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A medical screening tent seen outside of Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas on Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

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, you can visit our week one live blog here (3/9-3/15), our week two live blog here (3/16-3/22), our week three live blog here (3/23-3/29), our week four live blog here (3/30-4/5), week five's live blog here (4/6-4/12), and last week's live blog here (4/13-4/19). You can also see our live blog tracking economic developments from the first week here.

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Sunday state and county update: Coronavirus cases rise to 4,639, deaths remain at 206

The Southern Nevada Health District reported 3,665 COVID-19 cases on Sunday, an increase of 95 from Saturday. The reported death toll in the county remained at 174, the same as Saturday.

A total of 2,312 people, or 63 percent, have recovered from the virus in the county.

As of Sunday, there have been 913 COVID-19 hospitalizations countywide, up six from Saturday. The health district does not report hospitalization numbers.

Washoe County Health District officials reported 13 additional COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the countywide total to 804. 

Officials announced that 265 people have recovered from COVID-19 countywide, with 512 active cases. Forty people remain hospitalized, a drop of three from Saturday.

Statewide, the number of confirmed cases is 4,625, and there have been 206 deaths.

Humboldt County health officials announced another positive COVID-19 case on Friday, bringing the rural county’s number of positive cases up to 36.

The new case is a female in her teens, who was a close contact of a previously reported case, and is self-isolating at home.

Humboldt County Health Officer Charles Stringham also said in a release that the county was set to receive some of the 500 Abbott Rapid Test kits for COVID-19 procured by the state.

“Once those kits arrive at Humboldt General Hospital, it will make it much easier for medical staff to screen patients—especially at-risk patients—very quickly,” he said in a statement.

A dashboard maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services reported 38,184 people have been tested for the virus statewide, an increase of 976 from Saturday.

— Updated 4/26/20, 3:01 p.m.

Two Washoe County Health District employees test positive for COVID-19

Two Washoe County Health District Employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and may have “incidentally exposed” other employees of the health district in past weeks, officials announced Sunday.

The health district announced that the two employees were self-isolating, and that employees who may have been exposed had been notified and that “steps are being taken to ensure that it is safe for them to return to work.” The health district said no members of the public were in contact with the two employees.

The district also announced that a Washoe County sheriff’s office detention center deputy had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the fourth employee of the office to test positive for COVID-19. Officials said the deputy was on a regular day off when he began experiencing symptoms and has remained at home while his test was pending.

— Riley Snyder, 4/26/20 at 5:54 p.m.

Saturday state and county update: Coronavirus cases rise to 4,539, deaths rise to 206

State health officials reported 4,539 COVID-19 cases across Nevada Saturday morning, up 141 from Friday. The death toll rose to 206, up three from the previous day.

The Southern Nevada Health District reported 3,570 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, an increase of 127 from Friday. The death toll in the county rose to 174, up six from Friday. A total of 2,240 people, or 62.8 percent, have recovered from the virus in the county.

As of Saturday, there have been 907 COVID-10 hospitalizations countywide, up 26 from Friday. The health district does not report current hospitalization numbers.

Washoe County Health District officials reported 36 additional COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the countywide total to 791. Officials also announced two additional deaths — two men, one in his 80s and the other in his 50s, both with underlying conditions — bringing the countywide death toll to 27.

Officials announced that 244 people have recovered from COVID-19 countywide, with 520 active cases in the county. Forty-three people remain hospitalized.

The Quad-County region in Northwest Nevada reported seven new coronavirus cases on Saturday, bringing the area’s total to 82 cases. Health authorities in that region also reported one additional recovery.

Of the new cases, three are in Lyon County, three are in Carson City and one is in Douglas County. The Lyon County cases are a man in his 60s, a woman in her 70s and a female child. The Carson City residents diagnosed with COVID-19 include two men — one in his 50s and another in his 70s — as well as a woman in her 20s. The new Douglas County case is a man in his 30s. No other information was released about their conditions.

A dashboard maintained by the state Department of Health and Human Services reported 37,208 people have been tested for the virus statewide, an increase of 1,016 from Friday.

Sixty-two percent of licensed hospital beds across Nevada were occupied as well as 69 percent of intensive care unit rooms, according to the state’s daily situation report. Thirty percent of ventilators were in use.

