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Coronavirus Contextualized, 46th edition: Cases, hospitalizations see small increase as vaccine rollout expands

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Coronavirus Contextualized
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Welcome to the 46th installment of “Coronavirus Contextualized.”

For more than a year now, we have brought you the latest COVID-19 numbers in Nevada, including COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and provided context to them on a near-weekly basis through this series. You can view the prior editions of “Coronavirus Contextualized” here.

As noted in the last edition, we plan to continue providing you with the data you need to know about COVID-19 in Nevada for as long as necessary. However, “Coronavirus Contextualized” now publishes on a semi-regular basis, which means we may occasionally skip a Friday or two if there are no new trends to report.

Don’t fear though: You’ll still be able to continue to find the latest data daily on our COVID-19 data page and on Twitter. As always, you can reach out to [email protected] with any questions.

Below, we explore a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, which comes as the vaccine rollout ramps up with an expansion of eligibility to those 16 and older this week.

Cases and test positivity

After three months of relatively steady declines and plateaus, the average number of COVID-19 cases reported each day saw a small uptick this week.

An average of 313 cases were reported each day over the last seven days, up slightly from the recent low point of 239 on March 23. While that average has fluctuated over the last six weeks, five of the last seven days saw the seven-day average increase from the prior day.

It’s important to note, though, that the number of new cases reported each day remains at a low level. At the peak of the case surge this fall, the seven-day average was 2,736, on Dec. 10. The previous low point, in mid-September, was 267.

Caleb Cage, Nevada’s COVID-19 response director, described the increasing trend in cases as “very slight” during a press call this week.

“This is not unusual or out of line from what we’ve seen previously as we have loosened restrictions,” Cage said. “While we are closer to the end than the beginning, we must continue to follow mitigation measures to help slow the spread.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, there have been 306,358 COVID-19 cases reported statewide. A little more than 3 percent of those cases, 9,863 have been diagnosed in the last month, and 0.7 percent, or 2,189 cases, have been reported in the last week. Both of those percentages are slightly up from those seen two weeks ago.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 1 in 10 Nevadans has tested positive for the virus.

Nevada’s test positivity rate, which looks at the percentage of tests or people coming back positive out of the total tested, also started to see a bit of an increase this week.

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 9.7 percent as of Thursday. That number, however, has been affected by both unusually low and unusually high single-day test positivity rates in the last week, which makes it difficult to see how the data are trending.

Another way of looking at test positivity, which may be more helpful to look at this 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 4.7 percent, up from a low point of 4.2 percent, where the rate had been for six consecutive days until Sunday. 

That number, though, is still significantly down from a high of 21.4 percent in mid-January and remains under the 5 percent threshold recommended by the World Health Organization for reopening.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 1.5 million people — roughly 1 in 2 Nevadans have been tested for COVID-19, and there have been more than 3 million individual testing encounters.

Vaccinations

Nearly two-thirds of Nevadans are now either fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

Since vaccinations started in December, more than 1.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Nevada, up from nearly 1.4 million last week. In total, 957,169 people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 586,035 people have been fully vaccinated.

That means that 31.1 percent of Nevadans have been either fully or partially vaccinated. In total, Nevada has received nearly 2 million doses of the vaccine for distribution.

According to the CDC, Nevada has received the fourth fewest doses per capita of any state — the state was at 8th two weeks ago — at 64,171 per 100,000 residents. Alaska has still received the most doses per capita at 94,730 per 100,000. The federal government has told state officials that it is using the 2018 American Community Survey population numbers, which may not accurately reflect Nevada’s current population, to allocate doses to states.

Nevada continues to fall in the national ranking by state of doses administered per capita. It now stands at having administered the 38th most doses, down from 35th two weeks ago. Nevada now ranks 21st for doses administered as a percentage of doses received, down from 16th two weeks ago.

Among the counties, Mineral County residents have received the most doses per capita, at about 5,600 per 10,000 residents, followed by White Pine County at 5,500 and Carson City and Douglas County, each at 5,200. Clark County now ranks 6th, up from 8th two weeks ago, at 4,500, while Washoe ranks 5th, up from 6th, at 4,800.

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

Deaths

The number of new COVID-19 deaths reported each day is back up after a brief weeklong dip.

As of Thursday, 8 deaths were being reported on average each day over the last seven days, up from 6 last week but consistent with the 8 reported the week before that. Those numbers are all significantly down from a high of 45 on Jan. 14. At the last low point on Oct. 27, an average of 4 deaths were being reported on average each day.

Over the last seven days, 57 new COVID-19 deaths have been reported across the state, including:

  • 46 in Clark County
  • 6 in Nye County
  • 3 in Washoe County
  • 1 in Elko and Lincoln counties

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 5,313 deaths from COVID-19. In the last month, 273 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported statewide, about 5 percent of the deaths reported statewide since the beginning of the pandemic.

Pershing County continues to have the highest number of deaths per capita in Nevada, with 30 deaths per 10,000 residents, followed by Nye County at 23 and Carson City at 22.

Hospitalizations

COVID-19 hospitalizations have started to creep back up as well.

There were 341 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the last day for which data is available, up from 273 a week ago. 

The state hit a record low number of hospitalizations, 259, on March 28. Hospitalizations peaked during the fall surge at 2,025 on Dec. 13.

The Nevada Hospital Association, in its weekly report, noted that it was seeing increases in hospital volume as it predicted last week.

“However, we believe the increases will be at a slower tempo and will not overpower hospital capacity based on the appreciated vaccine effectiveness and the public’s continued willingness to receive the vaccine,” the association wrote. “In the meantime, the continued need for social distancing and individual responsibility cannot be understated.”

County by county

Only one of the state’s 17 counties, Lyon, is considered at elevated risk for the spread of COVID-19 according to state criteria as of Thursday. 

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.

Lyon County is flagged for a too high case and test positivity rate.

Carson City continues to have the highest case rate in the state at 354 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 30 days. Washoe County comes in second at 284 followed by Lyon at 229. No other counties currently have an elevated case rate.

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