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A members of the Nevada National Guard labels a test at the UNLV School of Medicine COVID-19 drive-thru testing site on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)
Last updated: May 22nd, 2020 - 7:46am

With the number of coronavirus cases in the Silver State on the rise, The Nevada Independent will be keeping you up to date on the latest here, both through regular live blog updates and updates to our infographic tracking cases around Nevada. The most recent updates will be posted at the top.

To see previous developments, please read our past week’s live blogs:

You can also read our live blog tracking economic developments from the first week here.

Resources:

Friday state and county update: Coronavirus cases up to 7,526; deaths increase to 387

State and county health officials reported 7,526 coronavirus cases across Nevada on Friday, up 124 from the prior day. The statewide death toll climbed to 387.

Southern Nevada Health District officials reported 81 new cases and two more deaths on Friday. That brings Clark County’s case count to 5,815 and its number of fatalities to 322.

Washoe County reported 40 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death Friday, raising the countywide case total to 1,356 and the death toll to 49. The person who died was a man in his 80s with underlying medical conditions. County health officials also reported 17 additional recoveries, raising the number of those who have recovered from the virus to 764 and leaving 544 active cases.

Humboldt County health officials reported Friday that a man in his 30s has been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the county’s case total to 78. He was a close contact of a previously reported case and is self-isolating at home.

Carson City health officials reported Friday that a man in his 60s has died from complications related to COVID-19. HIs passing marks the fourth coronavirus-related death in the quad-county region, which includes Carson City, Storey County, Lyon County and Douglas County.

Officials in the quad-county region also reported two more COVID-19 diagnoses among Carson City residents — a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s. 

dashboard maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services showed that 99,941 people have been tested statewide for the coronavirus, an increase of 5,559 from Thursday.

— Last updated 5/22/20 at 6:23 p.m.

Thursday state and county update: Coronavirus cases up to 7,402; deaths rise to 381

State and county health officials reported 7,402 coronavirus cases across Nevada on Thursday, up 102 from the prior day. The statewide death toll rose to 381.

Southern Nevada Health District authorities on Thursday reported 84 new cases and six more deaths. That brings Clark County’s case count to 5,734 and its number of fatalities to 320.

Washoe County health officials reported 11 new positive COVID-19 cases and 47 recoveries on Thursday, the county’s largest one-day jump in recovered cases.

County health officials said the large number of recoveries brought the number of active cases down to 521, or down 36 from the total reported on Wednesday. Two additional people diagnosed with the virus were hospitalized and one was discharged from the hospital, bringing the count of hospitalizations to 58.

Carson City health officials reported four new positive COVID-19 cases in the state capital and two additional cases in rural Lyon County on Thursday evening.

Health officials also reported nine additional recoveries in Carson City, Douglas and Lyon counties.

Nye County announced one new positive COVID-19 case on Thursday evening, an individual in Amargosa Valley. The county has reported 60 positive cases and 33 recoveries.

dashboard maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services showed that 94,382 people have been tested statewide for the coronavirus, an increase of 3,211 from Wednesday.

— Last updated 5/22/20 at 4:33 p.m.

Sisolak directs parole board to meet and allow virtual public participation

Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed an emergency directive allowing for virtual parole hearings for all eligible inmates in state prisons.

In a news release on Thursday, Sisolak said the directive was intended to comply with state law requiring public participation, such as victim testimony, in parole hearings. Nevada’s prisons have largely limited public access to facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it hard to hold the parole hearings.

“This Directive allows for the continuation of parole hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic, while State facilities are closed to the general public for the health and safety of all Nevadans,” Sisolak said in a statement. “This directive helps balance best practices on social distancing with the urgent need to allow the Parole Board to perform its important duties.” 

According to the directive, inmate representatives and victims will be able to appear through video or telephone, and electronic copies of the proceeding will be available upon request. The governor’s office said in-person parole hearing rooms would continue to remain closed to the public, and that eligible inmates or members of the Board of Parole Commissioner can request to postpone proceedings until in-person meetings are allowed to resume. 

— Riley Snyder, 5/21/20 at 6:05 p.m.

DMV releases reopening plan, including limited services

The Department of Motor Vehicles released a reopening plan Thursday in preparation for whenever the state allows it to resume business. The department will encourage customers to seek services online first and then come into a DMV location.

The DMV did not offer a date for reopening its offices.

During the first 30 days after the state allows the DMV to reopen, the department will only offer “services that directly impact a person’s ability to drive,” according to a press release.

Those services include written driver license tests, license suspension reinstatement, title transfers and other permits and registrations that cannot be administered online. Because of social distancing, the DMV will not offer driver skills tests immediately for non-commercial licenses.

