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Nevada COVID officials: Uptick in cases not 'necessarily' sign of second surge, increased hospitalizations within 'expected' range

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Coronavirus
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A recent uptick in new COVID-19 cases does not "necessarily point to" a second surge of the virus, and increases in hospitalizations are still falling within the expected range, state coronavirus officials said Thursday.

Caleb Cage, the state’s COVID-19 response director, acknowledged the recent increases on a call with reporters but said that they have not gone “beyond the current range” of what the state is expecting to see. Data show that cases of novel coronavirus have been slowly increasing over the last week, and the number of people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 has increased day-over-day for the last six days. 

Cage noted that while the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has been increasing, the total number of confirmed and suspected cases has been “plateauing” and “remaining within the range that we expect them to for this period, based off models and based off of recent experience as well.” He did not respond to a question submitted during the press conference about what range the state is looking at and which models they are relying on.

State health officials have attributed the increase in cases largely to an increase in testing, though the data show that the number of new positives and the number of new people tested do not always rise and fall at the same rates.

Cage, asked about preparations the state is making to potentially roll back the state’s Phase 2 reopening guidelines, pointed to the state’s disease outbreak management plan. That plan, released last week, details the efforts the state is making to boost testing, contact tracing and the state’s stockpile of personal protective equipment.

“The objective of that plan is to continue to reopen and keep open the state of Nevada as we continue to make progress,” Cage said.

As far as whether Nevada is ready to enter Phase 3, Cage noted that the state is nearing the end of the two-week period since entering Phase 2 and said that state officials will be assessing the data over the next week or more to determine what future steps the state might take.

Cage also urged Nevadans to do their part to stem the tide of the virus, including wearing a face mask while going out in public, not gathering in large groups, washing their hands and continuing to engage in social distancing. Anyone with symptoms of the novel coronavirus should contact a medical provider or set up an appointment for community-based testing, he said.

“There’s also an individual responsibility to assist in this as well,” Cage said. “There is a state effort. There is also an individual responsibility that we would like to highlight.”

Cage said that the state is currently working to secure funding to purchase personal protective equipment and testing components needed to prepare for another surge of the virus, as outlined in the state’s disease outbreak management plan released last week. The state is also seeing increased interest from local communities, particularly in rural and tribal areas, in setting up their own community-based testing centers, he said.

Additionally, the state plans to onboard five new staff members through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its foundation. Those positions include a regional public health director to support Nevada’s frontier counties, a state lead COVID-19 analyst, a community health program manager focused on COVID-19, a disease investigation oversight lead and a minority health specialist.

Julia Peek, a deputy administrator in the Division of Public and Behavioral Health, added that the state plans to onboard 250 additional paid contact tracers starting Saturday, tripling the state’s existing workforce. But she urged the public to be “really thoughtful and aware” of their surroundings in the event that they need to be contacted for contact tracing purposes.

“Contact tracing is only as strong as memory,” Peek said. “It’s hard to remember what happened yesterday, let alone last week, who you were in contact with.”

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