases occurring as people are interacting. So, we need to be very cautious,” he said.

“In spite of running a lower number of tests, we’re also seeing the positivity rate decline.”

Dick said the current plateau of new cases, rather than a quicker downturn, is speculation, but he believes it’s related to increased occupancy guidelines for businesses, which took effect last month.

He said he also believed the arrival of the vaccine may be setting some people’s minds at ease. While he urged caution among people thinking it’s safe to resume normal activities, he said people should get vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible.

“The other thing that’s so important is that we do have three safe and very effective vaccines that are available now,” Dick said. “It’s going to be very important for people to be vaccinated when they’re eligible to receive the vaccine, so we can get a large portion of our population vaccinated in order to return to more normalcy when it’s possible.”

Those being vaccinated include people over 65 and essential workers in supply chain fields, including grocery workers and manufacturing employees. Those being vaccinated because they meet age requirements should plan to be vaccinated in the counties within which they live.

Washoe County’s test positivity rate has fallen to 5% as of today. That’s down from 11.1% a month ago and a high of 21.4% reported on Dec. 13, 2020. Dick said the lower positivity rate is allowing the health district to catch up on disease investigation.

“That low positivity rate, I think, is especially important to us because we’re seeing low test positivity at the same time as we’re seeing a reduced demand for testing,” he added. “Countywide, we ran about 1,000 tests per day…last week. And that was down about 300 per day from the previous week. Yet, in spite of running a lower number of tests, we’re also seeing the positivity rate decline. And that means we’ve done an effective job of reducing the disease transmission that’s happening in the community.”

Jeri Chadwell
Jeri Chadwellhttp://thisisreno.com
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.