— Last updated 4/25/20 at 7:02 p.m.

Friday state and county update: Coronavirus cases rise to 4,398, deaths rise to 203

State health officials reported 4,398 coronavirus cases across Nevada on Friday morning, up 190 from Thursday. And, by Friday evening, the statewide death toll had climbed to 203, with eight additional people succumbing to COVID-19-related complications since Thursday.

The Southern Nevada Health District reported 3,443 COVID-19 cases on Friday, an increase of 129 from Thursday. The death toll in the county rose to 168, up five from Thursday. A total of 2,144 people, or 62.3 percent, have recovered from the virus in the county.

As of Friday, there have been 881 COVID-10 hospitalizations countywide, up 21 from Thursday. The health district does not report current hospitalization numbers.

The Washoe County Health District announced 755 COVID-19 cases countywide, up 19 from Thursday. The health district also announced three more deaths — a woman in her 70s, a woman in her 90s and a male teenager, all with underlying conditions — bringing the countywide death toll to 25.

Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick said that it's "sobering" to see a teenager pass away from COVID-19 but noted that it's a reminder that everyone is vulnerable to the virus, regardless of age.

The health district also announced 17 additional recoveries, for a total of 241 recovered individuals countywide. Officials reported that 490 people still have active cases of COVID-19 in the county, including 42 people who are hospitalized.

Officials in Humboldt County reported one new positive COVID-19 case on Friday afternoon, a woman in her 20s who is self-isolating at home. The rural Northern Nevada county has 35 reported positive cases of the virus, with two individuals hospitalized, two deaths and five recoveries.

Local health authorities in northwestern Nevada reported three new cases — a female Carson City resident in her 40s, a female Lyon County resident in her 50s and a female Douglas County resident in her 30s — on Friday. No other information was provided about their conditions. 

The Quad-County region, which includes Carson City, Douglas County, Storey County and Lyon County, also reported two additional recoveries. As a whole, the region has had 75 cases, with 27 recoveries and one death.

A dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 36,192 people have been tested for the virus statewide, an increase of 1,443 from Thursday. Of those people tested, 31,794 have gotten negative results. 

— Last updated 4/24/20 at 6:16 p.m.

Marriage License Bureau to reopen with social-distancing protocols

The Clark County Marriage License Bureau plans to resume operations Monday with new protocols designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.

For starters, couples will be required to complete marriage license applications online, county officials said. When they arrive at the Marriage License Bureau at the Regional Justice Center, they’ll be required to wear face masks before entering, and the number of people inside at one time will be limited.

Earlier this month, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that a lawsuit had been filed against the county and Gov. Steve Sisolak, alleging that no accomodations had been made for issuing marriage licenses in an emergency. County officials noted that the bureau’s opening on Monday likely would  “aid in the resolution of a recent lawsuit.”

The Las Vegas Wedding Chamber of Commerce on Friday also issued a list of safety protocols for facilities, staff members, operations and marriage ceremonies. For instance, the protocols include checking guests’ temperature at the entrance, providing touchless digital payment options, limiting the number of guests to 10 unless they live in the same household or traveled together and sanitizing limousines before each use, among others.

Chamber officials noted that the “generally accepted procedures” would keep guests and staff members safe when the industry can proceed with “limited operations.”

— Jackie Valley, 4/24/20 at 5:51 p.m.

State health official talks coping strategies for dealing with the pandemic

State health authorities are reminding residents to reach out for help if they’re dealing with mental health issues during the coronavirus-related closures.

Dr. Stephanie Woodard, a medical epidemiologist with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said a pandemic is a natural disaster that breeds uncertainty, hence people may be experiencing feelings of anxiety, depression, isolation and grief. She described them as “incredibly normal” human experiences during an appearance on a public safety and health-themed virtual town hall Friday organized by Washoe County.

“Sometimes these change day to day or even hour to hour,” she said. “Our best resources are those internal resources that we have that we’ve built for resiliency.”

Woodard recommended coping strategies such as keeping a schedule, getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, engaging in activities that give you purpose and maintaining personal connections with friends and family.

Crisis Support Services of Nevada has also launched a “home but not alone” campaign encouraging people to call a 24/7 hotline to speak with a “caring and compassionate” person on the other end of the line, she said. People can call (800) 273-83255 or test LISTEN to 839863.

