The Washoe County Health District (WCHD) today announced the positive news that COVID-19 numbers are down again for the second week in a row.
“I’m pleased to say that this week, again, I can share some good news on how we’re dealing with COVID-19 in Washoe County,” said WCHD Health Officer Kevin Dick. “Our seven-day moving average for new cases is down to 145.6. Last Wednesday … we were at 188.3. So, our number now is less than half of the peak that we experienced in this latest surge of 313 new cases per day.”
The test positivity rate in the county is also down. This week it’s at 13.5%. Last week it was 16%.
Dick said the trends are encouraging, but they don’t indicate that it’s OK to relax too much. The transmission rate in the county is still high.
“Sadly, we had 98 COVID-19 related deaths that we reported in September, which was one of our worst months on record,” Dick said. “Through the first five days of September, we had 20 COVID related deaths that we reported. Through the first five days of October, we have reported just five—so much, much improvement there, and hopefully that pace will continue, and we’ll continue to see reduced number of deaths occurring from COVID-19.”
The 98 deaths in September made that month the third deadliest on record in Washoe County, behind December 2020 and January 2021.
Dick said he’s also concerned with the approaching holiday season.
“What we saw last year was that our surge really got kicked off by gatherings that were happening around Halloween and Nevada Day,” he said. “That really just jump started our surge moving forward. And, so, recognizing the holiday season, respiratory disease season and flu season coming up, I just want to encourage people to be careful and prudent.”
Dick asked residents to avoid planning or attending large gatherings for Halloween and Nevada Day to help prevent yet another surge in cases.
Health officials working to ‘stay ahead of the virus’
Nearly 2,100 third doses of COVID-19 have been administered in Washoe County. Those are available for people who are immunocompromised and are 18 and older. The third dose should be administered six or months after the second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Dr. Nancy Diao, WCHD’s division director of epidemiology and public health preparedness, said those working in public health and health care are “well aware that we are not turning a page on COVID-19 yet” and asked the community to stand with health care experts even as pandemic fatigue is growing.
“We don’t know exactly what will come next in the pandemic, as COVID-19 has thrown us some curveballs, such as mutations, and will likely continue to do so—but a multi-layer defense will continue to help us in protection, and for us to stay ahead of this virus,” she said.
Diao said disease epidemiologists, pharmacological epidemiologists and drug developers continue to try to build a multi-layer defense and medical interventions to take the COVID-19 virus from a pandemic stage to an endemic stage—more akin to the flu.
“Orally administered antiviral drugs are being focused on in research and in development right now to address treatment for people whose bodies do not mount a strong response” or those who remain unvaccinated, she said.
“Merck’s oral antiviral drug, molnupiravir, has shown promising results in clinical trials in preventing mild and moderate COVID patients from developing severe COVID and hospitalizations,” Diao said. “Other oral antiviral drugs are also to come. Aside from oral drugs, there are also already available the post-exposure prophylaxis of monoclonal antibody treatments for early stage patients to prevent high-risk cases from progressing.”
Diao noted that there are also drugs being used now for those hospitalized with severe COVID-19 cases, like remdesivir and corticosteroids such as dexamethasone. She called research and development in COVID-19 treatments promising as supplements to the vaccine but stressed that vaccines are still the most effective way to curb the spread and deadliness of the virus.
“COVID vaccines offer over 90% protection from hospitalizations, which is unmatched by any other treatments currently on offer,” she said.
Diao also said she wanted to bring attention to the importance for pregnant women to get vaccinated. Pregnant women are more susceptible to serious complications from viral infections, she said, adding that viral infections pose risks to a fetus and increase the likelihood of premature births and stillbirths.
“Vaccines do not decrease fertility and are safe for expectant mothers and babies,” Diao said. “So, don’t be hesitant, if you’re pregnant or are planning to be, or even breastfeeding. In fact, there is a plus side. Strong production of COVID antibodies have been detected in breast milk for vaccinated mothers, passing a passive shield to the infant who cannot be vaccinated.”
With flu season underway WCHD is asking county residents to prioritize getting a flu vaccine in addition to their COVID-19 vaccine.
“Although both are respiratory infections, vaccination against one does not protect you from the other,” Diao said. “And given that both the flu and SARS CoV-2 virus target your lungs and your respiratory tract, there’s a real concern of the potential confluence effects of these two viruses if you have them at the same time, or back to back.”
A person can get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine at the same time. Find appointments here.
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.