Washoe County Health District (WCHD) Officer Kevin Dick on Wednesday said the county is again experiencing a surge of new coronavirus cases, a surge he said has been happening since July.
The number of new cases and deaths, as well as hospitalizations, are nearing what the region experienced last fall, Dick said. “We’re really seeing an uptick in deaths that are occurring now. Our numbers are really looking frighteningly similar to what we were seeing last year as we were entering our November surge.”
More than 700 people have died since March of 2020 with more than a dozen of those deaths most recently occurring in August. There were six deaths each in June and July.
Daily new cases, COVID hospitalizations and test positivity numbers are all rising, and the more severely contagious COVID-19 Delta variant is pushing the numbers higher. New daily cases since early August have put the area into the “very high” risk range.
Test positivity numbers are as high as the area saw in December of 2020, said Jeremy Smith with the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency.
Medical Doctor John Hess said wearing masks and getting vaccinated are the best ways to reverse these trends. Neither is foolproof but both will reduce the likelihood of getting COVID-19 and the severity of it if you do contract the virus.
The Delta variant is of particular concern, Hess said. “We by no means have a cure. [What we saw last Spring] was if you were under 30, your risk of dying if you were hospitalized was about one and half percent.”
Data from the spring show the older you are, the more likely you are to die if you contract COVID-19 and are hospitalized, Hess added. For those 70 and older, the risk increased to just over 20%.
“If you were unfortunate enough to go to ICU, it was just under 30%,” he explained. “And that doesn’t count all the people who are left with long term disabilities related to this virus. I’ve seen several patients who were discharged from the hospital, seemed to be doing OK, and then ultimately either died or have had serious chronic illness related to that hospitalization.
“The vaccines are still incredibly effective as far as preventing severe illness,” Hess said.
Other COVID news
No charges for COVID-positive parent who sent child to school
Dick reiterated that the health district will not be pursuing charges against the parent who sent a COVID-postive student to school last week, an incident that exposed about 80 people to COVID-19 and made national headlines.
Dick said the district’s resources will not be used to punish the individual. Resources instead will be used to respond to the surge of new cases.
Those with immunodeficiencies at moderate or severe levels should get a third COVID-19 vaccine, experts said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending boosters, but nothing has been planned yet at the state level.
A third Pfizer or Moderna shot is being recommended eight months after receiving a second dose.
Dick said the vaccine demand will dramatically increase when booster shots are officially recommended.
“So, that means that it could be much more difficult for people that haven’t been vaccinated yet to get vaccinated as we move forward into the booster shots,” he said.
Now is the time to get vaccinated, he added. Get information on how here.
Dick rebukes Commissioner Lucey
Dick disputed what Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey said about mask mandates reducing vaccination rates, as reported by the Reno Gazette Journal.
“I think what we see with the numbers is that that is not the case,” Dick said. “Based on CDC guidance, I think it is appropriate that we have that mask mandate in place.”
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. He is also a part time instructor at UNR.