“You don't have to consider yourself in crisis to be able to call,” Woodard said. “Sometimes we just need someone on the other end of the phone that we can talk to. And they're certainly there to offer that to you.”

— Jackie Valley, 4/24/20 at 3:18 p.m.

SEIU asks OSHA for on-site investigations into unsafe practices in hospitals amid COVID-19 pandemic

SEIU Local 1107 is asking the state Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate the lack of personal protective equipment in Nevada hospitals.

In a letter sent Friday, the union says that it has been made aware of “numerous instances” of unsafe employer practices at Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center, Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center, MountainView Hospital, Valley Hospital Medical Center, Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center in the Las Vegas area, Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno and Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital in Elko. The union, in the letter, alleges that the practices in place at those hospitals are putting workers’ lives in jeopardy in violation of OSHA regulations and federal law.

The union also says that it is aware that OSHA is not conducting on-site inspections into complaints, a method of investigation the union says is “inadequate to ensure the health and safety of our frontline healthcare workers as well as the community at large.” The union is asking for on-site inspections of the seven hospitals.

“We expect OSHA to follow through on their own self-imposed standards and immediately begin in-person visits to all SEIU-represented worksites to make sure that they meet the highest standards of health and safety,” Grace Vergara-Mactal, SEIU Local 1107’s executive director, said in a statement.

The workplace safety violations the union alleges include requiring health care workers to reuse personal protective equipment meant for single use, not informing health care workers that they have been exposed to a patient with COVID-19 and requiring health care workers who either personally fall into risk categories for COVID-19 or have family members who do to treat or work in the vicinity of those infected with the virus.

— Megan Messerly, 4/24/20 at 1:02 p.m.

Sisolak requests Washoe County run 1,000 COVID-19 tests a day, but supplies still scarce

Washoe County officials said Friday that Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office wants them to be performing 1,000 COVID-19 tests a day by Monday, but that they don’t have the testing resources or lab capacity needed to do that yet.

Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick, during a press availability with reporters, called 1,000 tests a day a “stretch goal” and that the health district is currently performing about 240 or 250 tests a day. He noted that the health district doesn’t even have 1,000 collection kits currently available and the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, which processes the county’s samples, is only able to run about 500 tests a day.

Dick said that county officials are working with FEMA to obtain additional collection kits and the state health lab is working on expanding its capacity to be able to run 1,000 samples a day. Additionally, he said that extra testing capacity that University Medical Center in Las Vegas is working on creating with an Abu Dhabi-based technology company may be able to process tests from Northern Nevada.

He said that testing capacity right now is still only available to symptomatic individuals, though the goal would be to eventually expand testing to asymptomatic individuals who are elderly or have underlying health conditions and to health care workers and law enforcement.

The health district is also working with the Nevada National Guard to expand its workforce capacity as the county eyes how to ramp up contact tracing alongside testing capacity. Dick said that the county has redeployed staff from additional departments to help with contact tracing and is training National Guard members to fill in additional gaps as well.

As far as where Nevada falls on the epidemiological curve, Dick said that modeling from the Los Alamos National Lab shows that if the SIlver State hasn’t hit its peak yet, it will soon.

“I think maybe we’re reaching the end of the beginning,” Dick said.

— Megan Messerly, 4/24/20 at 12:28 p.m.

Thursday state and county update: Coronavirus cases rise to 4,208, deaths rise to 195

State health officials reported 4,208 coronavirus cases across Nevada on Thursday morning, up 127 from Wednesday. The death toll rose to 195, up an increase of eight from Wednesday.

Clark County reported 3,314 cases on Thursday, an increase of 96 from Wednesday. The county’s death toll rose to 163, an increase of 13. Officials reported that 2,049 people, or 61. 8 percent, have now recovered from the virus in the county.

The county also reported 860 total hospitalizations from the virus, roughly 26 percent of confirmed positive cases and an increase of 34 from Wednesday.

Health officials in Washoe County reported another COVID-19 death Thursday, a woman in her 100s whose death remained under investigation for underlying conditions. The county death toll now stands at 22. 

For the first time, officials also reported a decrease in the number of active cases with 29 recoveries and 26 new cases. It brings the county total to 736, including 490 active cases, 224 recoveries and 42 current hospitalizations.