“The DMV has created a thoughtful, phased approach to reopening that is fair to all and, most important, keeps customers and staff alike as safe as possible,” DMV Director Julie Butler said. “We’re looking forward to reopening to serve Nevada’s motorists.”

— Daniel Rothberg, 5/21/20 at 12:00 p.m.

Reno eases regulations so businesses can meet social-distancing requirements

The City of Reno has made temporary regulation changes in a bid to help businesses comply with social-distancing requirements related to COVID-19.

Examples of the eased regulations include temporarily allowing drive-through operations for curbside pickup without a permit; allowing outdoor operations for restaurants and retail businesses on private property without a permit; and allowing outdoor operations for restaurants and retail businesses on sidewalks and rights-of-way. Those businesses with outdoor uses within public rights-of-way, however, must obtain a temporary revocable occupancy permit.

More information about the changes can be found on the city’s COVID-19 website in the “Business Information” section.

“We recognize the current challenges facing businesses as they adapt to these new health and safety standards,” Arlo Stockham, acting assistant city manager for the City of Reno, said in a statement. “The Reno City Council has made it clear they want to find ways to assist our business community during the recovery phase of the pandemic while ensuring public health continues to be of the highest priority. These temporary regulatory adjustments offer the business community flexibility during these difficult times.”

— Jackie Valley, 5/21/20 at 10:26 a.m.

Religious leaders double down on plea for Sisolak to re-open churches

More than 200 Nevada pastors and ministry leaders signed their names to a letter on Thursday urging Gov. Steve Sisolak to alter Phase One guidelines and allow in-person religious services of more than 10 people. 

The letter is a follow up to one sent earlier this month which called a ban on in-person religious services “arbitrary.” Churches have joined in the efforts from around the state and have also provided the governor with proposed amendments to existing directions regarding religious services under the first phase of reopening, which limit church services to drive-in formats. 

“These thoughtful safety guidelines proposed by Nevada pastors provide a reasonable roadmap to safely and responsibly resume in-person church services,” Pastor Kristopher Dahir, who is also a Sparks city councilman, said in a press release on Thursday. “I urge the Governor and the LEAP [Local Empowerment Advisory Panel] committee to seriously consider and adopt some or all of what has been proposed by the Nevada Pastors.”

The proposed amendments detail the guidelines religious services would be obligated to abide by in order to maintain social distancing. Emphasizing a “desire to sacrifice for others,” the letter signed by leaders states that religious institutions understand the need for social distancing and believe their guidelines will allow for it even if Nevadans are able to worship in-person.

Guidelines proposed include reducing maximum occupancy to 50 percent of the maximum seating capacity, prohibiting queues, spacing seating six feet apart and providing sanitizing products to attendees.

Additional guidelines that religious leaders believe should be encouraged but not required include requiring ministry teams and congregants to wear masks and replacing the hand-gathering of offerings by ushers with wall mount offering boxes.

— Kristyn Leonard, 5/21/20 at 9:53 a.m.

Wednesday state and county update: Coronavirus cases up to 7,300; deaths increase to 378

State and county health officials reported 7,300 COVID-19 cases across Nevada on Wednesday, an increase of 130 from Tuesday. The statewide death toll increased to 378.

Southern Nevada Health District officials reported 114 new cases and 10 deaths in Clark County on Wednesday, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 5,650 and 314 deaths.

Health officials in Washoe County reported 10 new cases and 11 recoveries Wednesday, raising the number of cases countywide to 1,305. Of those cases, 557 remain active, including 56 people who are hospitalized. The countywide death toll from the virus remained at 48. 

In a press call Wednesday, county Health Officer Kevin Dick said a sudden uptick in cases this week can in part be attributed to holiday celebrations for Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day earlier this month. Ahead of possible Memorial Day celebrations this weekend, Dick urged caution. 

“It’s very important for people not to become relaxed and to put their guard down,” Dick said, adding that people should continue social distancing and wearing face coverings if they go out. 

Washoe County saw its largest one-day jump in cases Sunday with 54 new reported positives. Dick added that many of those cases were also related to a known cluster of infections at a Sparks nursing home. 

Dick also gave new details of the county’s ongoing antibody study aimed at learning how widespread the virus has become in Washoe County, saying in part that the study will use a randomized sample of county residents spread across 165 census tracts. In all, roughly 1,100 households were invited to take part in the study.

The Quad-County Emergency Operations Center reported two additional cases in Carson City and one additional case in Douglas County. Officials reported that two male residents in their 30s tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in Carson City to 77. In Douglas County, a male resident in his 60s tested positive, bringing the total number of county cases to 26.

Nye County officials reported two additional cases, bringing the county total to 58 confirmed cases. Both new cases were reported in the town of Pahrump, which has reported a total of 46 cases.

