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Home > Featured > COVID-19 > COVID-19 cases dropping in Washoe County, vaccine misinformation persists

COVID-19 cases dropping in Washoe County, vaccine misinformation persists

By Jeri Chadwell

The Washoe County Health District (WCHD) said today that the number of new cases of COVID-19 has been dropping.

The seven-day moving average of new cases has fallen by more than 100 to 204 cases per day.

However, an additional six deaths were reported. Five of the deaths occurred in unvaccinated individuals, including one in their 30s and another in their 50s. A vaccinated person in their 80s with underlying health conditions also died.

This brings the total number of deaths for the month of September to 82.

Staffed hospital beds in the county remain 90% full.

Health district officials are optimistic that COVID-19 booster shots for those eligible will reduce disease transmission in Washoe County. Some 200 Pfizer booster shots were administered on Monday at the WCHD’s vaccination site at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.

Tristan McElhany, director of student behavior and support for the Washoe County School District (WCSD), joined WCHD Health Officer Kevin Dick for a Wednesday morning briefing with media.

McElhany said 7,500 WCSD students have been tested for the virus since the school district board of trustees voted to have all football players and all sports team members traveling out of the county tested for COVID-19. Of the 7,500 students tested, 38 have been confirmed to have the virus. Of them, four students were vaccinated.

“When it comes to exclusions based on that, the students that test positive are excluded,” McElhany said. “In terms of the contact tracing, that gets turned over to the school nurse and the other appropriate parties to do contract tracing to see if there’s any other warranted measures to take place if the mitigation plan wasn’t followed, or if there’s other factors that need to be taken into account.”

Health officials counter misinformation

“We’re also now hearing arguments being made that because there’s a booster, that means that the vaccine isn’t working, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Dick stressed during the briefing that vaccine misinformation remains a problem for the health district, despite the fact that no efforts have been made in the county to declare the spread of such misinformation as a public health emergency—as was done in Clark County.

“While our [county] commission has not made that declaration, we’re seeing it ring true here. And we’re seeing a lot of the vocal minority making frankly rather outrageous claims and comments,” he said.

Dick said one of those claims is that masks don’t work.

“And we have a couple of studies that were recently published regarding the effectiveness of masks in schools,” he said. “There was a study in Arizona that found there was a three-and-a-half time greater chance of COVID-19 outbreaks occurring in schools without a mask requirement versus schools with a mask requirement.”

Another common bit of misinformation is that vaccines are not effective.

“And yet what we see is it’s preventing people from being hospitalized, and it’s preventing people from dying of COVID-19. And if people do get a breakthrough case, for the most part, they are much less severe cases,” Dick said, adding, “We’re hearing people call the vaccine ‘the kill shot.’”

People are not dying from the COVID-19 vaccine. The claim is spurious.

“We’re also now hearing arguments being made that because there’s a booster, that means that the vaccine isn’t working, and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Dick said. “We know from our past history with vaccines and the science behind them that there is waning immunity that occurs, and that people can be greatly benefited from getting a booster of those vaccines to keep them working effectively.”

A number of other widely accepted and effective vaccines require boosters, including the tetanus, shingles and pneumonia vaccines.

Dick also reiterated, as he has often in weeks past, that there is no clinical evidence to support the use of treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

“What we do know is the monoclonal antibody treatment is effective, particularly for people that are at high risk of developing severe illness, and can prevent them from being hospitalized, if they’re able to get that treatment early, and we do have that treatment available here in Washoe County,” he said.

Dick asked residents to make their own personal vaccination choices but to refrain from spreading lies about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“If they choose not to get vaccinated, then I would hope that they would make that a personal choice and not try to convince others not to get vaccinated by spreading misinformation, instead of looking at the science and what the evidence base is,” he said.

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