County health officials reported two additional positive cases in Carson City, bringing the total number of cases to 33. Lyon County also confirmed two positive cases on Thursday. The county has reported a total of 22 cases.

On Thursday evening, Nye County officials reported an increase in cases with two confirmed positive cases in Pahrump. The town has reported total of 25 cases, accounting for the majority of the 31 confirmed cases in the county.

A dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 34,749 people have been tested for the virus statewide, an increase of 861 from Wednesday. Of those people tested, 30,541 have gotten negative results. 

— Last updated 4/23/20 at 6:14 p.m.

Quad-county region to begin limited asymptomatic coronavirus testing

Health officials in the Quad-County region including Carson City, Lyon County, Storey County and Douglas County announced Thursday that they will begin limited testing for COVID-19 among asymptomatic residents across all four counties. 

The new round of testing — the first of its kind in Nevada — will be administered in part with the help of the Nevada National Guard. The tests are also available by appointment only and on a limited basis of 1,800 tests. 

Still, the number of available tests far exceeds the 1,167 the quad-county region had conducted to date, according to testing numbers released by health officials there Thursday morning. 

The CDC has long recommended that only those who are exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus should seek testing, especially as testing supplies were stretched thin as the pandemic rapidly spread nationwide through the month of March and into April. 

But as states across the U.S. look for signs the spread of the virus may be slowing, some state and local governments are now calling for the widespread testing of asymptomatic individuals. That includes California, which recommended Sunday that asymptomatic testing should be conducted at some facilities such as nursing homes or prisons. 

In a statement, Carson City Deputy Emergency Manager and Battalion Chief Tom Raw said the move will provide new data for any future decisions regarding the ongoing government response to the coronavirus. 

Residents of the quad-county region who would like to make an appointment for a test should call (775) 782-9090. Workers will begin staffing that phone line beginning April 27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and will ask for the caller’s county of residence and take demographic information in order to pre-register their tests. 

Jacob Solis, 4/23/20 at 4:57 p.m.

McCarran sees March passengers decrease by 53 percent compared to 2019

McCarran International Airport reported a sharp decrease in March visitation, with total arriving and departing passengers falling by more than half compared to last year. 

According to data released by the airport Thursday afternoon, the travel hub that fuels much of the Las Vegas economy reported 4,405,920 passengers in March 2019, the bulk coming from domestic flights. That number fell by 53.1 percent to 2,064,393 passengers in 2020 as restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus have substantially reduced airline travel.

Of the top five airlines serving the airport, Southwest saw the largest slide in passengers, with a 62.1 percent decrease in March 2020, compared to March 2019. The number of arriving and departing passengers on Delta and American flights also saw March passengers decrease by more than half in the year-over-year comparison. The percent change in arriving and departing passengers in March was about equal across domestic, international and helicopter flights. 

Compared to last March, there were 58.2 percent fewer international passengers in March 2020, 52.8 percent fewer domestic passengers and 50.9 percent fewer helicopter passengers. 

Despite the large drop-off in March passengers, the airport reported a much smaller 15.5 percent decrease in year-to-date arriving and departing passengers. 

— Daniel Rothberg, 4/23/20 at 4:19 p.m.

ACLU projects 1,500 additional deaths in Nevada without more action to reduce jail populations statewide

The ACLU of Nevada is projecting there could be 1,500 additional deaths in Nevada beyond current projections without an immediate reduction to jail populations.

The organization, citing a new epidemiological model released Thursday by the ACLU and researchers at three universities, has estimated there could be 100,000 additional deaths nationally without reductions to jail populations, even if communities continue practicing social distancing and following other public health guidelines.

The additional projected deaths include both deaths in jails and in the community. The model projects that jails will act as a vector for COVID-19, exposing individuals are arrested and then released back into the community, as well as jail staff.

A Clark County judge last week granted Sheriff Joe Lombardo’s request to reduce the population of the jails within his jurisdiction by 10 percent after four inmates tested positive.

Tod Story, executive director of ACLU of Nevada, in a statement lauded the move but framed it as just a start.

“So much more remains to be done there and across the state,” Story said. “This data is a wakeup call as to the urgency of the situation here in Nevada and the true impact of mass incarceration on communities across the nation, and especially communities of color.”

