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Clark County man is Nevada’s 1st coronavirus death

Updated March 16, 2020 - 7:05 pm

The risk to the general public in Clark County of acquiring COVID-19 is now considered “moderate,” a Southern Nevada Health District official said Monday after the agency announced 19 new cases and the county’s first death from the new coronavirus.

The death was of a man in his 60s with an underlying health condition who had been hospitalized in isolation, the health district said. No additional information about the victim was immediately available.

Clark County now has 35 reported cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 45.

“This loss of life is a tragedy, and we want to express our condolences to the family,” Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, said in a statement. “We must continue to emphasize how important it is to protect those who are most vulnerable to the impacts of the virus and urge our community to support the public health measures and recommendations that are in place.”

The announcement came a day after Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all public and charter K-12 schools to close beginning Monday. He also said most state offices would close and asked local governments to reduce the size of public gatherings.

It is “probably likely at some point” that more closures will be ordered for places such as bars, restaurants, gyms and other outdoor venues, said Michael Johnson, director of the health district’s community health division. The Trump administration said Monday that these venues should be closed in communities in which the virus is spreading from person to person, which would include Clark County.

He said there had been discussions about closing day-care centers, though no decision had yet been made. Johnson did not envision grocery stores being required to close.

“I think people are looking very closely at lessons learned already from China, Italy and so on,” Johnson said about the rapid escalation in restrictions on daily life. “And we’re trying to take pre-emptive actions to not overwhelm our health care system, which is, of course, what’s happened in China and Italy.”

Drive-through testing

Officials are seeking ways to expedite testing of more people, Johnson said, even as he acknowledged that the district has “very limited tests left” and is low on other supplies related to testing.

Relief is expected in the form of drive-through testing stations that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has offered to run, Johnson said. He said he thought that measure could be implemented quickly but had no specific time frame.

The district also has requested help from the state lab in Reno, which has the ability to process at least 120 tests a day, twice the current capacity of the lab in Southern Nevada.

Private labs such as LabCorp and Quest also are conducting tests ordered through medical providers.

Johnson urged everyone to practice “social distancing,” or staying 6 feet away from other people, when possible. Taking such precautions is especially important for the elderly and those with underlying health conditions, who are at higher risk of getting seriously ill from the virus, health authorities have said.

In a statement Monday, the governor underscored the sentiment.

“Please practice social distancing, avoid people who are sick, wash your hands often, and seek medical care if you do become ill,” Sisolak said. “We are all in this together, and we will do everything we can as Nevadans to protect ourselves and to protect each other.”

Virus affecting wide age range

The health district provided no additional information about the 19 new cases reported since Friday, when the total was 16.

Earlier reported cases about which some information was available have ranged widely in age and have appeared evenly distributed in the decades from the 30s through the 70s.

Cases have spanned from a man in his 20s, who is isolating at home, to three patients in their 70s, at least one of whom was hospitalized and another who was isolating at home.

There also were three patients in their 30s, three patients in their 40s, three patients in their 50s and three patients in their 60s.

At least five of the cases involved patients who were hospitalized, while at least seven involved individuals isolating at home. The cases were almost evenly split between men and women.

Ten cases have been reported in Northern Nevada, with Washoe County health authorities announcing five new cases Sunday. A case also has been reported in Carson City.

Johnson noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer is requiring that it confirm “presumptive positive cases” based on positive test results.

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

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