Health officials say new COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and other measures are all improving in Nevada overall but not in rural parts of the state.
Joan Hall, president and CEO of Nevada Rural Hospital Partners, said hospital capacity in the 13 small hospitals continues to strain those facilities and impacts their ability to admit non-COVID patients.
Ellie Graeden of Talus Analytics said statewide, “all key metrics are declining.” She said new cases are down 26 percent and positivity rates for testing are 8 percent, the lowest since July. She said school cases are down 22 percent and deaths 25 percent. In addition, Graeden said 81 percent of employees in the Nevada System of Higher Education are now fully vaccinated.
But she said rural positivity is at 14 percent.
Moving into the fall and winter months, she said, case numbers will continue to climb but the coming surge isn’t expected to be as bad as the Delta variant surge Nevada is exiting.
Hall said low vaccination rates in rural Nevada are driving the higher number of cases. She said staff shortages because of coming vaccination mandates are, “a huge concern” for rural hospitals. She said officials know some staff members will refuse to be vaccinated and they don’t yet know if President Biden will allow testing in lieu of vaccination for those workers.
DuAne Young, policy director for Gov. Steve Sisolak, said in practice, most of those workers end up getting the shots. He said they have had some success showing state and other workers in town hall meetings that the vaccines are safe and effective.
Candice McDaniel, deputy Health and Human Services director, Young and others said the new contract to provide monoclonal antibody shots to those people coming in with early symptoms is proving an excellent tool to prevent serious symptoms that result in hospitalization.
Finally, McDaniel advised people to remember to get their flu shot this fall. She said those getting the COVID vaccination can safely get the flu shot at the same time.