Nevada will shift this week from broad restrictions in response to the coronavirus to an ongoing, county-by-county review where officials hope to target hot spots and specific businesses where the virus is spreading.
Gov. Steve Sisolak and the state’s COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said at a news conference Monday night that the state would evaluate Nevada’s 17 counties every Thursday on how they are faring on new reported cases of COVID-19, rates of positive tests and tests per day.
Nevada is forming a new task force of state agency officials who will meet weekly and review the data from the counties. If counties do not meet at least two of the criteria for at least two weeks in a row, then the task force will work with county officials to come up with a response plan for the following week.
The response plans could vary depending on what information officials have about where the spread is occurring but the plans could include increased enforcement, stricter limits on gathering sizes or reduced capacity in particular businesses.
“We can protect the health and safety of Nevadans by mitigating the spread of the disease at the root of where it is occurring, all while keeping our economy open and avoiding hurting the businesses that are doing their part to help us,” the Democratic governor said.
If there’s not enough data to do a targeted approach or the county is not cooperating, the state and governor could impose broader restrictions, Sisolak said.
When asked if he would ever broadly shut down all the state’s casinos again, as he did in March, the governor said all options are open but casinos have been responsible and are not a major source of virus spread right now.
“If we identify that that is a major problem that that’s where the infections are coming from, we would obviously have to take appropriate action. But what we do first is see: Is it the casino? Or is it the pools at the casino? Is it the restaurants at the casinos? Is it the gaming tables at the casino? Is it the common areas of the casinos?” he said, describing the scalpel-like response that he’s aiming for with the new approach.
He said biggest problem Nevada officials have found with trying to stop the spread are two areas that are hard to control: family gatherings or people going to work when they’re sick or have tested positive.
Sisolak’s new approach comes as state officials said Monday that they’re encouraged by a slowing of the growth rate in new COVID-19 cases statewide since the end of June.
Health officials on Monday reported 994 new coronavirus cases and 15 new deaths. That brings the total number of confirmed cases to 51,199 with 847 known deaths since the pandemic began.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
The cumulative test positively rate statewide is now 10.6%.
Nevada has1,152 COVID-19 patients in hospitals as of Aug. 2, with a statewide hospital occupancy rate of 76%, including 66% of ICU rooms. About 45% of ventilators statewide are in use.
For most people, COVID-19 causes mild or moderate fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, can face severe illness including pneumonia and death. The vast majority recover.
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