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Signage as seen on the Las Vegas Strip on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, after gaming operations were ordered closed by Governor Steve Sisolak. (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) and last week’s live blog here (4/6-4/12). You can also see our live blog tracking economic developments from the first week here.

 

Resources:

Note: The default view of the above spreadsheet shows positive cases as reported by the counties and the cumulative county-by-county total, which may differ from the total the state is reporting. Check the above infographic for the latest statewide case total.

Sunday state and county update: COVID-19 cases rise to 3,728, deaths up to 158

State health officials are reporting 3,728 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, up 102 cases from Saturday. The death toll increased by 3, up to 158. 

Health officials in Clark County reported 2,940 cases of the virus Sunday morning, an increase of 58 from Saturday. Officials also reported four more deaths, raising the county’s death toll to 137.

Washoe County officials announced two more deaths Sunday, a man and woman in their 60s, both with underlying health conditions. The announcement raises the countywide death toll to 18. 

Health officials there also announced 31 new cases and 17 more recoveries, bringing the countywide total to 637 cases, including 468 active cases and 151 recoveries. Officials also reported the number of hospitalizations had increased by four to 44, and the number of hospital discharges had risen by two to 33.

Humboldt County announced an additional positive case Sunday evening. The individual who tested positive, a man in his 50s who is self-isolating at home, had close contact with another confirmed case. Humboldt County has reported a total of 27 positive cases.

County health officials also reported two additional Lyon County residents testing positive, a man in his 50s and a woman in her 30s. Lyon County has reported a total of 18 cases.

A dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services also shows 31,598 people have been tested for the virus, an increase of 847 from Saturday. Of those tests, 27,870 have returned negative. 

Last updated, 4/19/20 at 6:18 p.m.

Saturday state and county update: COVID-19 cases rise to 3,626, deaths up to 155

State health officials are reporting 3,626 positive COVID-19 cases statewide on Saturday, up 102 cases from Friday. The death toll rose to 155.

Southern Nevada Health District officials announced Saturday morning that there have been 2,882 confirmed COVID-19 cases countywide, an increase of 144 since Friday. The health district also announced nine additional deaths, bringing the countywide death toll to 133.

Humboldt County announced its second death, a man in his 60s who was among previously confirmed cases. It prompted a plea from Humboldt County Health Officer Charles Stringham to abide by social distancing and handwashing guidelines.

“If you are not yet engaged in doing the right things, all of us desperately need your help!” he said in a statement on Saturday afternoon.

Washoe County announced on Saturday that it had confirmed 18 new cases of COVID-19, bringing its case count to 606, but no additional deaths. Authorities also announced 15 new recoveries.

Elko County reported its twelfth case on Saturday morning — a male who is self isolating at home.

Nye County officials reported seven new positive COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 28, including 22 in Pahrump.

The seven cases included the previously reported case of a Nye County jail staff member; all positive cases on Saturday were reported in Pahrump.

Carson City health officials on Saturday evening reported two new positive COVID-19 cases, a female Douglas County resident in her 30s and a female Lyon County resident in her 60s. Douglas County has 15 reported positive cases of the virus with five recoveries; Lyon County has 16 reported cases and three recoveries. 

A dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services also shows 30,751 people have been tested, an increase of 989 from Friday.

— Last updated 4/18/20 at 6:16 p.m.

Nye County jail staff member tests positive for COVID-19; all inmates, staff to be tested

Nye County officials say they were notified Saturday that a detention center staff member in Pahrump had tested positive for COVID-19.

In a video announcement, the county said that all Nye County jails were immediately put on lockdown, and all staff and inmates will be tested. Officials urged family members of detention staff members to get tested too.

The county said that staff schedules were being adjusted in an effort to prevent spread.

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

Nye County’s announcement comes a day after Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo announced the county’s jail population would be cut by about 10 percent to help protect inmates and staff from the virus after four inmates tested positive.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/18/20 at 5:09 p.m.

Friday state and county update: COVID-19 cases rise to 3,524, deaths increase to 151

State health officials are reporting 3,524 positive COVID-19 cases statewide, up 203 cases from Thursday. The death toll increased by nine late Friday night to 151.

Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick on Friday reported an additional death — a woman in her 90s with underlying health conditions — which brings the county’s fatalities to 16. Washoe health officials also reported 16 more COVID-19 cases, pushing the county total to 588.