The model projects that reducing arrests by 50 percent nationally would prevent 12,000 deaths in jails and 47,000 deaths in the surrounding communities. Reducing arrests to just the most serious crimes, including murder, rape and aggravated assault, and doubling the rate of release for those already detained would lower the death toll nationally by as many as 23,000 in jails and 76,000 in the community, the organization has predicted.

The model was created by researchers at the University of Tennessee, Washington State University and the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the ACLU.

— Megan Messerly, 4/23/20 at 10:08 a.m.

Wednesday state and county update: Coronavirus cases rise to 4,081, deaths rise to 187

State health officials reported 4,081 coronavirus cases across Nevada on Wednesday morning, up 144 from Tuesday. The death toll rose to 187, an increase of 24 from a day earlier.

Clark County reported 3,218 cases on Wednesday, an increase of 119 from Tuesday. The death toll there also rose to 150, an increase of nine. Health officials also reported that 1,963 people, or 61 percent of reported infections, have recovered. 

The county also reported 826 total hospitalizations from the virus, roughly 25 percent of confirmed positive cases and an increase of 21 from Tuesday. Of those hospitalized, 263 have been in intensive care and 150 were intubated.

The Washoe County Health District reported the deaths of three residents, a man in his 70s, a man in his 80s and a man in his 90s. All three had underlying conditions. The county has reported 21 deaths related to the coronavirus.

County health officials also announced 26 additional cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the county to 195 cases. The health district also reported 20 additional recoveries. 

Carson City officials announced that a woman in her 70s with underlying conditions had died after contracting COVID-19, marking the first fatality in the Quad County region that includes Carson City and Lyon, Douglas and Storey counties. The region also announced one recovery and five new cases, bringing the number of cases to 68.

A dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services reported 33,888 people have been tested for the virus statewide, an increase of 833 from Tuesday. Of those tested, 29,807 have returned negative results. 

Last updated, 4/23/20 at 8:14 a.m. (Includes a correction that the Clark County hospitalization numbers represent total, not current, hospitalizations.)

Suit argues state broke Open Meeting Law with hasty adoption of restrictions on hydroxychloroquine

Doctors suing Gov. Steve Sisolak for restricting access to a drug some tout as a promising treatment COVID-19 argue that the state broke the law by giving the public only 31 minutes of notice of a public meeting where the restriction was adopted.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Washoe County on behalf of the Nevada Osteopathic Medical Association, lays out numerous arguments against the regulation limiting the prescription of hydroxychloroquine. One is that the Nevada Board of Pharmacy “failed to provide even minimally effective public notice” when it sent a 2:59 p.m. email to members with the agenda for a telephonic meeting that took place at 3:30 p.m. on March 23.

“Plaintiff requests the Court issue a declaratory judgment finding that the Emergency Regulation...Is void because it was adopted in violation of Nevada’s Open Meeting Law,” the lawsuit says.

Sisolak’s office said it would not comment on pending litigation. But the suit may hit a roadblock on the Open Meeting Law front based on guidance from the attorney general’s office. 

Generally, public notice of an open meeting is required to be given three working days in advance. But the March 16 guidance notes that the law offers an exception in case of an “emergency,” defined as “an unforeseen circumstance which requires immediate action and includes, but is not limited to: . . . (b) Any impairment of the health and safety of the public.” 

“For purposes of its enforcement abilities ... the [Office of the Attorney General] will liberally construe this exception where the intent is protecting public health in light of COVID-19,” wrote Chief Deputy Attorney General Rosalie Bordelove. 

The suit argues that there was no valid emergency and no supporting material substantiated the claim to an emergency.

Sisolak has said he issued the regulation at the request of the Nevada Board of Pharmacy because some people, convinced of the anti-malaria drug’s effectiveness against COVID-19 even though that has not been proven, have hoarded the drug. The medication is routinely used to control the symptoms of lupus and arthritis; some patients with those conditions have reported trouble filling prescriptions as the drug has emerged in the spotlight.

While Sisolak’s order does not stop doctors from prescribing to people who are hospitalized, the association argues that it limits what primary care doctors can prescribe to outpatients.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/22/20 at 8:44 p.m.

