September 22, 2021 - 12:07 pm
Updated September 22, 2021 - 4:33 pm
Nevada hit two positive milestones on Wednesday, reporting the fewest new coronavirus cases in a single day and the lowest number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations in more than two months.
The state reported 824 new cases and 30 deaths, bringing cumulative totals posted by the state Department of Health and Human Services to 414,371 cases and 6,948 deaths.
That was the lowest figure since July 21, according to state data. It was also the lowest number of new cases reported in a single day since July 14.
New COVID-19 cases were just below the two-week moving average, which dropped sharply from 894 to 825.
Nevada also reported that 986 people in the state were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, 21 fewer than the previous day. The number of hospitalizations in the state has been slowly decreasing for weeks, though hospitals in the northern and central part of the state, in particular, continue to struggle with capacity and staffing issues.
COVID-related deaths, however, remained well above the moving two-week average, which increased by one to 13 fatalities per day.
Data guide: COVID-19’s impact on Nevada
The state’s two-week positivity rate, which essentially tracks the percentage of people tested for COVID-19 who are found to be infected, dropped 0.2 percentage point to 11.1 percent, according to state data. The rate declined steeply from its recent high of 16.4 percent on Aug. 13 before flattening over the past few weeks.
Clark County figures
The Southern Nevada Health District, meanwhile, reported 352 cases and 19 deaths in Clark County over the preceding day. That brought county totals to 316,397 cases and 5,515 deaths.
Clark County’s two-week test positivity rate, which has dropped rapidly in recent weeks, declined 0.1 percentage point to 8.6 percent.
Positivity rates show how the pandemic has shifted over the past month. While Clark County was ground zero of the state outbreak in mid-August, the surge is now hitting other parts of the state harder.
Washoe County, for example, reported a test positivity rate of 18.3 percent on Wednesday, well above the state’s recent peak. That number is still high, despite having dropped over the past few weeks. As of Wednesday, 63.40 percent of county residents 12 and older had been fully vaccinated, well above the state rate of 54.56 percent.
While hospitalization numbers have decreased statewide, Kevin Dick, chief health officer for Washoe County, said Wednesday that the situation there remains dire.
“I don’t think we’ve seen an increase from where we were last week with the number of cases that are coming to the hospitals, but they remain at that high level and our hospitals are just as strained as they were previously.”
The Nevada Hospital Association said in its weekly update that staffing levels for the entire state remain at an “alert” level, with Washoe County and rural counties particularly hard hit.
Hospital staffing declining
“During the past few months, staffed beds within Washoe County have contracted from 1,782 total beds (8/8/2021) to 1,320 staffed beds (9/21),” the trade group said. “Staffed intensive care beds in Washoe County have been reduced from 233 (8/8) to 166 (9/21). Rural hospitals are also experiencing staffing shortfalls as larger facilities, and travel staffing agencies poach nurses. Similar issues are also being felt in the south.”
Storey County has by far the highest positivity rate in the state, 40.6 percent as of Wednesday. That figure is based on a small sample, though, as only 778 total tests have been reported in the county. In contrast, Clark County has conducted more than 3.2 million tests.
Despite the recent improvements in the state’s key COVID metrics, they have yet to return to the levels seen prior to the summer surge, which experts say was driven by the more-contagious delta variant of the new coronavirus.
As a result, all of Nevada’s 17 counties are listed as having “high” risk of transmission of the disease. That’s the highest category in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and means a mask mandate remains in effect throughout the entire state.
The state reinstituted a mask mandate in crowded indoor public spaces for counties that have “high or substantial” rates of transmission on July 30, about two weeks before the state’s numbers started to flatten and drop.
— 12+ population: 2.64 million.
— Doses administered: 3.05 million.
— Vaccinations initiated: 1.72 million.
— Vaccinations completed: 1.46 million.
— Eligible Nevadans vaccinated: 54.54 percent.
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; Nevada Department of Health and Human Services