Churchill County on Friday also announced two more positive COVID-19 cases. The patients are a man in his 60s and a woman in her 50s, officials said.

Southern Nevada Health District officials announced Friday morning that there are now 2,738 confirmed COVID-19 cases countywide, an increase of 113 since Thursday. The health district also announced three additional deaths, bringing the countywide death toll to 124.

The health district data released Friday for the first time includes a breakdown by age and gender for those who have died after contracting COVID-19:

  • Two-thirds of them, 63.7 percent, have been male, while only 36.3 percent have been female.
  • Most of them, 78.2 percent, have been over the age of 65, though 13.7 percent were 50 to 64, 7.3 percent were 25 to 49, and one person, 0.8 percent, was between the ages of 18 and 24.
  • More than 40 percent of them have been white, 15.3 percent have been Hispanic, 16.1 percent have been black, 16.1 percent have been Asian, 3.2 percent have been Pacific Islander and another 3.2 percent identified as other.

The data also show that while the elderly are more likely to die from the disease, a significant number of younger people have been hospitalized with the virus:

  • 35.8 percent hospitalized are over the age of 65, with another 33.3 percent between the ages of 50 and 64, 28.3 percent between 25 and 49, 2.2 percent between 18 and 24, two people (0.3 percent) between 5 and 17, and one person (0.1 percent) under the age of 5.

A total of 741 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 countywide and 1,515 are estimated to have recovered, according to health district officials.

Health officials in Nye County reported another case in Pahrump on Friday evening, though the case was first reported to county officials on Thursday night. The case brings the number of cases in Pahrump to 15 and raises the countywide total to 21.

In the four-state region encompassing Carson City, Lyon County, Douglas County and Storey County, health officials reported four additional cases Friday night, including three cases in Lyon County and one case in Carson City. The new cases bring the region’s caseload to 57, including 13 recoveries and 44 active cases, as well as three current hospitalizations. 

Officials said the cases in Lyon County include two women in their 40s and one man in his 30s, while the Carson City case was a man in his 20s.

dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services also shows 29,762 people have been tested, an increase of 1,311 from Thursday.

— Last updated 4/17/20 at 9:06 p.m.

Clark County School District postpones graduation ceremonies

The Clark County School District has postponed high school graduation ceremonies, the latest setback to befall the Class of 2020.

District officials announced Friday night that “individual schools, in collaboration with central office and region leadership, will develop school-specific celebration plans that will fit their particular school community needs.”

The district’s graduation ceremonies, typically held at the Thomas & Mack Center or Orleans Arena, were set to kick off May 14 and run through the end of the month.

“All graduation ceremonies will observe the up-to-date Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, including social distancing, and will keep the safety of students, staff and community at large as a priority,” district officials said.

Once schools form a graduation plan, it will be shared with that school community. No other information about the options was immediately released.

Schools across Nevada closed March 16 and will remain so through at least April 30.

— Jackie Valley, 4/17/20 at 6:30 p.m.

Violent crime down, domestic disturbances up during pandemic in Las Vegas

Las Vegas police say violent crime has dropped nearly 10 percent in the month since coronavirus-related emergency directives were put in place, and property crime is down almost 27 percent.

But while burglaries are down significantly, Sheriff Joe Lombardo said calls for domestic violence are up 13.3 percent, or about 500 additional calls. And the number of domestic incidents that rise to either a written report or an arrest is up 6.7 percent, or nine additional calls.

“I expressed previously I had concern … domestic violence could increase during the declaration of emergency due to people’s hardships,” Lombardo said at a press conference on Friday. “We now have enough data to say we are seeing upticks in domestic disturbances and in domestic violence.”

He said the agency had fielded about 800 calls from people reporting businesses that were violating a shutdown order or people who were ignoring social distancing directives. Of that, police have issued 205 “warning citations,” two suspensions and three criminal citations.

The department is also facing major budget cuts as revenue is expected to sharply drop because of business closures. The agency’s efforts to tighten the belt include layoffs of part-time staff, the elimination of a horseback policing unit, suspension of recruitment efforts and a hiring freeze apart from dispatcher and correctional officer positions.

Lombardo said that the virus has hit the department, with 12 employees testing positive for COVID-19. A total of 127 employees have been tested for the virus, and 99 of those have come back negative.

Still, 87 employees on Friday were out on mandatory quarantine because of potential exposure or travel history. Metro has about 5,800 employees.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/17/20 at 4:40 p.m.