Gaming Control Board outlines procedures for resuming operations after COVID-19 closures

The Gaming Control Board released a six-page memo Wednesday outlining procedures casinos must follow to reopen once the state’s COVID-19 business closures are lifted or relaxed. 

The memo, dated Tuesday, says casinos must submit a “Reopening Plan” to state regulators at least one week before resuming operations “or as soon as reasonably possible thereafter.” 

The plans must include a date and time for when operations will resume, in addition to outlining several operational logistics, from “a schedule for the replenishment of funds” and measures for paying out liabilities, such as payout receipts, that were set to expire during the closures. 

Although the memo is focused on the logistics of how gaming can proceed and what steps companies must take to comply with regulations, it also says licensed gaming operations “must comply with all prescribed local, state and federal COVID-19 health requirements.”

In a press release, the Gaming Control Board said it will release further guidance on how operations can move forward while continuing to contain the spread of the virus. 

“The Gaming Control Board is committed to the safe reopening of Nevada’s gaming industry, and will assist licensees where needed to reopen as efficiently as possible while complying with applicable gaming statutes, regulations, and policies,” Sandra Douglass Morgan, the board’s chairwoman, said in a press release. “A safe, thoughtful, and efficient resumption of gaming operations in this state will help both Nevada and its residents recover from this pandemic.”

The board said it is continuing to enforce the business closures.

— Daniel Rothberg, 4/22/20 at 11:31 a.m.

Tuesday state and county update: Coronavirus cases rise to 3,937; Clark County reports four more deaths

State health officials reported 3,937 coronavirus cases across Nevada on Tuesday morning, up 107 from Monday. The death toll remained at 163.

The Southern Nevada Health District reported 101 more COVID-19 cases and four more deaths on Tuesday, pushing the respective Clark County totals to 3,099 and 141. The health district also reported that 1,841 people, or 59 percent of cases, have recovered.

About 26 percent of Clark County’s COVID-19 patients — or 805 people — are hospitalized, according to the health district’s latest report. And of those hospitalized, 261 are in the intensive care unit and 146 are intubated.

Washoe County reported 22 new cases on Tuesday as compared to Monday, and nine new recoveries, but no additional deaths. The number of people hospitalized is 41, a drop of two from the day earlier.

Nye County officials also revised their coronavirus case count on Tuesday, saying the county total is 29 — not 32 as reported Monday. Twenty-three of those cases are in Pahrump, officials said.

Health officials in Carson City reported two new positive COVID-19 cases on Tuesday in Lyon and Douglas counties, bringing the number of confirmed cases in four rural Nevada counties to 63.

The two cases involve a male Lyon County resident in his 50s and a female Douglas County resident in her 40s. Lyon County has 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 5 recoveries, while Douglas County has 16 confirmed cases and six recoveries.

Mineral County additionally announced a second COVID-19 case Tuesday evening. Both of the county's two confirmed cases are self-isolating in their homes in Hawthorne.

— Last updated 4/22/20 at 11:12 a.m.

State health lab to start doing antibody tests in coming weeks; will detect who previously had COVID-19

The Nevada State Public Health Lab says it will start offering antibody tests in the next few weeks that detect whether a person has previously been infected with COVID-19.

While the lab is currently issuing tests that swab the nose or throat and detect whether a person is currently infected, the antibody test will be done either through a blood draw of the arm or through a blood drop from a finger prick.

“The antibody test will provide us with information about whether people were infected, but maybe never even knew they were," said Dr. Mark Pandori, director of the lab.

Antibody testing is expected to be limited in the first two weeks after launch in an effort to validate the test’s accuracy, but is expected to be expanded gradually over several weeks. The lab is administering a test manufactured by Abbott, which is still seeking federal approval for its use.

The lab says that data will help policymakers make informed decisions about the economy and public health, such as a plan to re-open businesses. Pandori said that health authorities and doctors will determine who will be tested.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/21/20 at 4:24 p.m.

On MSNBC, Vegas mayor says businesses should re-open on assumption everyone is carrying COVID-19

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman took to national TV on Tuesday to defend her position that ongoing closures of non-essential businesses are “total insanity.”

Interviewed by MSNBC’s Katy Tur, Goodman acknowledged that she didn’t have authority over reopening the Las Vegas Strip because the tourist corridor is located in unincorporated Clark County.

