Updated September 28, 2020 - 3:58 pm
Just one case of COVID-19 has been connected to political rallies held this month in Nevada, state officials said Monday.
Officials including Gov. Steve Sisolak had expressed concern that President Donald Trump’s large political rallies, along with Labor Day gatherings, would fuel a spike in new cases. Although the state’s testing positivity rate has increased since mid-September, data so far does not link the uptick to these events.
“The Department of Health and Human Services has reached out to the local health authorities and, at this time, one individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 has reported to Carson City Health and Human Services a connection to a political rally,” department spokeswoman Shannon Litz said in an email. “Additionally, there continues to be indication of spread due to group or family events, but no specific spikes related to the Labor Day weekend.”
Caleb Cage, who directs the state’s COVID-19 response, said in a briefing with reporters that the state’s data is only as good as the information provided by newly positive individuals to disease investigators, which may result in an incomplete picture.
People contacted by disease investigators are “not necessarily” withholding information about attendance at political rallies, Health and Human Services deputy administrator Julia Peek said.
“I think people are just apprehensive when a caller you don’t know calls you and asks you a question of a personal nature,” she said, noting that nearly half declined to give their sexual orientation and more than one-third their race.
The comments by state officials came on a day when Nevada reported an increase of 463 new cases and no additional deaths. Meanwhile, the Southern Nevada Health District reported 358 new cases in Clark County and no additional deaths.
After declining since early August, the state’s COVID-19 testing positivity rate in the past two weeks has been creeping upward, with a seven-day average of 12.7 percent as a percentage of numbers of people tested and an 11.4 percent cumulative rate, according to a Review-Journal analysis. The state, which bases its positivity rate on the number of tests conducted, puts the seven-day average at 8.1 percent and the cumulative rate at 9.9 percent.
State officials noted that Clark County had dropped off the list of areas at elevated risk of transmission for the first time because of a high number of tests performed and a decrease in test positivity.
Nevada has been trending downward in terms of hospitalizations for COVID-19, with the Nevada Hospital Association stating that hospitalizations remained flat over the weekend.
The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 or seeking emergency care for the virus at University Medical Center has dramatically declined, the hospital said Monday.
UMC’s COVID-19 inpatient census has decreased by about 73 percent since late July, reaching a daily high of 121 patients before declining to the current daily inpatient total of 33 patients with confirmed cases of the virus, the hospital said in a news release.
The number of people seeking emergency care at the public hospital for COVID-19-related complaints each day also has dropped, with daily totals declining by nearly 90 percent since the peak. On July 21, a total of 79 patients visited UMC’s emergency departments for COVID-19 assessments. The most recent daily total shows that this number has decreased to only eight patients.
The hospital’s intensive care unit occupancy rate has dropped to 78 percent after reaching 92 percent on July 10.
In addition, UMC’s dedicated COVID-19 testing laboratory now provides test results in an average of 12 hours after receiving the sample in its lab, when previously turnaround time ran 24 to 48 hours.
“These encouraging figures represent continued progress in our county and UMC’s ongoing response to this unprecedented public health crisis,” UMC CEO Mason Van Houweling said.