Talk of downward trend, leveling off in COVID-19 cases ‘premature,’ Southern Nevada health officials say

Southern Nevada Health District officials projected on Friday that the number of COVID-19 cases has not yet peaked, though they noted the lack of high-quality data and a lag in reporting makes it difficult to know for certain.

Officials did, however, note that they are seeing the effects of social distancing, which they say has given county officials additional time to prepare for whatever might come next. But they cautioned that loosening up restrictions too early could cause the novel coronavirus to begin spreading quickly again.

“The last thing we want is to try to eliminate or reduce significantly social distancing, and a number of the other precautionary measures too soon so that we have a rebound effect that could even be worse than the current situation we’re in now,” said Michael Johnson, director of the health district’s community health division.

Dr. Vit Kraushaar, a medical investigator with the health district, also noted that even if cases do begin to level off, there still will likely be a two or three week lag before the number of deaths follow suit.

“Even if we start to see a leveling off in new cases, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to have an immediate leveling off in deaths and hospitalizations,” Kraushaar said.

But Johnson said it’s too early to draw any kind of conclusions from the data.

“There may be delays in reporting cases and, as we all know, there’s been limitations to our ability to do widespread testing like we’ve been discussing. So it’s premature at this point to talk about downward trends or leveling off,” Johnson said. “But I can tell you that we’re watching the data very closely, obviously daily.”

Health district officials acknowledged the need for additional testing capacity and staff to conduct contact tracing investigations as the state and the nation eye the possibility of lifting restrictions that have been put in place. However, they weren’t able to put an exact number on how many more of each they might need; the Southern Nevada Public Health Lab can currently test about 100 samples a day, with the capacity to run 5,800 more tests, and has about 50 people working on contact investigations.

“Right now, testing is still reserved to the CDC priority groups. All three of those, the top priority groups, require people to be symptomatic,” said Jeff Quin, manager of the health district’s office of public health preparedness. “So there’s not testing available in the community for those that are asymptomatic or anybody that wants them at this time.”

The health district has, however, received eight Abbott ID Now rapid testing machines. Three will remain at the health district’s federally qualified health center, one will go to University Medical Center and four will be distributed to other federally qualified health centers in the community. The health district is working with the Nevada Primary Care Association to determine which health centers will get them.

While the Nevada State Public Health Lab is gearing up to begin antibody testing in the coming weeks, Southern Nevada health district officials are more cautious about antibody tests, which enable them to know whether someone had previously contracted COVID-19. Kraushaar noted that some COVID-19 antibody tests have also been picking up antibodies for other coronaviruses, some of which can cause the common cold.

“I think until we get more information it’s not going to be something that we’re heavily promoting at this time,” Kraushar said.

— Megan Messerly, 4/17/20 at 4:37 p.m.

Las Vegas suspends traffic warrants amid coronavirus shutdown

The Las Vegas Justice Court announced Friday that it will suspend traffic warrant enforcement until 60 days after Gov. Steve Sisolak has lifted the state’s stay-at-home order, effectively pausing more than 270,000 pending cases. 

In a news release, the court said anyone with an outstanding traffic warrant would not be subject to being arrested until the suspension is lifted, though the payment of fines through the mail, phone or online is still being encouraged. 

The move comes after the Legislature tried and failed to pass AB411 in 2019, a measure that would have decriminalized traffic tickets altogether, placing them instead in the realm of civil violations. 

Lawmakers eventually passed AB434, which expressed disapproval of jailings because of traffic violations and said more generally that people who are arrested should be released on their own recognizance. 

Jacob Solis, 4/17/20 at 4:18 p.m.

Churchill County leaders want rural counties involved in state’s reopening process

Churchill County leaders want rural counties to be involved in state discussions about how to reopen businesses after the coronavirus closures.

Churchill County Manager Jim Barbee said the topic came up during a County Commission meeting Wednesday that included a COVID-19 agenda item. The Lahontan Valley News first reported the commission conversation.

“The biggest point is we wanted to make sure the counties were included in the conversation with the governor’s office on the best way to move forward,” he said.

The county is drafting a letter to the Nevada Association of Counties that will echo that point, Barbee said. The letter will be up for approval by county commissioners during their next board meeting, May 7.

Commissioner Bus Scharmann said he believes the governor should allow counties some say in the reopening process — much like how President Donald Trump has issued broad guidelines but delegated specific planning to each state.

