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Coronavirus Contextualized, 41st edition: Cases, deaths and hospitalizations all continue to decrease as vaccine rollout progresses

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
CoronavirusCoronavirus Contextualized
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Welcome to the 41st 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 the number of new cases reported each day continues to decrease and as schools prepare to soon open in Clark County.

Cases and test positivity

The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Nevada has continued to generally decline, though the last three days have seen a small uptick.

As of Thursday, an average of 396 cases were reported each day over the last seven days, down from 492 last week but slightly up from Monday, when the seven-day average hit 344. At the peak of the surge this fall, the seven-day average was 2,736, on Dec. 10; the low point before cases started to increase in mid-September was 267.

State biostatistician Kyra Morgan, at a meeting of the state COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force on Thursday, said she anticipates the state still could hit metrics more comparable to what it saw in September, before the fall surge, by the end of the month.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, there have been 292,748 COVID-19 cases reported statewide. About 7 percent of those cases, 20,653, have been diagnosed in the last month, and a little less than 1 percent, or 2,773 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 17th in the nation for COVID-19 cases per capita, down from 16th last week.

Nevada’s test positivity rate — which looks at the percentage of tests or people coming back positive out of the total tested — also continues to generally decline.

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 16.1 percent as of Thursday, down from a 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. Thursday’s rate was also slightly up from Monday’s, 14.2 percent.

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 8.6 percent, down from a high of 21.7 percent on Jan. 13. In September, before cases started to increase, the test positivity rate was 6.2 percent.

Whichever method you use, the trend is still the same: Statewide test positivity continues to generally be on the decline.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, about 1.4 million people — about 1 in 2.2 Nevadans have been tested for COVID-19, and there have been nearly 2.7 million individual testing encounters.

Vaccinations

Since vaccinations started in December, 622,189 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Nevada, up from 466,981 last week. In total, 418,700 first doses and 192,590 second doses have been given.

That means that 1 in 7 Nevadans has either been fully or partially vaccinated. In total, Nevada has been distributed 809,180 doses of the vaccine by the federal government.

According to the CDC, Nevada is now receiving the ninth fewest number of doses per capita from the federal government of any state — improved from sixth last week — at 26,271 per 100,000 residents. The federal government has told state officials that it is using the 2018 American Community Survey population numbers to allocate doses to states, though they have not yet provided state officials with the exact formula.

“That may not necessarily meet exactly what our 2020 demography represents,” Candice McDaniel, the state’s top immunization official, said on a press call last week.

Nevada continues to improve in the number of doses it has administered per capita. It now stands at having administered the 34th most doses, up from 41st last week. Nevada also ranks 21st for doses administered as a percentage of doses received, at 76.9 percent.

State data show that a total of 1,463 doses have been lost since December, either because they have been wasted, expired or otherwise were unable to be administered. 

The most common reason doses were unable to be used — which applied to 540 doses — was that they were redistributed Pfizer vaccines thawed by the state and then driven to hospitals to be handed out based on the size of their workforce. However, those doses can only be stored in a refrigerator for a maximum of five days after they are thawed. If demand was low, the hospital may have ended up with thawed Pfizer vaccines at the end of the five-day storage period that had to be discarded, a Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman said.

Two-hundred doses arrived to counties in a compromised state and had to be replaced by the manufacturer, while another 200 doses were lost generally to storage and handling errors. A total of 178 doses were discarded because the vaccine could not be used quickly enough and the administering provider didn’t have enough appointments to use them.

Other issues included storage and handling errors, dilution errors, dropped vials, leaky syringes, broken needles and contaminated syringes. Seven doses were unaccounted for without any other reason given.

Among the counties, Mineral County has still administered the most doses per capita, at 43,396 vaccines administered per 100,000 residents, followed by White Pine at 33,841 and Lincoln at 24,098. Clark County continues to rank 9th at 17,876, while Washoe now ranks 6th, down from 5th at 22,783

It’s important to note that these numbers are a rough approximation, as shots are reported based on the county where they were administered, not where the person they were given to lives.

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

Deaths

The number of new COVID-19 deaths being reported each day continues to decrease.

As of Thursday, 18 deaths were reported on average each day over the last seven days, down from a high of 45 on Jan. 14 and down from 24 last week. Over the last seven days, 127 new COVID-19 deaths have been reported across the state, including:

  • 115 in Clark County
  • 7 in Washoe County
  • 3 in Carson City
  • 1 each in Lyon and Nye counties

In the last month, 901 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported statewide, a little less than a fifth of the 4,933 total COVID-19 deaths reported statewide since the beginning of the pandemic.

Pershing County continues to have the highest number of deaths per capita in Nevada, with 28 deaths per 10,000 residents, followed by Carson City, Churchill County and Nye County, each at 20.

Nevada ranks 23rd in the nation for deaths per capita, down from 21st last week.

Hospitalizations

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Nevada continue to decline.

There were 532 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the last day for which data is available, down from 698 last week. The record, 2,025 hospitalizations, was set on Dec. 13. The low point in September was 417.

Nevada now has the 15th highest number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 per capita, down from 6th last week, at 17.3 per 100,000.

County by county

Seven of the state’s 17 counties are considered at elevated risk for the spread of COVID-19 according to state criteria as of Thursday. Those counties are Clark, Elko, Eureka, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and Pershing.

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.

Mineral County continues to have the highest case rate in the state at 1,403 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 30 days. Clark County comes in second at 588 and Pershing County comes in third at 503.

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