According to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity, which cites an unpublicized document made ready for the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Nevada is now among the nation’s “red zone” states for its number of COVID-19 cases.
The 18 states listed in the red zone in the document are Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.
The 11 states that are in the red zone for test positivity are Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.
What qualifies a state for “red zone” designation? It’s when a state shows over 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. When compared to the national average of 119 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, Nevada reached 173 new cases per their population of over 100,000.
According to the Nevada Health Alliance dashboard, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate increased to 8.6 percent from 7.6 percent. The daily positivity rate also jumped, going from 11.6 percent up to 17.7 percent.
The Center for Public Integrity report advises that the state has seen stability in its COVID-19 trends most recently, but state data show a contradiction.
Nevada’s Clark County, which includes the famous Las Vegas Strip, has effectively put the state into the red zone.
Other, less populated counties, including Washoe, Elko, Nye, and Lyon, remain in the yellow zone, which means there were only 10 to 100 cases per 100,000 people in the last week.
What Actions Should ‘Red Zone’ States Be Taking?
According to the White House document, there are currently 18 states categorized in the coronavirus “red zone.”
The unpublicized documents recommend that these states return to more stringent coronavirus protective measures, which includes, but is not limited to, limiting social gatherings to no more than 10 people, shutting down bars and gyms, and asking that all residents wear masks at all times.
Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, believes that there’s no reason as to why this document hasn’t been made available to the public. As a public health matter, he says that the White House document should be published and updated daily, to where all citizens can be informed and keep track of it.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a leader in the task force, says the task force is closely monitoring Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, but that the series of other states also in the red zone should seriously considering limiting social gatherings of all kind.
But while the task force has made their safety recommendations clear, some states are simply not following or going against their advice.
In their document, it states that Georgia, a red zone state for both cases and test positivity, has mandated mask use statewide whenever an individual is outside of their home. But the Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia recently signed an order on Wednesday banning localities from mandating mask use. This hasn’t been going over well with Georgia Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
According to Jessica Malaty Rivera, science communication lead at the COVID Tracking Project, she explains that if the test positivity rate is above 10 percent, that a state or county is not doing an effective job at mitigating the outbreak.
Rivera says that in an ideal world, we want test positivity levels to be at or below three percent. That rate shows the suppression of COVID-19.
How Nevada is Responding to Surge in COVID-19 Cases
With the surge in cases in the Silver State, it makes Nevada the latest state to roll back its phased reopening plan.
We saw this at Gov. Steve Sisolak’s state address last Thursday, where he mandated that all bars in several Nevada counties return to their phase one reopening restrictions. What that means is that any bar that does not serve food must shut down. Bars in restaurants and on casino floors must also remain closed and not allow anyone to sit in the bar area.
The rolled back restrictions also called for no more than a party of six at a restaurant.
On Thursday, Nevada Health Response officials announced that they have begun working with Nevada Association of Counties, Nevada League of Cities, and municipalities across the state in an effort to share their reports with local governments.
Late last month, Gov. Sisolak also mandated mask use in all casinos and nearly all public spaces in Nevada, outside of eating or drinking.
Under the Gov. Sisolak’s emergency directives, Nevada’s local governments have the power to enact more restrictive COVID-19 regulations than those issued by the governor.
While the governor has been doing his due diligence to try to stop the surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and test positivity rates, the recent bar closure mandate has not gone over well with many bars in Clark County.
In fact, 37 bars in the county are suing over the recent mandate, stating that they were in compliance with specific the COVID-19 protocols and safety measures when they reopened to the public and that their specific hospitality sector feels singled out by the order.
The governor’s directive has also rolled back on its number of people allowed at public gatherings. The current directive states that public and private gatherings must be restricted to 50 people or fewer.
Current Coronavirus Cases in Nevada
According to recent state health data, close to 123 people visiting the state, namely Las Vegas in recent weeks reported testing positive for coronavirus after returning home.
The cases have increased since casinos were allowed to reopen on June 4, but it’s hard to tell whether the casinos reopening are a result of the rise in cases or the fact that cases are surging nationwide.
So far, the biggest wave of cases was seen between June 22 and June 28, when a total of 31 visitors reported that they tested positive for COVID-19 in the state.
Eight of those 31 visitors were from Arizona, 13 from California, two visitors each from Florida, Texas, and Utah, and one resident each from Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee, and Brazil.
Between the end of June through the fourth of July weekend, 24 visitors tested positive, with half of that number being visitors from California. As of early June, 46 percent of visitors who have tested positive for the virus hail from California.
As of today, Nevada has reported almost 32,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 626 COVID-related deaths.
Take a look at what’s reopening in Las Vegas at the current moment, and what’s closing down.
As we continue to monitor the situation, it’s unsure whether casinos will be impacted by the increase in COVID-19 cases.
We hope that they won’t be forced to shut down again, but we know that the safety and health of visitors and residents are paramount during this time of uncertainty that we are all faced with.
We might see that the recent bar closures will help the state’s numbers to restabilize, or that’s what we hope for at least.
Be sure to check back for more coronavirus updates in Las Vegas, and be sure to stay safe, masked up, and hands washed wherever you go!