“The governor should work with counties to open them up as they see fit as the counties,” he said. “We’re not all Clark County. We’re not all Washoe County.”

Social distancing, they said, is simply easier in counties with smaller populations. Churchill County has roughly 25,000 residents. So far, Churchill County has reported three COVID-19 cases. 

It’s not the state’s only rural county pondering this question. At its next meeting April 22, the White Pine County Commission plans to discuss sending the governor a letter asking him to exempt the county from following business closures or shelter-in-place orders that extend beyond April.

— Jackie Valley, 4/17/20 at 2:59 p.m.

Washoe County health authorities: Model indicates Nevada may have reached its peak number of cases already

A modeling tool produced by Los Alamos National Laboratory showed, as of Thursday, an 80 percent chance that Nevada had already reached its peak of COVID-19 cases, Washoe County health authorities said Friday.

Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick said if the state hasn’t reached its peak, the model predicted it would do so this week, next week or the week after — underscoring the need to remain vigilant with social-distancing practices.

“It’s not a guarantee that that’s what will occur,” he said during a press conference Friday morning. “So we continue to watch our data … We’re only really going to know when our peak was by looking back at our data and seeing the decline in our case counts occuring after the peak. But it’s an encouraging sign.”

When the state reaches its peak, that means the most cases are being identified daily, he said.

“So it’s important we maintain our social distancing — in fact, double down on our actions to stay at home for Nevada,” he said, “Only leave home when we have essential needs to be out. Keep nonessential businesses closed. Cover our faces with a cloth covering when we’re out to prevent the spread of disease.”

Dick’s comments came a day after Washoe County announced it was holding off on preparing a 700-bed field hospital at the Reno Sparks Convention Center. County officials said the plan would be rekindled if a need arises, though.

As of Friday morning, 54 percent of short-term, acute-care hospital beds were occupied in Washoe County, along with 49 percent of intensive-care unit beds and 28 percent of ventilators, Dick said.

“Good capacity continues with our hospitals and health care system,” he said.

— Jackie Valley, 4/17/20 at 1:05 p.m.

Thursday state and county update: COVID-19 cases rise to 3,321, deaths at 142

State health officials are reporting 3,321 positive COVID-19 cases statewide, up 107 cases from the last update by the state. The death toll has increased by four since Wednesday’s last update to 142 deaths.

A dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services also shows 28,451 people have been tested, an increase of 796 from Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, Southern Nevada Health District officials announced that positive COVID-19 cases in Clark County had risen to 2,625, up 66 from Wednesday. The death total also increased by six to 121 deaths, up from 115 reported on Wednesday.

Health officials reported that 705 people in the county are hospitalized with symptoms of the coronavirus, including 121 people in Intensive Care Units. An estimated 1,399 people in the county have recovered from the virus.

Humboldt County announced late Thursday that it had identified four additional positive cases, including one man who is hospitalized. Humboldt, which includes Winnemucca, has the most cases per capita of all 17 Nevada counties.

Officials said the new cases underscored the need for continued outreach to residents, and scheduled a bilingual Facebook Live discussion on Friday with Father Pepe Sobarzo from St. Paul’s Catholic Church to share strategies to prevent COVID-19 in English and Spanish.

Washoe County health district officials also reported a 15th COVID-19 related death in the county on Thursday, a woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions. The county is also reporting 572 reported cases of the virus — up 23 from the amount reported on Wednesday — and 38 hospitalizations, up six from the previous day. 

Positive cases of COVID-19 are now being reported in 12 of Nevada’s 17 counties, after Elko officials announced a revised count of positive cases that includes the first confirmed case in rural Lander County and Mineral County announced its first case.

Elko County health officials announced a revised case count on Thursday, saying that an epidemiological investigation determined that one of the county’s 12 COVID-19 cases actually resided in rural Lander County — which has a population of about 5,700 people.

Mineral County officials also announced on Thursday the county’s first positive COVID-19 case but did not provide any additional details about the individual. Officials said in a statement that they are working to “aggressively” identify close contacts of the individual to limit spread of the virus.

On Thursday evening, Carson City health officials announced two additional positive COVID-19 cases; a female Carson City resident in her 60s, and a female Douglas County resident in her 30s. Both individuals are isolating at home.

Carson City has reported 27 cases of COVID-19, and Douglas County has reported 14 cases of the virus.

