Nevada’s COVID-19 Response Team update, new swab test to also detect seasonal flu, differentiate infections

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The State of Nevada COVID-19 Response Team provided an update on the State’s comprehensive COVID-19 response as part of Governor Steve Sisolak’s Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery. As of July 9, while Nevada continues to see a rise in hospitalizations, use of ventilators has decreased.

Attendees:

  • Caleb Cage, State of Nevada COVID-19 Response Director
  • Julia Peek, Deputy Administrator, Division of Public and Behavioral Health, Community Health Services
  • Dr. Mark W. Pandori, Director of Nevada State Public Health Laboratory; Associate Professor of Pathology at University of Reno School of Medicine

INFECTION RATES

As of today, Cage said Nevada has seen a total of 24,904 cases. This is an increase of 603 new cases since yesterday. For the 7-day period ending July 8, cases are growing at a rate of 3.4% or 739 new cases a day.

For comparison, the period ending June 30 was 3.9% or 644 new cases a day. The period ending May 31 was 1.4% or 168 new cases a day.

Confirmed hospitalizations have had an overall increasing trend since May 31, with most in Clark County. The Nevada COVID-19 Response Team is monitoring statistics on a county by county basis and at the state level.

Statewide hospital occupancy rates are averaging 78% for all patients, with ICU averaging 76% for all patients.

About 35% of ventilators are in use statewide for all patients.

A resurgence of COVID-19 continues throughout Nevada with COVID-19 patients accounting for 19% of all patients hospitalized and 27% of all of those in the ICU.

According to the State of Nevada COVID-19 Response Team, regionally, hospitals have sufficient capability and capacity to treat all causes of hospitalization although some individual hospitals are nearing ICU capacity levels.

In Southern Nevada, COVID-19 patients account for a 3rd of all ICU utilization, their data shows.

CONTACT TRACING

According to Julia Peek, since the first case of COVID-19 yesterday, they have identified 5,050 new cases as a result of contact tracing. This represents over 20% of the total cases reported to date, she added.

On the teleconference update, Peek recommended that if listeners felt like they were exposed over the July 4 holiday weekend to please seek testing using a viral PCR test. Testing locations are listed on the nvhealthresponse.nv.gov website.

TESTING CAPACITY UPDATE

Testing is occurring at high levels in public and private laboratories, according to Dr. Mark W. Pandori, Director of Nevada State Public Health Laboratory; Associate Professor of Pathology at UNR School of Medicine.

According to the state lab’s data, over 10% of the Nevada population has received a swab, PCR/molecular test for the COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2 virus.

He said the lab in Reno is well-stocked with testing capability,  and he thanks the emergency management team for helping them to maintain supply levels.

“In light of the fact that there are testing shortages now cropping up around country. We are looking to expand our testing capacity. And what we’re doing at the state public health lab to do that is, we are this week bringing on 3rd technology to test. It actually is based on PCR, the test that recently received emergency use authorization from the FDA, and it will not replace either of the two tests that we currently run, but it will compliment them.”

Dr. Mark W. Pandori, UNR School of Medicine

Pandori said having 3 technologies will give the state lab the ability to avoid testing shortages. “At this point, we don’t have an issue with testing ability,” he added.

A significant development, Pandori says they are now working with the CDC to bring on a new test for late summer and fall and winter and then going forward. It is a modification of the swab test, developed by the CDC, allowing the lab to simultaneously test for influenza (flu) and COVID-19/SARS-CoV-2. This is important as we enter the fall flu season.

This new test will allow them to differentiate the two infections.

Yesterday, Washoe County sent a press release announcing they are conducting two additional studies to determine how much infection has occurred since the pandemic started. The test will allow them to, like a time machine, see if people were previously infected and didn’t get swab or PCR tests.

Washoe County tests showed 2.3% of the people who got an antibody test were positive, indicating the number of infected individuals in the state was probably much higher than they determined by the testing of symptomatic individuals. Also making fatality rate much lower than calculated.

The lab continues to do genomic analysis, sequencing tests of positive cases. They are up to 200 genomic sequences as of today.

Along with the University of Reno and UNR School of Medicine, they are looking at the origins of the virus in Nevada. They have found a tremendous genetic diversity of viruses in Nevada.

Julia Peek said that with the growing number of cases, the public should remain diligent wearing masks at bars, restaurants, and pools.

“If you are not actively eating, to protect others and yourself please keep your mask on. Find one or make one that allows you to talk freely,” said Peek.

This action protects other patrons and staff, helping us save the Nevada economy so these places can stay open.

When not actively swimming at the pool, “although it will feel awkward at first, please wear masks at water parks to save lives.”

Peeks reminded listeners to self-isolate and quarantine until you get your test results back.

If you have tested for the coronavirus because you believe you have been exposed, “you should not be out and about until receiving a negative test result. Even with a negative result, please wear a mask,” added Peek.

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