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Official: Dip in Nevada COVID-19 cases may be calm before the storm

Updated December 29, 2020 - 10:26 am

Nevada on Monday logged fewer than 1,000 coronavirus cases over a single day for the first time in nearly two months, but the head of the state’s COVID-19 response said the holidays may be clouding the numbers.

An update from the state Department of Health and Human Services reported 868 new cases and 21 additional deaths on Monday. New cases were well below the state’s 14-day average of 1,781 new cases per day, while deaths were above the daily average of 18 for the period.

Those figures brought statewide totals to 218,377 cases and 2,973 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in early March.

Caleb Cage, Nevada’s COVID-19 response director, said the combination of mitigation measures imposed by Gov. Steve Sisolak, a decrease in testing over the holidays and data reporting issues all likely contributed to the decrease in cases reported on Monday.

Cage said the state has logged fewer tests over the past week, which can be expected around a major holiday, resulting in fewer diagnoses of the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“It’s similar to what we see over the weekends where testing and reporting tends to go down, then catches up a few days later,” he said. “And (it’s) similar to what we’ve experienced as a result of a few holidays in the past.”

He noted that officials also are closely monitoring indicators such as ICU bed capacity and the spread of the virus in institutional settings.

One trend that has been generally upbeat recently is the state’s 14-day positivity rate, which ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point to 19.9 percent on Monday.

After peaking at 21.8 percent on Dec. 8, the rate initially declined and then remained at or just below 20 percent over the last nine days.

UNLV epidemiologist Brian Labus said the leveling off doesn’t mean Nevada is on the other side of this wave of infections.

“I hope that we’re at the peak, but it’s really hard to say just over the holidays because of all the changes we see with testing and health care-seeking behavior,” he said.

Hospitalizations rose in the state, according to the state data, with 1,899 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients occupying staffed beds. That was up from 1,819 the previous day.

As of Sunday, 85 percent of licensed hospital beds and 75 percent of intensive care beds in Southern Nevada were occupied, according to the Nevada Hospital Association.

In Clark County, officials reported 645 new cases of COVID-19 and six additional deaths, bringing the county totals to 165,318 cases and 2,267 deaths.

The Southern Nevada Health District said it received reports from all major laboratories over the long holiday weekend, but the number of electronic reports was lower than usual.

The health district also announced that it had received an additional 12,700 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Moderna, bringing the number of COVID-19 vaccine doses received by the health district to 40,375.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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