Nevada outpacing California, Arizona in COVID-19 cases; hospital staff stretched thin

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada is now outpacing California and Arizona when it comes to COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. The 14-day positivity rate for the virus in Nevada is 15.6%, the highest ever since the start of the pandemic.

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“Which implies community wide spread and potentially more undiagnosed cases,” said Kyra Morgan of the Nevada of Health and Human Services.

Her comments were made during a meeting of the COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task force meeting Thursday. She said the state is up in all areas: testing, positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths and for each person who tests positive infects an average of 1.2 people.

Governor Steve Sisolak said Wednesday that he is reviewing the data and would wait to hear what was said in today’s meeting to make a decision on whether mitigation efforts need to be stricter than the “Stay at Home 2.0” he announced a week earlier.

Misty Robinson with the Southern Nevada Health District said she would like the task force to recommend that Sisolak have gatherings limited to 50 or less. Currently, large gatherings are allowed to have 250 people. Some of the counties said they weren’t sure that would make a difference because the issue with community spread seems to be coming from smaller, family and friend gatherings.

“The health district’s recommendations of no greater than 50 is doing a good job and will help solidify some things moving forward,” said Billy Samuels, Clark County emergency manager and deputy fire chief. “So, we do not have any recommendations for what the Governor’s Office should be doing, as far as rolling back or making any further announcements.”

Some county representatives said mask wearing and social distancing has become a political issue, so it’s critical that the public hear it’s a public health issue and is adversely impacting hospitals.

While hospitalizations have spiked, Dr. Chris Lake of the Nevada Hospital Association, they have not exceeded the previous peak for COVID-19 patients in the ICU or on ventilators yet. He did add hospitals are experiencing staffing challenges due to employees having to isolate because of possible exposure:

“These are related to staff members and staff family members catching COVID or being exposed to COVID through the community or through community spread and needing to be self-isolated or quarantined for a period of time.”

Nevada hospitals are working with organizations to hire “traveling nurses” to help with staffing, however Lake said those nurses are in high demand and harder to get.

Julia Peek, deputy administrator of community health services, said they have been able to identify more than 30,000 cases through contract tracing. She reported that the COVID Testing app has been downloaded 93,000 times. The app helps people identify if they’ve had close contact with an infected person.

Most county leaders on the call were in agreement that while enforcement efforts are working, they still need to get much of the community to follow guidelines in place.

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