Last updated 4/17/20 at 8:36 a.m.

Rural Nevada County asks to be left out of future COVID-19 shutdown orders

The White Pine County Commission has scheduled a discussion on whether to send a letter asking Gov. Steve Sisolak to exempt the tiny rural county from following future business shutdown or quarantine orders that extend past the end of April.

The item is listed on the five-member County Commission’s agenda for April 22, and comes as various businesses and President Donald Trump have begun angling or setting guidelines for when nonessential business shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders made to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 should be lifted.

“White Pine County will continue to do what’s best for the citizenry in regards to COVID-19 but believes we can have a fully opened economy (gaming, restaurants, bars, and all other currently closed businesses to be opened back up) while encouraging businesses to maintain best practices to help mitigate the risk to the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions like so many are already doing,” the agenda item states.

White Pine County has a population of just under 10,000 people, and is on the eastern end of the state sharing a border with Utah. The county has three reported positive COVID-19 cases.

— Riley Snyder, 4/16/20 at 5:06 p.m.

Washoe County pauses work on 700-bed field hospital at convention center

Washoe County announced on Thursday that it was pausing a plan to prepare a 700-bed field hospital at the Reno Sparks Convention Center.

Regional Information Center spokesman Adam Mayberry said the decision to put the Alternative Care Site project on hold came after authorities reviewed models and forecasts, and after considering that Renown Regional Medical Center had capacity for 700 beds in its parking garage.

“We just wanted to put the brakes on. Not to suggest we’re putting our guard down or that people can relax,” he said. “With what we’re seeing, we’re certainly moving in the right direction and frankly, it might not be needed.”

Regional officials had worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to design the care site, which would accommodate patients if there was a hospital overflow. But currently, hospitals in the county are only at about 54 percent capacity.

“If that number was much higher it would be an easier decision to make,” Mayberry said about proceeding with the project. “Given what Renown has brought forward to the community, we believe we’re in a pretty good position.”

Authorities still have possession of the convention center and are monitoring for “trigger points” that would signal a need for work to resume. 

They said they could prepare the site for patients within 48 hours, with the field hospital at full capacity within seven days. The project would require construction of modules that are a step up from simply curtain dividers.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/16/20 at 4:05 p.m.

GOP Senate Leader asks Sisolak for ‘clarity and specifics’ on next steps for state in COVID-19 pandemic

Republican state Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer is publicly asking Gov. Steve Sisolak for more details on the state’s economic recovery plan from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent to the governor on Thursday, Settelmeyer requested more information for the public and members of the Legislature on when the state plans to lift several emergency directives requiring the closure of nonessential businesses, K-12 schools and social-distancing mandates.

“I appreciate hearing from the Governor’s staff each week, but I believe there is room to improve communication as we move to reopen Nevada’s economy,” Settelmeyer said in a statement. “I understand the need to remain focused on the health and wellbeing of our residents, but it is also our duty to provide the public with clarity and specifics about Nevada’s plan for health and economic recovery. It is not too early to begin this conversation.”

Specifically, Settelmeyer asked Sisolak’s office for details on:

  • The likelihood of extending the nonessential business closure order past the current expiration date of April 30
  • The deadline to decide whether schools in the state can re-open
  • Any priority list of nonessential businesses that may be able to reopen, with or without limitations
  • Whether future COVID-19 related task forces will include bi-partisan representation “from stakeholders and subject matter experts from regions across the state”

A spokesperson for Sisolak’s office did not immediately return an email seeking comment on the letter.

— Riley Snyder, 4/16/20 at 10:34 a.m.

Wednesday state and county update: COVID-19 cases rise to 3,214, deaths increase to 137

State and county officials are reporting that there are now 3,214 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus statewide, up 68 from Tuesday evening’s total. The death toll is now at 137.

Southern Nevada Health District officials announced Wednesday morning that there are 2,559 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Clark County, up 50 from Tuesday. There are now 115 deaths in the county associated with the virus, up nine from Tuesday.

According to health district officials, 683 individuals with COVID-19 have been hospitalized in Clark County, an increase of 32 from Tuesday. Officials estimate that 1281 people have recovered from the virus.

Washoe County Health District officials announced 17 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the countywide total to 549. Health district officials also announced one additional death, a man in his 70s, bringing the countywide death total to 14.

