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Nevada COVID-19 response director tests positive for coronavirus

Updated October 12, 2020 - 6:25 pm

Caleb Cage, who directs Nevada state government’s COVID-19 response, confirmed Monday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, after dodging the question last week.

His remarks came during a regular briefing call with news media almost a week after the governor’s office disclosed Oct. 6 that a staffer based in the Capitol had tested positive. The office then declined to identify the staffer or to confirm that it was Cage.

Cage said Monday he was “feeling much better” after coming down with cold and flu-like symptoms the weekend before last. He said he was unaware of any governor’s office staffers with whom he had contact testing positive. An undisclosed number of staff is under quarantine and will be required to test negative for the virus before returning to the office.

Cage has not had contact since mid-September with Gov. Steve Sisolak, who tested negative for the virus last week. The governor in recent weeks has been working from Southern Nevada.

“At this time, it’s unclear where I may have been exposed to COVID-19 and how I may have contracted the virus,” Cage said. “What we know is that COVID-19 is highly infectious and transmits through the air.

“As the state’s COVID-19 response director, I take this virus very seriously as does my family and the governor’s office, and we practice all recommended public health measures like practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing our hands frequently.”

The Nevada Independent first reported late Friday that Cage had gotten a positive test result on Oct. 6. During a briefing call Oct. 7, Cage, whose voice sounded congested, responded to a Review-Journal reporter asking whether he was well by saying he felt “fine.”

On Monday, Cage stood by his answer, saying that media had been told that officials on that call would not be taking questions on the topic of the ill staffer and that he had not understood the question to be about his health status.

He also said that he needed to ensure that contract tracing was underway and that close contacts were notified “properly and appropriately.” And finally, he said he had a right to protect his private information under HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The governor’s office will immediately inform the public if the governor tests positive for the coronavirus, spokeswoman Meghin Delaney said. It also will inform the public if a staff member tests positive but will not divulge the staffer’s identity “unless they make the personal decision to share their health information.”

Nevada Press Association Executive Director Richard Karpel described it as a gray area whether Cage should have had to disclose, but said it struck him as “almost ironic they wouldn’t want to announce that one,” considering Cage’s leadership position on COVID-19.

More clear-cut, he said, was that confirmation should have been given to all media outlets.

“The guy who’s running the COVID-19 task force, when asked, shouldn’t pick the news organization that gets the news, basically,” Karpel said. “If you’re going to tell people, tell everybody, especially if they’ve already asked.”

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

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