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State postpones implementation of mitigation measures for counties at 'elevated risk' of COVID-19, citing need for further review

Megan Messerly
Megan Messerly
Coronavirus
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Governor Steve Sisolak during a press conference

Six counties remain at elevated risk of disease transmission but will not be required to implement additional mitigation measures on Friday because of what state officials framed as delays with the approval of individual action plans.

Caleb Cage, Nevada’s COVID-19 response director, said during a press call on Friday that the state received most of the individual county action plans on Wednesday but was still in the process of providing additional feedback and having additional discussions with the counties. He said the state’s intent is to review and finalize the plans at its upcoming meeting of a state COVID-19 task force on Thursday.

“We're again working within the new system and getting everybody on board and answering questions and having all of those discussions as we did with each of the counties, multiple discussions with each of the counties and making sure that we have time to review them in a serious manner and be able to review them and address them as serious as they are,” Cage said.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Sisolak confirmed that no county action plan will kick in before being finalized on Thursday.

Though the state’s plan had initially framed the new process as a strict, week-by-week process, Cage indicated Thursday that there is additional flexibility in the process subject to the assessment of the state’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Force, which is responsible for reviewing the data and county action plans.

“We will be meeting on Thursday of next week in order to review and finalize approval of those plans. The different plans may have different active or implementation dates on them,” Cage said. “So there's not a date certain. But next Thursday is when that review and approval may occur.”

Cage attributed the delay with implementation this week to the newness of the process, which was established earlier this month and requires counties to be evaluated on a rolling basis for risk of elevated disease transmission. Counties are evaluated each week on Thursday and put on alert on Friday if they are considered at risk. If they remain at risk the next Thursday, they are required to implement mitigation measures the next day, Friday.

Last week, eight counties were identified at risk of elevated disease transmission. Six of them — Clark, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, Nye and Washoe — continue to remain at elevated risk but will not be required to immediately implement action plans Friday because of the delays. The two remaining counties, Carson City and Lincoln County, were removed from the state’s watch list.

Counties are considered at risk if they meet two of the three following criteria:

  • The average number of tests per day per 100,000, calculated over a 14-day period. If this number is less than 150, a county could be considered at risk.
  • The case rate per 100,000, calculated by taking the number of cases diagnosed and reported over a 30-day period. If this number is greater than 200, a county could be considered at risk.
  • The case rate per 100,000 and the test positivity rate, calculated over a 14-day period with a seven-day lag. If the case rate is greater than 50 and the test positivity rate is greater than 7.0 percent, a county could be considered at risk.

First-step mitigation measures could include targeted action to address the spread of COVID-19 based on the data, limiting occupancy at high-risk establishments such as restaurants, pools and gyms to 25 percent and limiting public gatherings to 25 people. 

Counties that remain at elevated risk of disease transmission for multiple weeks could be moved to the second level of mitigation measures, which includes revoking business licenses for targeted businesses if outbreaks can’t be controlled and a potential return to the state’s Phase 1 reopening recommendations.

In the meantime, all existing restrictions will remain in effect, including the closure of bars, pubs, taverns, breweries, distilleries and wineries in Clark, Washoe, Nye and Elko counties.

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