The full COVID-19 report for Dec. 6-12 appears below.
LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations declined over the past week in Clark County and around the state, according to data released by the state on Wednesday.
But as the broad measures of the virus showed improvement, one concerning statistic showed up: an enormous spike in levels of COVID-19 genetic material detected in the wastewater in the City of Las Vegas, along with a bigger spike the previous week in Henderson. Monitors in most other parts of the valley remained much lower.
A graphic on the UNLV website that reports wastewater data shows viral counts in Las Vegas that are higher than they were during the omicron spike of January 2022, which brought the highest levels of cases of the entire COVID-19 pandemic. The green line on the chart below the map shows the number of gene copies per milliliter of wastewater sampled. The gray background shows case averages.
Recent weeks have shown increased levels of COVID-19 genetic material in wastewater without an elevated level of cases — much different from the pattern on the graphic through earlier months in the pandemic.
Dr. Edwin Oh, an associate professor for the Nevada Institute of Personalized Medicine at the UNLV School of Medicine, said, “Some sites are seeing viral counts that rival the peak of Omicron during early 2022, and in other sites we are seeing an overall increase in viral counts.”
Oh said a shift in the dominant COVID-19 variants could have a role in what the data shows.
“We are observing BQ.1 and its sub-variants displace variants that were dominant previously. In addition, we think that BQ.1/BQ.1.1 variants have led to an increase in viral counts in wastewater across Southern Nevada,” he said.
Wastewater monitoring can give health officials an advance warning — levels of virus DNA will show up in sewer samples before people actually get sick.
The wastewater data had not been updated since late October, when cases were on the decline. Today’s update shows all the measurements taken in the weeks since. Oh said the delay in updating the data occurred because of a supply chain problem with a reagent used to test samples.
A Henderson monitor saw a higher spike a week earlier. That has since declined, but it didn’t reach levels from early 2022 at the same monitor. Still, the increase reached levels higher than the report on this week’s data from the City of Las Vegas site.
The surge in wastewater levels could signal an impending increase in cases, but there’s no guarantee that will happen. The data from the Henderson monitoring site also showed growth of COVID-19 genetic material in wastewater without a corresponding increase in new cases.
Dan Gerrity of the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) said wastewater surveillance remains an important component of understanding what’s happening with COVID-19.
“With reduced clinical surveillance relative to past winters (in part due to the shift to at-home testing), this further demonstrates the importance of wastewater surveillance in terms of understanding true COVID incidence over time,” Gerrity said. He works in research and development for SNWA.
“The wastewater data suggest COVID incidence is considerably higher than currently indicated by clinical surveillance data, with some locations on par with the initial Omicron surge from last winter,” he said.
Looking at other data released Wednesday, the COVID-19 levels that had been climbing rapidly in recent weeks have leveled off. Hospitalizations have dropped.
The 14-day moving average (per 100,000 population) in Clark County increased slightly to an average of 270 cases per day — an 8.4% increase over last week. But actual cases reported by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services declined for the week, falling from 2,885 last week to 2,113 this week in Clark County.
A year ago, that average in Clark County was at 710 as the omicron spike was about to begin.
Statewide, the 14-day moving average increased to 348 cases per day, a 7.4% increase over the previous week. The actual number of cases dropped from 3,969 to 2,792.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Clark County dropped by 17, now standing at 294. Statewide, hospitalizations are at 345 as of Monday, down from 359 the previous week. About 15% of all emergency room visits involved patients with COVID-19 symptoms, down from 17% the previous week, according to the Nevada Hospital Association.
Two weeks ago, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adjusted Clark County’s community level from “low” to “medium.” The entire southern half of Nevada was at “medium” by the end of last week, and it appeared to be headed for “high” if trends continued to increase. The decline in hospitalizations and cases could head off that designation. The CDC uses community level to describe the risk of transmission and the pressure on hospitals to handle patient loads. The CDC updates community level data every Thursday.
Information from the Southern Nevada Health District shows that the dominant variant in Clark County’s cases over the past 30 days is COVID-19 BQ.1.1 (54.9% of cases), followed by COVID-19 BQ.1 (29.9% of cases).
Nevada reported 20 deaths linked to COVID-19, with 18 from Clark County. Nevada’s total number of deaths from the pandemic now stands at 11,677, with 9,126 from Clark County.
If you have symptoms, get tested and avoid spreading the virus to others. If you haven’t been vaccinated, go to the Southern Nevada Health District’s website for information on getting a shot, or updating your immunity by getting a booster.
- New daily confirmed cases (14-day moving average, per 100,000 population) 270 — up from 249 the previous week. (+8.4%)
- Total cases: 609,415*
- Deaths: 18 since last week (total: 9,126)
- Hospitalizations: 294 (down 17 from the previous week)
*-A difference in case counts exists between SNHD and the state. By SNHD’s current count, Clark County has had 590,902 cases as of this week.
- New daily confirmed cases (14-day moving average, per 100,000 population) 348 — up from 324 the previous week.
- Total cases: 803,643
- Deaths: 20 since last week (total: 11,677)
- Hospitalizations: 345 (up 14 from the previous week)
The county’s COVID-19 community level moved to “medium” on Thursday, Dec. 1, after staying at “low” since Aug. 11, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.