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Nevada National Guard SPC Katherine Deskins, left, vaccinates Dennis West during the first day of COVID-19 inoculation at the Cashman Center on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Welcome to the 37th 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 the latest COVID-19 trends as cases remain at a still-high level but continue to decrease and as the vaccination rollout across the state continues.

Cases and test positivity

Cases of COVID-19 in Nevada have been declining relatively consistently now for the last two weeks, though the number of new cases being reported on average each day is still greater than the highest point of the peak of the surge over the summer.

As of Thursday, an average of 1,203 cases were reported each day over the last seven days, down from 2,500 on Jan. 12. The record seven-day average, 2,736, was set on Dec. 10. Cases then dipped slightly over the holidays, increased again post-holidays, and are now once again on the decline.

Thursday’s seven-day average is just slightly more than the previous record set during the summer surge — 1,176 on July 20. Cases had been on the rise since mid-September, when a low of 267 cases on average were reported each day.

Almost all counties are now showing improvement in their case data, though the numbers in Washoe County are significantly down from their peak this fall, while Clark County’s cases are declining but remain at a still-high level. 

Clark County hit a record seven-day case average of 2,092 on Jan. 12. Since then, cases have been declining, with the county’s seven-day average down to 1,012 on Thursday — just slightly lower than the record 1,073 seven-day average the county saw during the summer surge.

Washoe County, meanwhile, hit its record seven-day case average of 531 on Nov. 27. Cases have been generally declining since then, with the county at a seven-day average of 111 as of Thursday.

That means that while Clark County is down to about half of its record case average, Washoe County is down to about a fifth.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, there have been 275,139 COVID-19 cases reported statewide. A fifth of those cases, 56,397, have been diagnosed in the last month, and 3 percent, or 8,423 cases, have been reported in the last week.

One in 11 Nevadans has tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic. Nevada ranks 16th in the nation for COVID-19 cases per capita, up from 17th two weeks ago.

At the same time, Nevada’s test positivity rate — which looks at the percentage of tests or people coming back positive out of the total tested — remains high. As usual, we’ll look at two different methods of calculating test positivity below, using both individual people and a metric known as testing encounters.

Starting with the number of new reported people who tested positive for COVID-19 out of the total number of new reported people tested each day, the state’s seven-day average test positivity rate was about 32.6 percent as of Thursday, down from a recent high of 45.9 percent on Dec. 13 but still significantly higher than the recent low point before the surge this fall, 9.2 percent on Sept. 17. 

One of the drawbacks, however, of looking at test positivity using individual people is that some people are tested repeatedly. Someone who tested negative four times but tested positive on their fifth time would be counted as a new positive person but not a new person tested. (In other words, they would be counted in the numerator but not the denominator.) That’s why the test positivity rates calculated this way look so high.

Another way of looking at test positivity, as we have noted each week, is to examine test encounters, or the number of individual people tested each day. This method of looking at test positivity excludes duplicate samples collected the same day but accounts for people who are tested repeatedly on different days.

It is not possible to independently calculate the test positivity rate based on test encounters because the state only reports the number of positive cases, not the number of positive test encounters. However, the state does provide this number, calculated as an average over a 14-day period with a seven-day lag. As of Wednesday, that number was 18.3 percent, down from a high of 21.7 percent on Jan. 13. In September, before cases started to increase, the test positivity rate was 6.1 percent.

Whichever calculation you use to look at test positivity, the trends are generally the same. Test positivity had been increasing fairly steadily from September through mid-January and is now decreasing.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 1.3 million people — about one in 2.3 Nevadans have been tested for COVID-19, and there have been more than 2.4 million individual testing encounters.

Vaccinations

Since vaccinations started in December, 210,173 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Nevada, according to state health officials. State officials did not break down that number on Thursday by first and second doses.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, which lag the state’s numbers, show that 194,942 doses have been administered in Nevada, including 167,481 first doses and 26,327 second doses. That means that 4.6 percent of Nevadans have been partially vaccinated with another 0.9 percent fully vaccinated. In total, Nevada has been distributed 339,500 doses of the vaccine by the federal government.

