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Omicron emerging in positive number of COVID-19 cases


The region’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 saw its highest increase this week. 

“Our positivity was 37.9% [on Monday],” said the Washoe County Health District’s Jim English. 

That number is just for people who are showing signs of illness, not those who are just getting tested for reasons such as employment.

“We are really concentrating on those individuals that are ill, and it’s obvious by those that are coming through our operation that the virus is continuing to spread throughout our community,” English added.

Kevin Dick, Washoe County Health District.

The seven-day moving average, however, is at 6.5%, which is just above the World Health Organization’s 5% test positivity rate needed to reduce mask mandates.

District Health Officer Kevin Dick said more work needs to be done to remove restrictions that have occurred in other Nevada counties. White Pine, Storey and Esmeralda counties each have reduced restrictions due to decreasing numbers of positive COVID-19 cases. 

“To be able to lessen mask restrictions, counties need to remain at low or moderate transmission, as defined by the CDC, for two weeks in a row,” according to the state COVID-19 task force. “Low transmission is defined as having less than 10 new cases per 100,000 persons in the past seven days and less than 5% of tests resulting in positive cases in the past 7 days.”

Washoe County has a long way to go before that happens here.

“CDC continues to have Washoe County categorized as high transmission for COVID-19, and mask requirements [remain] in place here in Washoe County,” Dick said. “The way the mask requirements work is it depends on both the number of new cases per day, over a seven day period per 100,000 population, and the test positivity rate.”

If either is over the CDC threshold, then restrictions will remain in place.

Omicron emerging

The Omicron variant to date is considered more easily spread than the Delta variant, but illnesses are appearing to be less severe with the new variant. 

“We know that Delta is a little more severe [and] I suspect that most of the hospitalizations that we’re seeing now are probably those Delta cases,” Dick said.

Dick said today there are 16 Omicron cases in the county. None of those cases have led to hospitalization, and more than 20% of sampled cases at the state health lab are Omicron cases.

Travel and indoor gatherings continue to contribute to transmitting the virus, Dick said. 

Vaccines are still recommended to curb the spread and reduce the severity of illnesses. More than 60% of Washoe County residents are fully vaccinated. 

Bob Conrad
Bob Conradhttp://thisisreno.com
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 and sits on the boards of the Nevada Press Association and Nevada Open Government Coalition.