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VICTOR JOECKS: Finally: Good news in Nevada’s fight against coronavirus

Updated April 8, 2020 - 2:36 pm

Some reasons to be optimistic about Nevada’s fight to halt the spread of coronavirus are beginning to emerge.

A caveat upfront: Optimism isn’t the same thing as believing everything is going to be great. The coronavirus pandemic has already taken too many lives and devastated Nevada’s economy.

But there’s evidence that the medical outlook isn’t as bleak as it seemed just a few days ago. One of the challenges with coronavirus is its newness. Doctors are learning on the fly how to treat it, which is why Gov. Steve Sisolak shouldn’t be limiting which medications they can prescribe.

The epidemiologists who are predicting the effects of coronavirus are learning, too. The initial models they produced showing that more than 2 million people could die were terrifying. Those models also appear to be wrong. Even the predictions made by more updated models have overestimated the number of deaths and the medical resources needed.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluations out of the University of Washington has created one popular online model. It is also the one most frequently cited by health officials during White House briefings. It predicted that, as of Monday, Nevada would need 1,122 hospital beds and have exceeded its ICU capacity. It projected 89 deaths as well.

Those numbers are high.

On Monday, Sisolak gave an update on the situation here. There are 282 people with coronavirus in the hospital out of the 1,953 who’ve tested positive. Sisolak said that 74 percent of ICU beds were occupied. Ventilator use is at 44 percent with 838 total ventilators available. The IHME model anticipates that Nevada will need 413 ventilators at peak usage, although Sisolak wants another 450 ventilators. By Monday, Nevada had 58 coronavirus deaths, not the predicted 89.

There’s more good news.

As of March 31, Nevada had 1,113 positive tests. Over the following six days, the number of new positives looks like this: 166, 179, 56, 228, 94 and 117. The number of new coronavirus patients is increasing, but it isn’t growing exponentially. This means it’s more likely that those who need hospital care will be able to receive it.

Other states have already turned the corner. Washington is returning ventilators it borrowed from the Strategic National Stockpile. Oregon is sending ventilators to New York. California is sharing ventilators with other states, including Nevada.

There are even hopeful signs out of New York, the state hardest hit by coronavirus. The number of deaths there this week will be staggering. But hospitalizations are flattening out. Deaths are a lagging indicator, so a decrease in new hospital admissions is a sign of better things to come.

This isn’t the moment to stop social distancing, although it is time to discuss how and when Nevadans may go back to work.

After a month of doom and gloom, it’s nice to see some rays of sunshine.

An earlier version misstated the number of coronavirus cases as of March 31.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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