According to the county, 32 people with COVID-19 are currently hospitalized, 41 have been discharged from the hospital, and 103 people have recovered from the virus.

Health officials in Elko County reported one new case Wednesday, a woman in her 40s who is self-isolating at home. The case brings the county’s total to 12, including eight active cases, three recoveries and one death.

Officials also reported one additional case in Carson City and another in Lyon County Wednesday, bringing the number of cases in the four-county region encompassing Carson City-Lyon-Douglas-Storey County to 51, including 39 active cases and 12 recoveries. 

Both cases, a Carson City man in his 30s and a Lyon County woman in her 60s, are self-isolating at home and remain in stable condition, authorities said.

A dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services also shows 27,655 people have been tested, an increase of 994 from Tuesday.

— Last updated 4/15/20 at 8:24 p.m.

State regulators issue cease and desist for coronavirus testing at Las Vegas urgent care facility

Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services issued a cease and desist order Wednesday to the Sahara West Urgent Care clinic in Las Vegas for operating as a lab without a license, several days after the clinic began conducting so-called “rapid tests” for COVID-19. 

At issue was the clinic’s use of a serology test — which tests for coronavirus antibodies in the bloodstream — as a means of diagnosing the coronavirus. Such tests only confirm an immune response, not the virus itself, and state health officials said the clinic must immediately notify all patients that their results are invalid for the purpose of diagnosing COVID-19. 

In a statement, the state’s Division of Public and Behavioral Health said state law prohibits the operation of a medical laboratory without a license, and that the clinic remains under investigation for violating that law following a complaint investigation on Tuesday. 

Wednesday’s announcement follows a report Tuesday from the Las Vegas Review-Journal that regulators had asked two Las Vegas facilities, Sahara West and Cura Telehealth, to stop conducting coronavirus testing. 

Andrew Mann, a spokesperson for Sahara West, told The Nevada Independent that the clinic is “completely cooperating” with regulators and working to provide documentation that it remains in compliance with laboratory licensing laws. 

Mann also said that the clinic believes new state regulations being placed on rapid testing, including the serology testing being conducted at Sahara West, is “onerous” to the point of making it “impossible” to conduct such tests at the urgent care clinic. 

Jacob Solis, 4/15/20 at 11:05 a.m.

New emergency directive addresses high school graduations

Gov. Steve Sisolak’s latest emergency directive gives the state superintendent power to temporarily waive or suspend laws or regulations that would place an “undue burden” on students’ ability to graduate high school

The directive — which is the 14th the governor has issued since mid-March — builds on one he signed March 20, waiving state standardized tests and end-of-course exams. Schools statewide have been shut down since March 16 and will remain closed at least through April 30.

The new directive also gives the State Board of Education the ability to approve amendments to school districts’ work-based learning plans, which will ensure students can earn the credit hours needed for a “College and Career Ready Diploma” despite the coronavirus disruptions.

The amendments will be considered at a State Board of Education meeting April 30.

“Due to COVID-19, the graduating class of 2020 will have to shift many of the celebrations and milestones that they have been looking forward to throughout their high school career,” Superintendent Jhone Ebert said in a statement. “One thing they will not have to sacrifice is their chance to demonstrate readiness for college and careers by earning their high school diploma.”

— Jackie Valley, 4/15/20 at 9:34 a.m.

Tuesday state and county update: COVID-19 cases rise to 3,140, while the death toll reaches 130

Southern Nevada health officials reported five more coronavirus deaths on Tuesday morning, pushing the county total to 106. 

Statewide, there were 130 reported deaths from coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon.

The Southern Nevada Health District also announced the county case total had reached 2,509 — up 65 from the 2,444 reported Monday. Meanwhile, roughly 45 percent of the county’s cases — or 1,141 people — have recovered from COVID-19, health officials said.

Washoe County announced 32 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the county total to 532. Officials also announced a woman in her 50s with underlying conditions died after a COVID-19 diagnosis, bringing the Washoe County death toll to 13.

Churchill County authorities reported the county’s first coronavirus case on Monday.

On Tuesday evening, health authorities reported three more coronavirus cases in Douglas County, two more in Carson City and one more in Lyon County. That brings the statewide county case count up to 3,140.

The new patients in Douglas County are a woman in her 50s, a girl under the age of 18, and a man in his 30s. Both Carson City cases are women in their 50s, while the new Lyon County case is a woman in her 40s, health officials said. All are self-isolating at home in stable condition.