“I’m concentrating on the city of Las Vegas, where we’re ready to get back in business,” she said. “Assuming that everybody’s asymptomatic or is a carrier, how do we do that, do it safely and protect our people.”

Goodman also noted that the state’s death toll, which now stands at 163 in a state of more than 3 million people. Tur asked whether that was a credit to the social distancing measures and business closures that Goodman opposes.

“Has it been measured, has there been a control group?” Goodman responded. “When you’re doing statistics, control groups are absolutely paramount.”

The mayor argued that experts say the virus will be sticking around and could surge again a few months from now.

“So do we absolutely keep everybody out of work and destroy the life of people and our children, the next generation, because we have a fight on our hands with a virus?” Goodman asked.

The mayor pointed to health inspections and other precautions to ensure proper sanitation at businesses.

“Let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if [it becomes] evident that they have disease. They are closed down. It’s that simple,” Goodman said.

“That’s a modern-day survival of the fittest you’re laying out,” Tur responded.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/21/20 at 3:24 p.m.

Nevada ranks in top five states for unemployment claims as a percentage of the labor force

Nearly one-fifth of Nevada’s labor force has filed for unemployment since the coronavirus closures began, placing fifth among states for the most claims as a percentage of the labor force, according to a SmartAsset analysis.

Over the past month, 303,705 people in Nevada have filed initial unemployment claims. The week ending March 21 saw the most claims — 92,298 — followed by 71,942 for the week ending March 28; 79,285 for the week ending April 4; and 60,180 for the week ending April 11.

Hawaii had the highest percentage (21.7 percent) of the labor force file claims over that period, followed in order by Michigan (21 percent), Rhode Island (20.5 percent) and Nevada (19.8 percent). 

On the flip side, South Dakota has been the most sheltered from coronavirus-triggered unemployment, with only 4.9 percent of its labor force filing claims.

More than 2.2 million people nationwide have filed for unemployment between mid-March and mid-April.

(Graphic by SmartAsset)

— Jackie Valley, 4/21/20 at 10:40 a.m.

Monday state and county update: Coronavirus cases rise to 3,830; death toll rises to 163

The Southern Nevada Health District on Monday reported it had 2,998 cases, up 58 from numbers reported on Sunday. The number of hospitalizations reported Monday remained 768, unchanged from Sunday’s report.

Churchill County on Monday announced its first death -- a man in his 50s with underlying conditions who was hospitalized at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno and died on Saturday.

The death toll statewide rose to 163, according to state health officials.

Washoe County health officials on Monday reported 25 additional positive cases of COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the county’s total of reported cases up to 662.

Health officials also reported 15 additional recoveries (up to 166) and a decrease of one in the number of hospitalizations, now at 43.

Reno-Sparks Indian Colony tribal member Velda Lowery, 58, died last week after testing positive for COVID-19, marking the first death in Indian Country for Nevada amid the pandemic. However, Reno-Sparks Indian Colony spokesperson Bethany Sam clarified that it is unclear whether Lowery died as a direct result of COVID-19, explaining Lowery had complications with pre-existing conditions and said tribal officials are waiting for autopsy results to determine the cause of death.

Lowery was rushed to the hospital because of a mild stroke, according to reporting from The Reno Gazette Journal, but tested positive for the virus during her stay. Sam also confirmed the second case of the coronavirus on the reservation.

Health officials in Nye County reported four more cases in Pahrump Monday, raising the town’s total number of cases to 26 and the countywide total to 32, including two recoveries. The county also reported that it has tested 630 individuals for the virus.

Humboldt County health officials reported seven new positive cases of COVID-19 on Monday evening, bringing the county’s total number of cases to 34.

All seven patients are self-isolating at home. Of the other 27 cases, five have recovered, three are hospitalized, two have passed away and the rest are isolating at home.

In a press release, Humboldt County Health Officer Charles Stringham said the county is setting up a local tracking team to ensure that confirmed patients are complying with self-isolation instructions.

“We are raising our watch care to the next level,” he said in a statement. “This is a highly contagious disease and we must ensure that those who have been affected understand their responsibility in preventing transmission to others.”

No new cases were reported Monday in the four-county region encompassing Carson City, Lyon County, Storey County and Douglas County, though officials there did report three additional recoveries. It leaves the region-wide case total at 61, including 43 active cases and 18 recoveries.

