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Teens, younger adults driving COVID-19 growth in Clark County

Updated December 28, 2021 - 6:04 pm

Clark County on Tuesday reported 1,216 new coronavirus cases and 21 deaths amid new data showing that cases are rising fastest among teenagers and younger adults.

Updated figures posted by the Southern Nevada Health District pushed totals for the county to 361,484 cases and 6,436 deaths.

Both figures were likely inflated by delayed reporting following the weekend. Clark County hadn’t reported a death for four days before Tuesday’s report, for instance.

New cases in the county were more than double the two-week moving average, which increased by seven to 597. Fatalities were seven times the moving average of three per day, though the average itself declined from five.

The county’s test positivity rate, which tracks the percentage of people tested for the disease who are found to be infected, increased by 0.6 percentage point to 9.4 percent, up from its recent low of 5.8 percent in early November.

That represented the second straight day of a rapid increase to the metric, which hasn’t been this high since Sept. 3, as the summer surge was ending.

The number of people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in the county increased by 29, to 687, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

18- through 49-year-olds fueling rise

While new cases have increased across the board, health district data indicates they’ve grown at a faster pace among county residents in the 18-49 age bracket. As of Dec. 24, the daily new case average per 100,000 population for 18-24 year-olds was 44.7, up more than 131 percent from the 19.3 reported on Dec. 16.

That rate stood at 46.7 for 25-49 year-olds, nearly double the 26.0 reported on the same date.

Data guide: COVID-19’s impact on Nevada

The very young also have been getting sicker more often during the current wave of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, the health district reported. That rate has jumped from a seven-day average of 8.2 cases per day as of Dec. 19 to 13.1 as of Christmas Eve — a jump of nearly 60 percent in under a week.

It remains to be seen if the rise of new cases will lead to similar sharp increases in hospitalizations and deaths in the county.

Early evidence suggests that the omicron variant, which is believed to be playing a role in the surge, does not result in as many serious cases as the delta variant that preceded it. But the sheer number of new cases could quickly erase any advantage and strain hospitals and other care providers.

What is clear is that the recent surge has pushed the county farther away from exiting Gov. Steve Sisolak’s face mask mandate.

While the county tracks most of its COVID-19 metrics using a 14-day moving average, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s transmission risk classification system, on which the state mask mandate is based, uses a seven-day average.

As of Tuesday afternoon, it showed an average of 273.26 new cases per 100,000 residents over the previous seven days, a sharp increase from 188.38 on Monday and more than 100 higher than a week ago. That is considered a “high” risk of transmission under the CDC system.

The second key COVID-19 metric used as a gauge for when a county can exit the mask mandate is the test positivity rate.

Using the CDC’s seven-day average, the rate stood at 17.89 percent on Tuesday, also in the “high” risk category for that metric.

For a county to exit the state mask mandate for crowded indoor public spaces, it must record back-to-back weeks with a seven-day average case rate under 50 per 100,000 residents and a test seven-day positivity rate below 8 percent — both considered as posing a “moderate” or “low” risk of transmission by the CDC.

Masks may go back on in Esmeralda County

State officials on Tuesday afternoon confirmed that most of the state will remain under a mask mandate for the rest of the calendar year. White Pine County remains in the “low” transmission tier and is not required to mask up, while Esmeralda County — which has been out of the mask mandate for a month — has returned to the “high” transmission tier and will re-enter the mask mandate if that continues for another week.

Storey County remained in the “moderate” category and is not required to mask up, while Eureka County hit that mark for a second time this week and will not have to mask up starting on Friday.

Humboldt and Pershing counties both registered their first week in the “moderate” category. Every other county remained in the “high” transmission tier.

The state, meanwhile, reported 1,554 new COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths during the preceding day. That brought Nevada totals posted by the state Department of Health and Human Services to 479,231 cases and 8,392 deaths.

Nevada’s 14-day moving average of new cases increased to 704 per day from 703 on Tuesday. The two-week average for fatalities held steady at four per day.

Of the state’s other closely watched metrics, the two-week test positivity rate rose by 0.6 percentage point to 8.7 percent, while the number of people in Nevada hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases increased to 789, 43 more than on Monday. That number has been on the rise for weeks.

The state also updated its breakthrough case reporting. In a report dated Sunday, it said it had recorded a total of 1,362 breakthrough cases in which fully vaccinated people were infected by the virus, including 32 in the previous week. That was the lowest weekly figure since early August.

Nevada also recorded seven breakthrough deaths during the week, out of a total of 312. Seventy-two percent of those deaths occurred in people aged 70 or over.

As of Tuesday’s report, state data show that 54.24 percent of Nevadans 5 and older had been fully vaccinated, compared with 53.55 percent in Clark County. That figure fluctuates widely throughout the state.

Contact Jonah Dylan at jdylan@reviewjournal.com. Follow @TheJonahDylan on Twitter.

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