On Tuesday evening, Nye County officials reported four additional positive COVID-19 cases, including three in Tonopah and one in Pahrump. The county is now reporting 19 positive cases, with two recoveries. 

Additionally, a spokesperson for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony confirmed the reservation’s first positive coronavirus case to The Nevada Independent on Tuesday morning. According to a social media post from the tribal community, the resident is hospitalized. The Reno Sparks Tribal Health Center offers drive-through patient assessments and testing for the virus.

Ten of Nevada’s 17 counties have reported coronavirus cases.

— Last updated 4/14/20 at 6:47 p.m.

Nevada receives education funding from CARES Act

A $200 million boost from the multi-trillion-dollar CARES Act is headed toward Nevada’s schools, Rep. Steven Horsford announced Tuesday.

The funding is part of $30.75 billion in grants to provide emergency support to local school districts and higher-education systems. Of that amount, $3 billion was released Tuesday and will be allocated to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, from which governors can request money to carry out essential education services.

Officials said those funds also can be put toward child care and early childhood education, social and emotional support, and the protection of education-related jobs.

On top of that, Nevada will receive $117 million to help K-12 schools purchase laptops and hot spots for distance learning; $278,318 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital access-related purchases; and $59 million for the Nevada System of Higher Education. Officials said at least half of the NSHE amount will be earmarked for student financial aid.

“As Nevada’s students navigate this turbulent time alongside their families, I am working to make sure they have the resources they need to be cared for and continue to learn and grow,” Horsford said in a statement. “I am so encouraged to see the dedication of our state’s educators, and I hope this funding will afford them the resources they need to continue to do so during this pandemic.”

— Jackie Valley, 4/14/20 at 3:25 p.m.

Officials unveil plan to use Las Vegas Convention Center as overflow hospital if COVID-19 surges

Southern Nevada officials announced a plan to convert a large expo hall in the Las Vegas Convention Center into a field hospital if a surge in coronavirus patients overwhelms the capacity of traditional hospitals.

The proposed alternative care site, designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and described in a press conference Tuesday afternoon, would hold up to 900 beds in several distinct zones. The convention center’s South Hall would be partitioned with a network of temporary dividers and curtains and could be prepared with four days’ notice of a surge.

“As of today, we are grateful to report that our hospitalization needs do not require the addition of this alternate care site, but we are ready to put this plan into action if we need it,” Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said in a statement. “As a community, our early actions have made a difference in the caseload we are seeing.”

The site, built in a hall that encompasses nearly 1 million square feet, would have spaces for coronavirus patients who need medical attention that is lower than intensive care, as well as space for people without COVID-19 who need post-operative care before being discharged from a hospital.

Officials expressed cautious optimism about whether the facility would be needed. 

“Two weeks ago, I thought we might need it now and so we were really on the gas trying to get it done,” said Clark County Fire Chief John Steinbeck. “We’re not putting our foot on the brake at all, but we are taking it off the gas just a little bit.”

University Medical Center CEO Mason VanHouweling said hospitals continue to keep a watchful eye on data such as intensive care unit occupancy and ventilator use to check for any signs of an oncoming surge. But he said that social distancing and moves to cancel outpatient surgeries have “had a huge impact on the acceleration of the cases here in Nevada.”

Fermin Leguen, acting chief at the Southern Nevada Health District, tempered expectations about a downward trend.

“At this point, there is not any reliable information in terms of trends of whether the disease is going away or staying the same,” he said.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/14/20 at 3:06 p.m.

Monday state and county update: COVID-19 cases rise to 3,036; deaths up to 120

County officials reported Monday a total of 3,036 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide. By the afternoon, the state reported the death toll was 120, up from 114 earlier in the day.

Humboldt County health officials on Monday also announced the county’s first coronavirus-related death —a man in his 40s who was a previously reported case.

The Southern Nevada Health District announced Monday morning 120 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death in Clark County, bringing total cases countywide to 2,444 and total deaths to 101. According to the health district, 623 people are hospitalized with the virus and 1,082 people are estimated to have recovered from it.

Washoe County health officials reported an additional 39 cases Monday morning, bringing the countywide total to 500. Of those cases, 417 remain active and 31 individuals are currently hospitalized with the virus. 

Officials also reported one death, raising the county’s death toll to 12, as well as 10 additional recoveries, bringing the total recovered cases to 71. 

