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Nevada reports one of lowest COVID case rates in US

Updated August 11, 2022 - 10:57 am

A downturn in COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases continued for the fifth straight week in both Clark County and Nevada, with the state reporting one of the lowest case rates in the country.

Nevada reported 109.5 cases per 100,000 people over the past week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. average is more than twice that, at 227 cases per 100,000.

Nevada’s downturn is no surprise, said Brian Labus, an assistant professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at UNLV’s School of Public Health. The wave of cases triggered by omicron subvariants hit Nevada earlier than most states, and in turn is receding here sooner.

“It’s the normal ebb and flow of disease, and the differences from place to place are solely based on timing,” Labus said Wednesday.

Still, he acknowledged that the trend is good news.

“I don’t have to wear a mask anymore when I go to the store,” said Labus, a member of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 medical advisory team.

Late last week, the CDC changed Clark County’s level of COVID-19 from high to medium, effectively ending its recommendation that everyone wear a mask in public indoor places. For almost two months the county had been stuck in the “high” zone, a designation based on hospitalizations and numbers of cases.

Once levels drop to medium, the CDC recommends that people at high risk for severe illness talk with their health care provider about whether they ought to continue to wear a mask.

In a statement about the county’s new designation, the Southern Nevada Health District said, “People may choose to continue wearing masks in public indoor places, and people with symptoms or who test positive for COVID-19 should stay home and wear a well-fitting mask when around others.”

Churchill County and Carson City remain at high levels. White Pine County is at a low level and the remainder of the state is at medium levels, according to the CDC. Nearly 42 percent of U.S. counties, districts and territories continue to have high levels of COVID-19.

In the past week, COVID-19 hospitalizations in Clark County have declined to 226 from 285, according to data released Wednesday by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. They also dropped statewide, to 286 from 378.

The two-week average for daily new confirmed cases in the county dropped to 326 from last week’s 442. Statewide, the average dropped to 433 from 550.

Hospitalizations are considered a better indicator of disease trends than numbers of cases, which depend on people getting tested. Consider that with 275 cases per 100,000 people, California has 2½ times the case rate of Nevada, but it also has nearly twice the rate of testing. More testing means that more cases will be detected.

Case numbers have become an even more flawed indicator of disease trends as more people opt to take at-home rapid tests, whose results are not included in case counts.

In addition to hospitalizations and cases, the two-week daily average for COVID-19 deaths in Clark County decreased to one from two. Statewide, the average remained at two.

Although weeks behind Clark County and Nevada, the country as a whole is beginning to experience a downward trend. The seven-day average for daily new cases in the U.S. dipped by 7.3 percent from the prior week to 117,351, and new hospital admissions declined by 4.4 percent to 6,112, according to the CDC.

The pattern throughout the pandemic has been one of cases rising and then falling, reaching a plateau until a new variant takes hold that is capable of evading immunity from prior infection or vaccination, Labus said.

With this in mind, researchers are on the lookout for new variants. Low levels of BA.4.6, a variant of concern gaining ground in the Midwest, was first detected in Clark County’s wastewater last week, said Edwin Oh, a researcher and assistant professor with the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV. Analysis of wastewater samples provides an early look at disease trends.

“Depending on the prevalence of this signal in the wastewater over the next 2-3 weeks, we will have more confidence about whether this variant is going to be a dominant variant here,” Oh said in an email.

Over the course of the pandemic, there have been 770,315 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nevada, including 587,219 in Clark County, according to state data. There have been 11,297 total deaths statewide, with 8,828 in Clark County.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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