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A statue is adorned with a gold face mask in front of Caesars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on Thursday, June 4, 2020. The property opened its doors to the public at 10 a.m. after the COVID-19 pandemic which prompted the temporary shutdown. (Mikayla Whitmore/The Nevada Independent)

Welcome to the 21st installment of “Coronavirus Contextualized,” a recurring feature in which we explore some of the numbers swirling around in the time of coronavirus.

Through these stories, we hope to parse the numbers, including confirmed cases of COVID-19, people tested, number of hospitalizations and deaths, and provide some context to them. You can view the prior editions of “Coronavirus Contextualized” here on our coronavirus page.

These stories serve as a written roundup of the COVID-19 trends we kept our eyes on this week, with all graphs and charts living permanently on our COVID-19 data page, where they are updated multiple times a day with the latest numbers. 

We’re continuing to take suggestions for what kind of data, graphs and trends you would like to see analyzed in future versions of this story or included in a future update of our data page. Reach out to [email protected] with any feedback.

Below, we take a look at some of the latest COVID-19 trends in Nevada, as cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to decrease across the Silver State.

Cases and tests

COVID-19 cases in Nevada have been steadily decreasing for nearly eight weeks, with only 2,280 cases reported over the last seven days. The week before, 3,004 new cases were reported, down from 3,634 cases the week before that. At the peak on July 16, 1,451 new cases were reported in a single day.

Statewide, there have now been 72,617 confirmed cases of COVID-19, meaning about 2.4 percent of the state’s population has tested positive for COVID-19. Nevada ranks ninth in the nation for the most coronavirus cases per capita.

Looking at the seven-day average, about 326 new cases are being reported each day as of Thursday, significantly down from the high point of that average of 1,176 on July 20. Before cases surged this summer, the state reached a low point of 81 new cases on average reported each day on May 11.

The daily test positivity rate, which looks at the number of new people testing positive each day as a percentage of the number of new people tested, has finally started to decline relatively consistently, though there still have been some ups and downs.

The seven-day average daily test positivity rate was 12.1 percent as of Thursday, down from a high point of 26.2 percent on Aug. 5. (Those numbers are calculated based on the numbers reported each day, not the day that people were actually tested.)

The state, which calculates the positivity rate slightly differently, reports an 8.1 percent average daily positivity rate as of Tuesday, down from a high of 15.7 percent in mid-July. The state calculates its positivity rate on a lag and uses the number of positive tests as a percent of total tests, instead of positive people as a percent of total people.

State and county officials acknowledged on Thursday that testing is, generally, down, but not for a lack of availability of tests. Washoe County health officials, for instance, said that they have ample capacity to test but fewer people have been seeking out testing.

“It’s free, and no insurance required,” Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick told a state COVID-19 task force on Thursday. “And yet people are still not showing up for testing.”

Clark County has reported the same problem, with only a small number of people taking advantage of a two week, 60,000-person testing blitz. Billy Samuels, deputy fire chief for the Clark County Fire Department said that the county only collected 2,300 tests on Wednesday, compared to 4,200 tests a day two months ago.

“Unfortunately we just are not seeing the results in the community, and we have done a media push, social media push, other alerts that we've thrown out there, and it's just not like it was two months ago,” Samuels said.

On Thursday, the average number of new tests being collected over the last seven days was 6,340, down from a high of 12,260 in late July.

Deaths

Deaths have been slowly declining for the last three weeks after peaking on Aug. 20, when the seven-day average of new deaths reported each day was 20.7. On Thursday, that number was down to 9.4 new reported deaths per day.

The previous low point before cases started to increase this summer was 1.9 deaths per day, reported on June 28. Deaths tend to lag new cases by about five weeks.

Hospitalizations

The number of people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 continue to steadily decrease with 519 hospitalizations reported on Wednesday, the last day for which data is available. That’s significantly down from the high point of 1,165 on July 31.

The previous low point of COVID-19 hospitalizations before the case surge this summer was 316 on May 30.

The Nevada Hospital Association, in its daily report published Thursday, said that “hospital infrastructure is not experiencing any stress as a result of significant COVID-19 case counts” and that hospitals in all regions have “significant capacity.”

A more detailed report published Wednesday noted that even Clark County, which experienced more demand on its hospital system this summer than any other county in Nevada, is “experiencing a continuous gradual return to normalcy.” The association noted that in Northern Nevada hospitalizations “continue to decline even as many public schools have reopened.”

As of Thursday, 70 percent of licensed hospital beds and 59 percent of ICU beds statewide were occupied. Those numbers were 74 percent and 66 percent, respectively, in Clark County and 63 percent and 43 percent, respectively, in Washoe County.

County by county

Four counties remain at elevated risk for the spread of COVID-19 and one was newly identified this week, according to the state’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force. 

Clark County continues to have the highest rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 at 2,730 cases per 100,000 residents as of Thursday. Washoe County comes in second at 1,670 cases per 100,000, followed by Elko County at 1,662.

Churchill County only has 454 cases per 100,000 residents but remains on the state’s list of at-risk counties because of a low number of tests performed per capita and a high test positivity rate. Eureka County was newly added to the state’s list this week because of a low number of tests per capita and a high case rate.

Counties are considered at elevated risk of the spread of COVID-19 if they meet two of the three following criteria:

  • The average number of tests per day per 100,000, calculated over a 14-day period. If this number is less than 150, a county could be considered at risk.
  • The case rate per 100,000, calculated by taking the number of cases diagnosed and reported over a 30-day period. If this number is greater than 200, a county could be considered at risk.
  • The case rate per 100,000 and the test positivity rate, calculated over a 14-day period with a seven-day lag. If the case rate is greater than 50 and the test positivity rate is greater than 7.0 percent, a county could be considered at risk.

Lander, Lyon and Nye counties were moved off of the state’s list this week and are no longer flagged as having elevated disease criteria.

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