Updated June 27, 2020 - 7:01 pm
The unusually high number of coronavirus cases reported in Nevada on Saturday was caused by a delay in laboratory reporting from the Southern Nevada Health District earlier this week, but it still shows evidence of the recent spike in cases, officials said.
Most of the additional cases were in Clark County. Dr. Fermin Leguen, the health district’s acting chief health officer, said the higher transmission rates in Clark County can be explained in part by businesses reopening, especially the increase in young people who have gotten sick.
“Either through the increase of interaction through their profession or interaction through social activities, what we’re seeing is an increase in the number of cases here in Clark County,” Leguen said in an interview Saturday. “Most of the cases that we’re seeing, most of that increase, is focalized in the younger population.”
On Saturday, the health district reported 971 new cases of the virus, and 1,099 new cases were reported throughout all of Nevada, shattering the record of 497 news cases recorded in the state on Thursday by more than 600.
According to a statement from the health district, more than 240 of the 971 new Clark County cases were from Tuesday laboratory reports, and more than 380 of the cases were from Wednesday reports.
That means there were actually about 351 new cases reported daily from Friday to Saturday, which is still on the higher end of the daily case reporting throughout the last week.
Both the state and the county health district redistribute new cases and death data after daily announcements to better reflect when a patient experienced an onset of symptoms or when a death occurred.
The new cases brought Clark County’s totals to 13,174. There were two additional deaths reports in the county as well on Saturday, bringing the total to 410.
Caseloads have been increasing throughout June, along with the state infection rate, which experts say is a better indicator of the conditions of the pandemic. After trending lower over more than two months, the infection rate — the number of confirmed cases divided by people tested — bottomed out at 5.20 percent on June 17 and then began to slowly increase.
Leguen said that although a significant number of new cases are among young people, it’s too soon to say if there are more workers at hotels, casinos and restaurants who are getting sicker than other groups.
Masks key to reducing transmissions
It’s also too early to say if Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mandate this week for everyone to wear masks in public spaces will slow the virus’ spread, although Leguen said he “absolutely” believes that wearing masks will reduce transmissions.
It may take some time to educate more people about why wearing masks in public will help slow the pandemic, said Brian Labus, an UNLV assistant professor in epidemiology and biostatistics and a member of the medical team advising Sisolak.
“You’re never going to get everybody to agree to it, but the goal is to get as many people as possible wearing the masks,” Labus said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect for it to work.”
He said it takes about three weeks for the effects of significant events to be reflected in the data, and the recent uptick in cases can be explained by Phase Two of Nevada’s reopening happening just over three weeks ago. He said that was also when Las Vegas saw significant protests over racism and police brutality, but that the demonstrations weren’t likely to significantly influence the data in Nevada.
“Really, the number of people that participated in protests was small compared to the number of people that started going to restaurants, and bars, and businesses that were previously closed,” Labus said.
Although the number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients hospitalized throughout Nevada has increased for the fifth day in a row — to 503 — Clark County has not reported a large spike in hospitalizations. Fewer than 100 infected people were hospitalized this week, according to county health district data.
Leguen said the hospitalizations haven’t risen as much as the total caseload because many of the new cases are among younger people.
Clark County has confirmed 2,400 new cases since Sunday. Only about 1,000 previously infected people are estimated to have recovered in the same amount of time.
Along with the high number of young people, more than 700 of the new cases, about one-third, have involved Hispanic people.
Also this week, three ZIP codes in the Las Vegas Valley added more than 100 new cases, according to the health district. The 89030, 89110 and 89115 ZIP codes cover parts of North Las Vegas and east Las Vegas.
The total cases in the state rose to 16,339 on Saturday, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. Those figures include more than 100 cases reported Friday by Washoe County.
Two additional deaths were reported in the state, bringing the total to 500.
As of Saturday, 261,667 people have been tested for the virus, representing an infection rate of 6.2 percent. It was the 10th straight day the infection rate has increased in the state.
Public health experts have said the wider availability of COVID-19 testing may be playing a role in the recent uptick of cases, though the infection rate continued to decline through the period when the tests became more widely available before the recent climb.
State data shows that the average number of daily tests performed in the past seven days has actually decreased from recent weeks. From June 20 to Friday, an average of 3,848 tests were performed daily, while the week before showed an average of 5,626 daily tests.
Weekend data, including testing totals, can sometimes be skewed because of reporting backlogs.