Hospital occupancy county-wide remains near half, with 53 percent of hospital beds occupied, 51 percent of intensive care rooms occupied and 20 percent of ventilators in-use as of Monday morning.

Nye County reported five more people in Pahrump tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the countywide number of cases up to 15. Carson City also reported one additional case.

A dashboard maintained by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services also shows 25,464 people have been tested, an increase of 853 from Sunday.

Last updated 4/14/20 at 7:48 a.m.

Slightly more than one-third of ventilators in Nevada in use

State officials say 37 percent of the ventilators in Nevada are in use, reflecting a gradual drop in that rate over the last few days since last Tuesday when 47 percent were being used.

The statistic came in the state’s daily pandemic situation report, which also noted that 68 percent of intensive care unit rooms in Nevada are in use. Last Tuesday, that number was 71 percent.

On Wednesday, the state noted the arrival of 50 ventilators loaned from California for a three-week period.

State officials also announced on Monday that 798 people had volunteered to be part of the Battle Born Medical Corps. Sixteen new people applied on Sunday.

The majority of volunteers — 308 people — are nurses, while 122 are doctors.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/13/20 at 6:42 p.m.

First inmate in Nevada tests positive for COVID-19; man had been at Clark County Detention Center, is hospitalized

In the first reported case of COVID-19 among inmates in Nevada, an inmate at the Clark County Detention Center tested positive for the virus.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officials announced on Monday that the 31-year-old man is now being treated at University Medical Center. The agency said the inmate had been in the jail since November and was admitted to the hospital on Sunday after he began displaying symptoms.

Three inmates in the unit were moved to negative air pressure cells and are being tested for COVID-19. Other inmates in the module are being quarantined and the unit is being re-sanitized.

All inmates are being provided with masks to wear when they are outside their cells, according to the department.

At a meeting earlier in the day, police lobbyist Chuck Callaway said the jail has been trying to keep its population down during the pandemic. He noted that the jail has a capacity for 4,000 but is down to 2,900 inmates and has 865 people on house arrest.

No state prison inmates have been tested for the virus, according to prisons director Charles Daniels, who said prison staff have access to tests but have not determined any inmates needed it. A state dashboard indicates there are six employees within the state prison system to test positive, including staff at High Desert State Prison, Southern Desert Correctional Center, Ely State Prison and Casa Grande Transitional Housing.

— Michelle Rindels, 4/13/20 at 4:57 p.m.

Health insurance exchange extends special enrollment window by a month in light of ongoing pandemic

Nevada’s health insurance exchange is extending the special enrollment period it opened last month in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The special enrollment period, which was initially slated to run from March 17 to April 15, will now remain open until May 15, allowing Nevadans an additional 30 days to sign up for plans through the exchange. Those who enroll on or before April 30 will have coverage beginning May 1, while those who enroll in May will have coverage beginning June 1.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, in a statement on Monday, encouraged Nevadans to take advantage of the special enrollment period to sign up for health insurance coverage.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate. Anyone, regardless of age, income or health can become infected,” Sisolak said. “If you or your family don’t have health insurance, now is the time to get it.”

Those seeking help enrolling in a plan through the exchange are encouraged to contact the exchange’s call center between Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at (800) 547-2927.

The special enrollment period was made possible by Nevada’s transition last year from a hybrid state-based exchange operating on the federal HealthCare.gov platform to a fully state-based exchange. The Trump administration rejected a special enrollment period for states that rely on HealthCare.gov to enroll their residents last month, while Nevada and 11 other states that operate their own exchanges have opened special enrollment windows.

— Megan Messerly, 4/13/20 at 1:37 p.m.

Attorney General, U.S. Attorney for Nevada launch inter-agency task force in bid to curb coronavirus-related fraud

As the number of online scams and other cybercrimes rise amid the coronavirus pandemic, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Nevada U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich announced the formation of an interagency task force Monday aiming to crack down on virus-related frauds. 

In all, 15 state, local and federal agencies — from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to the FBI — will coordinate fraud investigations through the task force. 

Those agencies will focus on, among other things, scams related to coronavirus diagnosis, treatment and stimulus checks, as well as insurance and Medicaid fraud. 

Concerns around the possible fraud or theft of stimulus money have become especially acute this week, as the first wave of direct payments from the federal CARES Act begin to circulate.

Jacob Solis, 4/13/20 at 10:44 a.m.

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