According to the CDC, Nevada still has received the second fewest number of doses per capita from the federal government of any state, 11,022 per 100,000 residents, as of Thursday, only behind South Carolina at 10,658. State officials are seeking clarity from the federal government about why the state is receiving fewer doses on a per population basis than other states.

Nevada has also administered the fifth fewest doses per capita of any state, at 6,329 per 100,000 residents, though it actually ranks 20th in the nation for doses administered as a percentage of doses received, at 57.4 percent

Caleb Cage, Nevada’s COVID-19 response director, told the state’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force on Thursday that federal officials have said that Nevada has put the highest percentage of doses it has received from the federal government in arms of any state in its region

To dive deeper into these numbers, check out this explainer published by The Nevada Independent this week.

As of Thursday, at least 107,190 doses have been administered in Clark County, and the Washoe County Health district has administered 19,020 doses.

For more on the vaccination process in the state, read our vaccine Q&A here.

Deaths

Nevada continues to see high numbers of new deaths reported each day, though state officials are hopeful those numbers will soon start going down. As of Thursday, 39.1 deaths were being reported on average each day over the last seven days, down from a high of 44.9 on Jan. 14, though the seven-day average has been fluctuating over the past two weeks.

Over the last seven days, 274 new COVID-19 deaths have been reported across the state, including:

  • 233 in Clark County
  • 19 in Washoe County
  • 8 in Carson City
  • 4 in Nye County
  • 3 each in Douglas and Lyon counties
  • 2 in Churchill County
  • 1 each in Humboldt and Elko counties

In the last month, 1,215 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported statewide, 29 percent of the 4,189 total COVID-19 deaths reported statewide since the beginning of the pandemic.

Churchill County continues to have the highest number of deaths per capita in Nevada, with 19.3 deaths per 100,000 residents, followed by Carson City at 18.2, Lander County at 14.5, and Nye County at 14.2.

Nevada ranks 20th in the nation for deaths per capita, up from 21st two weeks ago.

Hospitalizations

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Nevada continue to decrease, though they still remain at a high level.

There were 1,322 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the last day for which data is available, down from a record 2,025 hospitalizations reported on Dec. 13. The record over the summer was 1,165.

“Even though the trajectory is going down, we are still at high numbers,” said Chris Lake, executive director of community resilience for the Nevada Hospital Association. “The number of patients hospitalized are still currently higher than the previous peak, just to put it in perspective. We're going in the right direction, but we are still seeing very high numbers.”

Nevada continues to have the third highest number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 per capita at 47.5 per 100,000, behind Arizona at 58 and Georgia at 48.6

Nevada hospitals are currently staffing 7,114 beds, more than the 6,660 they are normally licensed to operate, to keep up with the demand. As of Wednesday, 76 percent of staffed hospital beds and 72 percent of ICU beds were occupied. Those numbers were 80 percent and 78 percent, respectively, in Southern Nevada and 70 percent and 54 percent in Northern Nevada.

“In northern Nevada the cases are receding at a faster pace than in the south,” the hospital association noted in one of its reports this week.

County by county

Twelve of the state’s 17 counties are now considered at elevated risk for the spread of COVID-19 according to state criteria as of Thursday. Those counties not considered at risk are Esmeralda, Mineral, Storey, Lander and White Pine counties.

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

  • The average number of tests per day per 100,000, calculated over a 14-day period. If this number is less than 100, 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 8.0 percent, a county could be considered at risk.

Clark County has the highest case rate in the state at 1,752 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 30 days, followed by Churchill at 1,472, Pershing at 1,221, and Lincoln at 1,212.

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What Happened Here: A six-part series on COVID-19 in Nevada

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