A dashboard maintained by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services reported that 32,347 people have been tested so far — an increase of 749 from numbers reported on Sunday.

Experts have noted that there may be lags in reporting over the weekend because of bureaucratic delays in processing the data.

— Last updated 4/20/20 at 7:32 p.m.

Assembly Republicans release recommendations, plan to gradually re-open state

Members of the Nevada Assembly Republican caucus have released a four-point framework of ideas and recommendations for Gov. Steve Sisolak to implement as part of the process of re-opening the state.

The caucus said in a press release on Monday that protests in Carson City and Las Vegas over the weekend indicated a desire on the part of Nevadans to find the “faintest sign of a plan or hope to get them back to work.”

“As days turn into weeks, Nevadans are still left without answers or hope as they wait for Governor Sisolak to present a plan. This past weekend, in an attempt to have their voices heard, hundreds of Nevadans took to the streets demanding answers from Governor Sisolak,” the caucus said in a press release. “People should not have to resort to ignoring health guidelines to get the attention of their elected officials.”

The four recommendations listed include:

  • Joining a previously announced Western states compact with California, Oregon and Washington to line up COVID-19 mitigation strategies
  • Establish a regionally based plan to modify or ease the state’s stay-at-home order, based on increased testing and hospital readiness
  • Create a bipartisan taskforce including lawmakers in both parties, business leaders and health care officials to set a “safe, gradual and phased opening plan”
  • Establish a curbside pickup model for nonessential retail businesses, including customer pickup, delivery by mail or home delivery

Assembly Republicans are currently in a super-minority in the Legislature, with 13 seats out of 42 in the Assembly.

— Riley Snyder, 4/20/20 at 3:31 p.m.

Immigrant rights group calls for release of ICE detainees at Nye County jail after staff member tests positive

Immigrant rights activists are asking the Nye County Sheriff’s Office and ICE for the immediate release of all detainees who are not subject to mandatory detention after a jail staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center said in a statement on Monday that it had fielded multiple calls from detainees who are concerned about their safety. Nye County announced on Saturday that a staff member at the Pahrump jail had tested positive, and the facility was being put on lockdown.

“I love my family, I love my kids, and I love my wife. I want to be home with them.  We are suffering and we are afraid,” the center quoted an anonymous detainee as saying.

The center says the man is housed in an eight-person cell with six other people, and that detainees have reported at least four other inmates are showing symptoms. They also said that while they were provided masks, they have not been provided gloves and are unable to socially distance.

Officials with the Nye County Sheriff’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the calls for release or the description of jail conditions.

The jail has said it planned to test all inmates and staff for coronavirus. Nye County approved an agreement last year that allows it to house ICE detainees. 

“The only way to ensure the health and safety of immigrants detainees, facility staff and the community is to immediately halt all immigration enforcement activities, and facilitate the release of the majority of detainees,” said Bliss Requa-Trautz, director of Arriba Las Vegas Worker Center. “Government is responsible for providing adequate health and safety protections for detainees, and it is impossible to implement social distancing in the jails at this time.”

On Saturday, a Nye County Sheriff’s Office spokesman had said the staff member was self-quarantined at home, and that the office had released “as many inmates as possible several weeks ago.” 

— Michelle Rindels, 4/20/20 at 11:18 a.m.

Rural courts in Pahrump shut down after employee tests positive for COVID-19

Several court facilities in rural Pahrump are planning to shut their doors entirely and canceling almost all business after a court employee tested positive for COVID-19.

A Nye County spokesman said in an email that the offices and courtrooms of the Fifth Judicial District Court — which covers Nye and Esmerelda counties — and the Pahrump Justice Court will be closing for the next two weeks and cancelling most hearings after an employee in the District Court tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

District Court Justice Kimberly Wanker wrote in an order that “all employees of the court have been exposed to the virus.” Both District Court judges have canceled all hearings through April 30, while Pahrump Justice Court will be closed until May 4.

Almost all courts in the state have shuttered nonessential operations or in-person hearings to mitigate spread of COVID-19, though many have continued to operate while being largely closed to the public.

Nye County has reported 28 positive COVID-19 cases.

— Riley Snyder, 4/20/20 at 11:14 a.m.

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