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Nevada COVID-19 deaths remain stubbornly high even as new cases recede

Nevada passed the latest in a year-and-a-half’s worth of grim milestones on Friday as the state’s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 7,000.

The report by the state Department of Health and Human Services served as a stark reminder that while all four of the state’s major disease-tracking metrics have been trending lower in recent weeks — particularly in Clark County — a lot of Nevadans are still dying from the new coronavirus.

With one day of reporting remaining, the state already had recorded the highest number of COVID-19-related deaths in a week since mid-February, according to data maintained by the Review-Journal.

The 170 deaths reported from Monday through Friday were the most since 174 were counted during the week ending Feb. 20, as the state’s fearsome winter surge was beginning to recede. They also were well above the peak of the smaller summer surge, when 153 deaths were reported in the week ending Aug. 28, when other disease metrics also were peaking.

Saturday’s figures, which won’t be released until today, could push the reference point even farther back.

And with 505 deaths so far this month with a little less than a week left, the monthly total could top the 598 deaths reported in the state in August, the deadliest month since February, the records show.

Rural numbers growing

Public health officials have noted repeatedly that a large majority of those who are dying are unvaccinated, though so-called breakthrough deaths have been trending higher, possibly due to the waning immunity that this week led federal health officials to authorize booster shots for some groups who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the spring.

Of the 7,015 coronavirus-related deaths reported by the state Department of Health and Human Services through Friday, 5,559, or 79.2 percent of the total, occurred in Clark County.

Data guide: COVID-19’s impact on Nevada

But as with new cases, that percentage has been declining in recent weeks as Washoe County and other rural areas has been growing as a percentage of the total.

The 82 deaths reported in Clark County from Monday through Friday, for example, represented about 48.2 percent of the state’s weekly total.

The demographics of the dead have shifted slowly during the pandemic but remain largely as they have been from the beginning, state data show:

■ Men are more likely to die from the disease than women, now accounting for 62 percent of the total.

■ The elderly remain most at risk, with those 70 and older accounting for 58.2 percent of all COVID-related deaths in the state despite representing just 9.8 percent of the population. On the other end of the spectrum, only three deaths have been reported among those under 10, and the 42 deaths reported among 20- through 29-year-olds representing just 0.6 percent of the total. But with elderly Nevadans more likely to be vaccinated than their younger counterparts, fatality rates in the younger age groups have been creeping higher.

■ Race and ethnicity also play a role in determining the likelihood of dying. While Black people in Nevada make up just 8.9 percent of the population, they account for 10.4 percent of COVID-19 deaths. The percentages for other groups: whites, 54.7 percent of deaths and 49.8 percent of the population; Hispanics, 22.4 percent of deaths compared to 30.2 percent of the population; and Asian-American and Pacific Islanders, 11.6 percent of deaths vs. 9.9 percent of the population.

The picture in Clark County

Clark County demographic data largely parallels the state numbers, with 69.1 percent of COVID-19 deaths occurring in those who were 64 or older, according to reports from the Southern Nevada Health District.

But the county reporting also contains some figures that the state does not regularly report, including the percentage of deaths in which underlying health conditions played a role. Of the 5,559 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the county, 3,653 — or 65.7 percent — have had an underlying medical condition.

Remembering those we lost to COVID-19

About 85 percent of the people died in Clark County have been hospitalized, and 31.2 percent were intubated before their death.

While breakthrough cases in the county account for about 20 percent of all cases recorded so far September, the metrics continue to show that vaccinations are preventing serious illness resulting in hospitalization and death.

There have been 146 breakthrough cases that have resulted in death in Clark County, which is 2.6 percent of the total, according to data from the health district.

Of the breakthrough deaths, 83 percent have been people 65 and older, and 49 percent had underlying medical conditions.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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