COVID-19 infections ‘exploding’ in Nevada: 1 new case a minute, 1 death every 2 hours

The coronavirus is spreading so fast in Nevada that one person is diagnosed with it every minute and someone is dying from it every two hours, state health officials said Wednesday.

Nearly half of the state’s 142,239 total cases since the start of the pandemic in March have occurred since September — fully one-fourth of those in the month of November and 10% in just the last seven days, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services

“We have COVID-19 exploding in our community. It is spreading rapidly,” Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick told reporters in Reno. “We have exponential growth going on.”

While the majority of the state’s cases and 2,071 total deaths have been reported in Clark County — the most populous county that includes Las Vegas — the Reno-Sparks area in Washoe County has been hit the hardest in recent weeks.

“We have four times as many people in Washoe County that are actively infected with COVID-19 as we did a month ago,” Dick said.

Nearly half of all the coronavirus cases in Washoe County have been confirmed in just the past month, a total now of 22,726.

By comparison, Dick said, the latest surge has resulted in more than twice as many cases per 100,000 people in the Reno-Sparks area as the previous biggest spike in Las Vegas this summer.

“We are at 214% of the peak Clark County experienced in late July,” he said.

Washoe County has reported 59 additional deaths since Oct. 25 — 30 of those in just the past six days, including six on Tuesday for a cumulative total of 259.

The county’s seven-day moving average for new cases has more than tripled over the past month, from 140 on Oct. 25 to 513 on Wednesday. Active cases have grown during that period from 1,872 to 7,864.

Nevada reported another record number of hospitalizations for the fourth time in two weeks, a total of 1,414 on Wednesday (146 suspected plus 1,268 confirmed). Health officials said that’s enough people to fill nine commercial airliners.

Counting COVID and non-COVID patients, 84% of Washoe County’s staffed hospital beds are occupied, the highest rate in the state.

The state’s 14-day positivity rate has continued to rise to 16.5% on Wednesday. Clark County has confirmed 139,080 cases and 2,047 COVID-19 deaths as of Wednesday.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, has been reluctant to order business closures like he did in March. But he announced the state’s most expansive mask mandate to date Sunday and reduced the capacity at casinos, restaurants, bars and many other businesses from 50% to 25%.

Meanwhile, the Washoe County School District is suspending in-class instruction for middle schools and high schools beginning next week as part of an effort to curtail the spread of the virus.

The school board voted late Tuesday to continue to offer classroom teaching for elementary schools. But beginning Dec. 2, secondary students will switch to strictly distance learning instead of the current hybrid model that combines remote teaching and in-class instruction.

Both decisions came on 5-1 votes.

Middle- and high-school students currently are scheduled to return to some in-person learning on Jan. 4. But school board members intend to review the situation again at their Dec. 8 meeting.

In Las Vegas, Clark County announced earlier this week that public buildings except McCarran International Airport and University Medical Center will close, and that government center activities that can’t be conducted virtually will be canceled. Las Vegas City Hall will remain open with public health guidelines enforced, city officials said.

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