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Coronavirus Contextualized, 47th edition: Cases, hospitalizations slightly up though not yet ‘cause for alarm,’ state officials say

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Coronavirus Contextualized
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Welcome to the 47th 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 two editions, 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 the slightly elevated case and hospitalization numbers as the vaccination effort continues across the state and as counties prepare to reopen further next month.

Cases and test positivity

While cases continue to generally slowly increase, they appear slightly down this week from the prior week. That’s because the seven-day average was briefly inflated following a couple of days in mid-April in which hundreds of backlogged cases were reported.

As of Thursday, an average of 369 cases were reported each day over the last seven days, down from 481 a week ago. Cases, though, are still generally higher than they were at their lowest point last month, when the state hit 239 on March 23.

It’s important to note, however, that the number of new cases reported each day remains at a generally 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.

Kyra Morgan, state biostatistician, attributed the increases to a combination of the state increasing capacity limits to 50 percent and behavior changes from the general public who might be, as she said, “letting their guard down from the low numbers.”

“It’s not necessarily unexpected or cause for alarm at this time,” Morgan said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March, there have been 312,306 COVID-19 cases reported statewide. A little more than 3 percent of those cases, 10,893 have been diagnosed in the last month, and 0.8 percent, or 2,583 cases, have been reported in the last week.

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 11.3 percent as of Thursday. That’s significantly down from a high point of 45.6 percent on Dec. 13.

Another way of looking at test positivity 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 5.8 percent, up from a low point of 4.2 percent in early April. 

That number has stabilized in recent days after a couple of weeks of day over day increases, though it is still above 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 3.1 million individual testing encounters.

Vaccinations

More than a third of Nevadans are now either fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

Since vaccinations started in December, more than 1.9 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Nevada, up from 1.5 million two weeks ago. In total, nearly 1.2 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 800,000 people have been fully vaccinated.

That means that 37.4 percent of Nevadans have been either fully or partially vaccinated. Nevada has received nearly 2.3 million doses of the vaccine for distribution.

According to the CDC, Nevada has received the 3rd fewest doses per capita of any state — the state was at 4th two weeks ago — at 75,750 per 100,000 residents. Alaska has still received the most doses per capita at 102,687 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 ranks 37th for doses administered per capita but 16th for doses administered as a percentage of doses received.

Among the counties, Carson City residents have received the most doses per capita, at about 6,700 per 10,000 residents, followed by Douglas at 6,500 and Washoe County at 6,100. Clark County ranks 6th at 5,700.

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 remains relatively low.

As of Thursday, 6 deaths were being reported on average each day over the prior seven days, slightly down from 7 last week and significantly down from a high of 45 on Jan. 14. At the last low point on October 27, an average of 4 deaths were being reported on average each day.

Over the last seven days, 41 new COVID-19 deaths have been reported across the state, including:

  • 34 in Clark County
  • 4 in Washoe County
  • 3 in Lyon County

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been 5,400 deaths from COVID-19. In the last month, 225 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported statewide, about 4 percent of the deaths reported statewide since the beginning of the pandemic.

Pershing County has had 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 are fluctuating, though they are up from a low point last month.

There were 348 people hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, the last day for which data is available, slightly down from 380 a week ago. The low point in the last week was 335 and the high point was 427.

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 “significant increases” in hospitalizations may occur as health and safety restrictions continue to be lifted, but that hospitals are much better prepared than they were.

“Increases in hospitalizations would not be unfathomable and could be appropriately managed within the Nevada hospital system,” the association wrote. “The current situation is different than last summer. Hospitals have learned to adapt, treating thousands of COVID-19 patients.”

County by county

Four of the state’s 17 counties — Carson, Lyon, Elko and Lincoln — are 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.

Carson and Lyon are flagged for a too high case rate combined with a too high test positivity rate, while Lincoln and Elko are flagged for a too low test rate and a too high test positivity rate.

Carson City continues to have the highest case rate in the state at 456 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 30 days, followed by Washoe at 305, Lyon at 283, Clark at 239 and Churchill at 220. No other counties currently have an elevated case rate.

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