Quick breakdown: Understanding what the COVID-19 numbers really mean

Local News

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The numbers and the graphs can become a blur. What do you really need to know about COVID-19 in Southern Nevada? Here’s a look at some basics, and some things that have changed since this all started.

Age groups: Who’s getting COVID-19

As COVID-19 cases have grown in November, a new trend has shown up in Clark County. The age group of people who are testing positive has changed — they are younger.

NOTE: Curves tail off at the end because data is incomplete in calculating a 7-day average.

Reports show that people who are 18-24 years of age are now testing positive more often that people who are 25-49.

The 18-24 age group is about 10 percent of the county’s 2.3 million population, so a higher test positivity rate doesn’t mean more total cases. But it shows a shift that doctors warned about — the virus is spreading through younger populations. Younger people need to follow the same precautions as older people to keep the virus from runaway growth.

Test positivity rate: What it means

The graphic that shows a curve that is climbing higher isn’t about the number of cases as much as it is about the spread of the virus — and testing that reveals people have been exposed to COVID-19.

GRAPHIC

Right now, it’s the greatest cause for concern because it is shows that of the people who get tested, 17.3 percent have COVID-19 and they need to self-quarantine.

That’s the highest it has ever been since the pandemic hit Clark County. In the first months of the pandemic, Nevada took steps to limit the spread by shutting down all but the most essential businesses to get the curve to go below 10 percent. It worked, but at a great cost.

Fast forward to today. Getting below 10 percent seems impossible as the positive tests keep coming in. Nevada is farther above the 10 percent level than it was when Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered casinos to close in March. Sisolak’s three-week “pause” is meant to get control of the spread again.

We only know about the people who get tests … what about the people who get sick and never go in for a test? And not everyone gets sick. The virus spreads from seemingly healthy people, too.

Different effects on men and women

SNHD statistics reveal more COVID-19 cases among women than men — about 2,400 more cases. And women outnumber men by about 2,400 in the population. In percentages, cases among women accounted for 50.7 percent of the total, and 48.7 percent of the cases have been among men.

But men are far more likely to be hospitalized — or even die — of COVID-19.

SNHD reports that men account for 55.4 percent of hospitalizations, while 44.5 percent involve women.

Deaths show an even greater disparity: 61.6 percent men, 38.2 percent women.

Trends in race/ethnicity

Impact on Hispanics has grown tremendously over the course of the pandemic. Data from this week shows Hispanics have accounted for 29.5 percent of COVID-19 deaths — far above the measure of 18.5 percent that SNHD reported on June 1.

Hispanics account for 35.6 percent of cases overall, up from the June 1 level of 32.7 percent. Hospitalization statistics show a similar trend, rising from 29.1 percent in June to 35.0 percent this week.

Early in the pandemic, statistics from SNHD showed that COVID-19 was killing Black residents at a proportionally higher rate than expected.

The Black population in the county is about 12 percent, but figures from June 1 show that 16.2 percent of COVID-19 deaths were Black. Since then, the percentage has dropped to 13.8 percent — still above expected levels.

The recovery rate

Early in the pandemic, SNHD officials said the focus of their efforts was to keep up with cases and try to make sure hospitals would be able to handle the volume. County and state officials worked overtime to secure ventilators and bolster hospital capacity for the expected surge in cases.

Some smaller counties were providing much more detailed data, including the number of people who had recovered after getting sick.

But the volume of cases continued in Clark County, and all the medical resources were dedicated to treating patients and beginning to trace the sources of outbreaks. The county began publishing a recovery rate in its daily report, but admitted it was not actually following up on each case — there was no time and no staff to do so.

The recovery rate reported by SNHD is a calculation — not an actual count.

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