COVID-19 cases rise in Southern Nevada, triggered by omicron sub-variant

A fresh wave of COVID-19 infections has hit Southern Nevada, triggered by a new omicron sub-var ...

A fresh wave of COVID-19 infections has hit Southern Nevada, triggered by a new omicron sub-variant, waning immunity and riskier behavior, a top official with the Southern Nevada Health District said Wednesday.

Like much of the country, Southern Nevada over the past month or so has seen growing numbers of new reported coronavirus cases, said Cassius Lockett, the district’s director of disease surveillance and control. Reported cases represent an under-count of infections, since many people now are testing for the virus using at-home rapid tests, their results going unreported.

“I think we should be concerned, simply because it (COVID-19) is under-counted, it’s spreading quickly in the community, and we’re going to see more uptick in cases,” he said.

Clark County’s test positivity rate has risen from 5 percent to roughly 15 percent, which indicates the county is at high risk for spread of the virus, he said. At particular risks are the unvaccinated, those who are immunocompromised and people over 65.

New omicron sub-variant BA.2.12.1, believed to be better at evading immunity from natural infection and vaccination, is on the rise in Clark County, Lockett said. This immunity also wanes over time. What’s more, people have let down their guard against the virus and are engaging in riskier behaviors.

What remains unclear is how big the current wave will become, and what impact it will have on hospitals and the community, said Lockett, who is recovering from what he described as a moderate case of COVID-19.

High transmission rate in county

The county’s new reported cases per 100,000 people in the past week – a key metric for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – stood at 86.07 on Wednesday, up from 69.48 a week ago.

CDC data also put the county’s test positivity rate at 15.42 percent, according to data last updated on Saturday.

The figure is enough to push Clark County into the “high rate of transmission,” according to the CDC. Before Gov. Steve Sisolak rescinded Nevada’s mask mandate in February, masks were required in counties with higher rates of transmission. If that criteria were applied today, Clark County would once again be under a mask mandate.

Lockett said that despite concern over increases in cases, the district is not recommending that a mask mandate be reimposed or that other restrictions again be implemented.

The county’s 14-day moving average of daily new cases increased to 253 on Wednesday. That number has been inching up for weeks as the county and state continue to see increases in most metrics.

Hospitalizations also increased in the county. State data showed that 137 people were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, up from 103 at this time last week.

The Nevada Hospital Association said in its weekly update that despite the increase, numbers are “near the all-time lows.”

Cases ‘expected to rise’

Nevada’s state health response team, which has canceled the regular briefings held throughout most of the pandemic, said in a press release Wednesday that cases are “expected to rise through May.”

“While we do see our case numbers increasing, it is not unexpected and our health care infrastructure is in good shape,” state biostatistician Kyra Morgan said in the release. “We recommend those who have symptoms or may have been exposed to test for COVID-19 and stay home if you are sick.”

Meanwhile, the state reported increases similar to the county’s. The 14-day moving average of daily new cases increased to 317, from 195 last week. The two-week moving average of daily deaths held steady at one for both the state and county.

According to CDC data, in addition to Clark County,Washoe County, Douglas County, Nye County, Lyon County and Carson City are all In the agency’s highest transmission tier.

The CDC has a separate tracker that calculates a county’s risk meter by looking at case rate and hospitalizations. In that metric, which does not look at the test positivity rate, Clark County and nearly the entire state are in the “low” tier. The only county not in “low” is White Pine County, which is in the “high” tier.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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