A dashboard maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services showed that 91,171 people have been tested statewide for the coronavirus, an increase of 3,616 from Tuesday.

— Last updated 5/22/20 at 4:31 p.m.

Tuesday state and county update: Coronavirus cases up to 7,170; deaths at 373

State and county health authorities reported 7,170 COVID-19 cases across Nevada on Tuesday, an increase of 111 from Monday. The statewide death toll rose to 373.

A dashboard maintained by the Southern Nevada Health District reported 73 new cases and 8 deaths in Clark County on Tuesday, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 5,536 and 304 deaths.

Washoe County officials reported 29 new cases on Monday and 17 more recoveries. But they offered a stern warning for people who have let their guard down.

“The increase in positive cases is significant and indicative of community spread of COVID-19,” officials from the Regional Information Center said in a statement. “We can’t stress enough the importance of staying at home, social distancing practices and using facial coverings.”

Health officials for the Quad County region announced four new cases of COVID-19, including four in Carson City and one in Lyon County. Nye County officials also announced one new COVID-19 case in Pahrump.

Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and Reno-Sparks Indian Colony tribal leaders were alarmed by sharp increases of coronavirus cases in their communities a few weeks ago, but the pace appears to be slowing. 

Pyramid Lake Paiute tribal health director Dawna Brown confirmed just one new case Tuesday on the reservation, for a total of 25 cases, and the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony confirmed 28 positive cases, with eight of those cases in the colony and the rest dispersed among tribal members living on the Hungry Valley reservation and in urban areas. 

Brown also said the tribe’s capacity to test has increased since the last update, with a total of 187 tests conducted as of Tuesday in comparison to 58 tests done May 10. The Reno-Sparks Indian Colony has conducted 131 tests.

Elko county officials reported one new positive case on Tuesday morning, a man in his 70s who is a close contact of another case and is isolating at home.

The rural county has 22 confirmed cases, with 13 recoveries and one death. 

A dashboard maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services showed that 87,555 people have been tested statewide for the coronavirus, an increase of 5,723 from Monday.

People testing positive now account for 8 percent of all people tested in Nevada since the pandemic began.

— Last updated 5/19/20 at 10:58 p.m.

Gaming companies announce plan for employee COVID-19 testing

Several gaming companies have teamed up with University Medical Center, the Culinary Health Fund and the Las Vegas Convention Center to test employees for COVID-19 prior to them returning to work.

MGM, Caesars and Boyd properties are participating in the testing plan, which is expected to begin Thursday at the convention center and will continue as employees are called back to work. Employees whose jobs have been reactivated can schedule an appointment for the test, the results of which will be confirmed within 48 hours.

Officials said UMC and the Culinary Health Fund will be able to collect up to 4,000 samples per day for testing. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be notified, and their results will be forwarded to the Southern Nevada Health District for contact tracing.

Gaming company leaders hailed the plan as a safety net for both casino employees and guests.

“The ability to safely reopen our properties has been our singular focus over the past several weeks,” said Bill Hornbuckle, acting chief executive officer and president of MGM Resorts International. “This testing partnership will allow us to provide our employees and guests peace of mind that we are taking the greatest possible precautions to keep them safe.”

Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts have announced separate plans to test their employees for the coronavirus. 

Some casinos have opened up their websites for reservations, though it’s ultimately up to the Gaming Control Board and governor as to when they can welcome back guests. The Las Vegas Sands, however, issued a news release Tuesday morning saying that it was taking reservations for arrivals on June 1.

— Jackie Valley, 5/19/20 at 2:33 p.m.

More than 6,000 Nevadans enrolled in insurance plans during exchange’s special enrollment period 

State officials say 6,017 individuals registered for health insurance plans during an exceptional circumstance enrollment period opened in response to the coronavirus.

The new enrollees registered with Nevada’s Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, a state agency that allows eligible individuals to shop for, compare and purchase “budget appropriate” health insurance and offers federal subsidies for qualifying families and individuals through its online marketplace, Nevada Health Link.

The regular enrollment period is from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. However, the newest enrollments came during the special enrollment period beginning March 17 and ending May 15, the state agency announced in a release on Tuesday.

Plans purchased through the exchange cover COVID-19 diagnosis and treatment as well as the ten benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act, including coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, maternity care, preventative care and mental health. 

New enrollments totaled 5,479, with another 538 enrollments coming from a job loss, divorce or another occurrence that would have allowed them to enroll even if there was not a special enrollment period.

Gov. Steve Sisolak touted the high number of people who registered for health insurance amid the global pandemic.

“I am pleased to see so many Nevadans take advantage of the limited-time Special Enrollment Period to get comprehensive, qualified health insurance they need to safeguard themselves and their families, especially during these unprecedented times,” he said in the release.

