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Health officials urge masks in Las Vegas due to high COVID community level

Updated June 10, 2022 - 7:55 pm

Federal and local public health agencies are recommending wearing a mask in public indoor settings now that Clark County has once again reached high community levels of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the county the “high” designation based on its increased case rates and hospitalizations. Both it and the Southern Nevada Health District now recommend masking up.

“I urge everyone to wear their masks in public places and to stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines,” Dr. Fermin Leguen, district health officer, said in a press release.

The new designation isn’t surprising given the recent trajectory in cases, a UNLV epidemiologist said.

“We haven’t seen a giant spike,” said Brian Labus, an assistant professor at UNLV’s School of Public Health. “We’ve crossed a line, but we’ve been marching toward this line for a couple months now.”

Case numbers are growing as omicron variants that are better able to evade antibodies increase in dominance, and as protection from vaccination or prior infection wanes, he said.

Clark County’s rate of new cases in the past week is 228.04 per 100,000 population. Its rate of new hospital admissions is 10.9 patients per 100,0000 population, and 4.3 percent of its staffed inpatient beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to CDC data.

The Nevada Hospital Association said on Wednesday that hospital infrastructure “is not being stressed by the disease.”

Clark County, the only county in Nevada at the high level, is among the nearly 10 percent of counties in the U.S. with the designation. The majority of the nation’s counties – 57.51 percent – are at the low level, and 32.75 percent are at medium.

“In a month it’ll be a different group of cities that are at the high level,” Labus said. “This is kind of the way disease plays out, and it’s not identical in every county around the country.”

Neither the state nor the county has shown any interest in renewing a mandate that people wear masks indoors.

“It’s a matter of encouraging people to do it,” Labus said. “A lot of them are going to ignore it, but if the message is, ‘numbers are up and now is the appropriate time to wear a mask,’ some people at least will listen.”

People who have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 should get tested, according to the health district. People who are sick should stay home and isolate from others in their household.

Those who are at higher risk for severe illness may need to take additional precautions. These could include having a plan for rapid testing if needed and talking to your their health care provider about options for treatments with oral antivirals and monoclonal antibodies, according to the district.

The health district offers COVID-19 vaccines and testing at locations throughout Clark County. Southern Nevadans now also have expanded access to COVID-19 testing at self-test vending machines.

For more information and additional COVID-19 resources visit www.SNHD.info/covid.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter. Digital content producer Tony Garcia contributed to this report.