Updated January 7, 2022 - 6:34 pm
Clark County and Nevada both reported record numbers of new COVID-19 cases on Friday, capping a week that also saw a sudden staffing crisis at local hospitals, skyrocketing test positivity rates and worsening worker shortages at area businesses.
The rapid spread of the disease, unprecedented in the pandemic, is largely the work of the newly arrived omicron variant, public health experts say. The Southern Nevada Health District said Friday that the more-contagious new mutant strain accounted for 83 percent of new cases in Clark County over the past 30 days, with the remainder caused by the delta variant.
Friday’s update of COVID-19 metrics alone was enough to spark alarm.
Clark County reported a record single day total of 3,508 new COVID-19 cases along with increases in its test positivity rate and hospitalizations, local and state data showed.
New cases were well above the two-week moving average of 2,344 cases per day, according to state data. The average itself was up by 309 cases per day from Thursday’s report.
The state, meanwhile, reported more than 4,000 new cases of the disease in a single day for the first time in the pandemic, while also registering gains in the other categories.
Metrics climb sharply for week
Those jumps came at the end of a week that already seen breathtaking run-ups in new COVID-19 cases and the test positivity rate. The surge posed a new threat to the state’s hospitals, especially in Southern Nevada, driven both by additional omicron admissions as well as sickness among already-stretched health care workers.
From Monday through Friday, for example, the Southern Nevada Health District reported 11,201 additional COVID-19 cases in Clark County, or nearly 3 percent of the total number of confirmed since the pandemic began in early March 2020.
Pandemic totals for the county now stand at 386,861 COVID-19 cases and 6,529 fatalities.
Meanwhile, the county’s COVID-19 test positivity rate, which tracks the percentage of people tested who are found to be infected, shot into record-high territory on Thursday, before extending the mark on Friday.
The rate added 2.5 percentage points to end the week at 25.8 percent, up more than 132 percent from the previous week, state data showed. That means that one of every four Nevadans tested are being diagnosed with the disease.
The positivity rate, a forward-looking indicator, is now nearly five times higher than the recent low of 5.8 percent recorded two months ago, state data show.
Hospitalizations also have been climbing sharply over the past week, though not as fast as new cases or the positivity rate. From Dec. 30 through Friday, the number of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients jumped more than 58 percent, to 1,194 patients as of Friday.
Public health officials say the arrival of omicron is largely responsible for the dramatic recent surge in three of the four key metrics. Deaths are the lone exception to the trend, having remained relatively flat since the other gauges began to climb in early November.
But the experts caution that the sheer numbers of new cases could still translate into increased fatalities, especially given the recent surge of hospitalizations.
Vaccination remains the best protection against the most serious consequences of the disease, they say.
State metrics also surging
The state Department of Health and Human Services’ update showed increases in the same three metrics as the health district.
The state added 4,743 new COVID-19 cases Friday, shattering the previous record of 3,420 cases reported on Jan. 7, 2021.
New cases of the disease were far higher than the 14-day average of 2,658 per day, while the average was up 321 cases per day from Thursday. The state has now recorded a total of 509,472 cases since the arrival of the pandemic in early March 2020.
The statewide test positivity rate increased by 2.4 percentage points, to 23.5 percent, surpassing the record level set on Thursday.
COVID-related hospitalizations increased by 45 from Thursday to 1,326 patients, including 218 occupying intensive care units.
Hospitalizations dropped to the low 600s in November but began to climb quickly again in the latter part of December. As of Friday, they were up more than 92 percent over a month ago.
The state reported four additional deaths attributed to COVID-19 Friday, slightly below the two-week moving average of five per day, which was unchanged from Thursday. The state has now recorded a total of 8,510 deaths from the disease.
State and county health agencies often redistribute daily data after it is reported to better reflect the date of death or onset of symptoms, which is why the moving-average trend lines frequently differ from daily reports and are considered better indicators of the direction of the outbreak.
Testing demand strains system
Demand for COVID-19 testing has been rising along with the case and positivity rates, particularly in Clark County. State data showed that nearly 9,000 tests were administered Thursday, levels not seen since last winter’s surge.
Health officials have asked residents to use local community testing sites and pharmacies to avoid inundating already strained hospital emergency rooms.
The valley’s largest COVID-19 testing site will reopen Sunday evening at Sam Boyd Stadium, 7000 E. Russell Road, a move designed to alleviate traffic jams at its previous UNLV location. The site will have 300 doses of vaccine and 1,200 tests available each evening.
In a statement Friday, the health district also announced it will expand testing capacity at its three College of Southern Nevada sites and dispatch six mobile testing units beginning on Monday. Details on the mobile sites are available at www. snhd.info/covid-testing.
Meanwhile, vaccination rates continue to slowly increase, with 54.79 percent of eligible Nevadans 5 and older now considered fully vaccinated, compared to 54.10 percent in Clark County.
— 5+ population: 3 million.
— Doses administered: 4.02 million.
— Vaccinations initiated: 1.96 million.
— Vaccinations completed: 1.65 million.
— Eligible fully vaccinated: 54.79 percent.
Sources: Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Census Bureau