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New Clark County reports detail possible COVID exposure spots

Clark County residents most frequently visited restaurants, hotels and medical facilities before being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to new data released Wednesday.

For the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, the Southern Nevada Health District voluntarily published a list of the county’s most common “possible exposure sites” on its website.

The data does not show where a person is known to have contracted COVID-19. Instead, it represents where an infected person traveled in the 14 days prior to them becoming symptomatic or getting tested.

SNHD health officer Dr. Fermin Leguen said the data is being published due to demand from the news media and the public.

“It’s a way for us to actually save time,” he said.

The data lists broad categories of businesses instead of individual locations. An undefined “other” category topped the list with more than 23,000 possible exposures. Last year, state health officials said the category represents businesses that do not align with other categories listed.

Following that was “food establishments” with more than 13,000 possible exposures, “hotel/motel” with more than 12,000 and “medical facilities” with close to 12,000.

Other top ranking categories included “work,” grocery stores, casinos, and schools.

The exposure location data is based on voluntary self-reporting by people testing positive during the disease investigation or contact tracing process.

The health district’s website states that data on some categories was not collected until mid-October, and that some places visited by infected people fit into multiple categories. The website does not state how far back the data spans.

Wednesday’s release marks only the second time possible exposure site data has been published in Nevada.

State officials released similar data to the Review-Journal in September as part of a public record request.

At the time, the data showed more than one-in-four Clark County residents recently infected with COVID-19 had listed a hotel, motel or resort as a possible exposure site. Strip hotel-casinos specifically topped reported locations in June, July and August in Southern Nevada, the reports showed.

Before the reports were released, Gov. Steve Sisolak said he was concerned about businesses being harmed by “half information.” State health officials stopped publishing them soon after.

Leguen said the data has always had limited value to the health district. He added that the agency’s environmental health division does use the data to help decide where to conduct inspections.

On Wednesday, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services deputy administrator Julia Peek said she was glad the health district was sharing the information.

“Though helpful in some context, it’s certainly not a smoking gun,” she said of the data. “So we need to look at that in combination with other things, but (we’re) certainly happy that Southern Nevada is publishing what they can that would be helpful to the public.”

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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