Nevada Health Link was able to implement the special enrollment period because it is a state-operated exchange and separate from the federal health insurance platform, Healthcare.gov. The state had originally been operating a hybrid state-federal insurance marketplace, but broke away last year to manage the system entirely on its own as a way to save money and have more flexibility than the federal government allows.

Coverage for the most recent enrollees will begin June 1.

— Tabitha Mueller, 5/19/20 at 1:18 p.m.

Federal officials announce almost $89 million for testing to help with Nevada reopening

Nevada will receive almost $89 million from the Department of Health and Human Services to expand COVID-19 testing, officials said Tuesday.

The $88,992,133 for the state comes from a pot of $10.25 billion from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for states, territories, and localities. The funds will help jurisdictions purchase and administer tests, trace contacts and perform other functions to help them reopen. 

“For the sake of all Americans’ health and well-being, we must help Americans get safely back to work and school, and that requires continued expansion of testing, surveillance, and contact tracing,” Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a press release. 

To receive funds, states, territories, and localities must submit their goals and plans for testing for 2020 to HHS, including number of tests needed each month, monthly estimates of lab and testing capacity such as equipment and supplies, and a description of how funds will be used for testing. 

— Savanna Strott, 5/19/20 at 9:14 a.m.

Monday state and county update: Coronavirus cases up to 7,062; deaths at 364

State and county health authorities reported the number of COVID-19 cases across Nevada had risen to 7,062 on Monday, an increase of 109 from Sunday. The statewide death toll rose to 364.

Southern Nevada Health District officials reported 97 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the state’s most populous county to 5,463 cases, with 296 deaths. 

Reporting of new cases and deaths can lag over the weekend.

Elko County announced one new case on Monday — a man in his 50s who is self-isolating at home. That brings the case count for the county up to 21.

Washoe County health officials reported one additional death and ten new positive cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 1,266.

The deceased was a woman in her 90s with underlying health conditions. It’s the county’s 48th reported death associated with COVID-19.

Nye County officials have reported the county’s first death related to COVID-19.

A county spokesman said in an email that a Pahrump resident who contracted the disease outside the county had passed away on Monday. The county has reported 56 cases, with 33 recoveries.

Carson City health officials reported the region’s third COVID-19 related death on Monday, along with one new positive case in Lyon County and ten recoveries throughout the four-county region.

The deceased was a male in his 80s; health officials said it was unclear whether the man had underlying conditions. Carson City has 19 active cases of COVID-19, with 71 reported cases since the start of the pandemic.

Churchill County also reported another coronavirus case, bringing the county total to six. 

A dashboard maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services showed that 81,832 people have been tested statewide for the coronavirus, an increase of 1,195 from Sunday.

People testing positive now account for 8.4 percent of all people tested in Nevada since the pandemic began.

— Last updated 5/19/20 at 1:24 p.m.

Colorado Belle casino in Laughlin has “no current plans to reopen”

Amid economic uncertainty facing the tourism and gaming industry, Golden Entertainment confirmed it is extending layoffs for about 400 employees at the Colorado Belle in Laughlin.

In a letter last week, Golden Entertainment told employees that it had “no current plans to reopen the Colorado Belle property,” though it did not say whether the casino would close permanently. The company said it would extend health coverage for employees until May 31. 

“This decision has not been made lightly, but unfortunately we see this as our only recourse to mitigate ongoing expenses and anticipated reduced business levels while facing competitive pressures from neighboring states allowing their casinos to reopen,” Charles Protell, president and chief financial officer of Golden Entertainment, said in a statement on Monday. 

Employees and state officials were first informed of layoffs in a letter dated April 3. 

Golden Entertainment, which owns the Stratosphere and operates casinos across Southern Nevada, has notified the state that temporary business closures have forced the company to lay off thousands of employees across its properties. A spokesperson for the company said that the indefinite layoff notice, sent to Colorado Belle employees, only applied to that property.

— Daniel Rothberg, 5/18/20 at 2:01 p.m.

Automated system to expedite information to people who test positive for COVID-19

An automated system will notify people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Southern Nevada to try to expedite information about isolation to the person and quickly identify contacts who have been potentially exposed, officials said Monday.

Tracking contacts is important in slowing the spread of COVID-19, the Southern Nevada Health District said in a release. During the past six weeks, the health district has expanded from four disease investigators to more than 60 to alert patients and track contacts.

After being identified, contacts of the patient are notified of potential exposure and given information about self-quarantining. They can also enroll in the health district’s symptom monitoring app where they can log any symptoms of COVID-19. The health district is notified if symptoms are reported and can arrange for testing.

Patients and contacts will be alerted through email from [email protected] or text message from (702) 718-7075 and will be asked to verify their identity before receiving information. 

— Savanna Strott, 5/18/20 at 12:20 p.m.

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