Nevada is averaging just under 600 new cases of COVID-19 every day. The state has registered an average of four deaths a day for the last 30 days. And the positivity rate is hovering just under ten percent, twice the threshold recommended by the World Health Organization.
On Saturday, Nevada reported more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since July. Eight of the state’s 17 counties have been ‘flagged’ by health officials for positivity rates.
Gov. Steve Sisolak Monday noted an uptick in cases throughout the west and said “potential care rationing has taken place in these areas. Folks, I don’t know how to make this clear. This is real. We’re not rounding the curve.”
Despite the gloomy outlook, Sisolak is looking ahead to next year. He announced Monday he’s hoping to accommodate conventions at fifty percent capacity, beginning in January.
“I’ve had discussions with our resort partners and they know it’s going to be reliant on data we get in,” Sisolak said when asked whether he’d stick to the plan absent a downward trend in cases. “Reality is going to come at the end of December when we find out where we’re really at.”
“Conventions book months in advance,” Sisolak said. “We don’t want to lose the first and second quarter.”
Nevada’s tourism industry is dependent on conventions for mid-week business, which has plummeted during the pandemic.
The governor acknowledged a small number of businesses are being sanctioned for ignoring attendance caps on events.
“It’s unfortunate we have a small minority of individuals who don’t care. They are going to impact innocent people,” he said.
He also urged politicians and surrogates heading to Nevada in the final week of the campaign to be responsible.
“If you’re coming to Nevada as a guest, follow our protocols,” the governor said with a raised voice. “Follow our rules.”
Sisolak announced the state is making its “playbook” for the eventual distribution of the COVID vaccine available to the public.
The governor noted there is no approved vaccine at the time and “no definitive timeline for when one may be approved.”
“There are still many unknowns before a vaccine is finalized and ready for distribution,” he said.
“We will be prepared when the time comes.”
He also encouraged Nevadans to get a flu vaccine in the interest of alleviating the strain on hospitals battling COVID and the flu.
Nevada is expected to receive “only a small amount of doses to begin with” of the COVID vaccine, according to Candice McDaniel of the Bureau of Child, Family and Community Wellness, who joined Sisolak at a Monday afternoon news conference.
Front line medical professionals who have “close and sustained contact with COVID patients” will be first in line for the vaccine.
Nevada will track inoculations using the system in place to manage childhood vaccinations.
Shannon Bennett, who manages the state’s immunization program, says the process for approval “remains the same high standard that has always been used for vaccines.”
No vaccine trials for children or pregnant women are underway, she said.
Bennett noted vaccines are being produced by a number of manufacturers even before they’ve been approved, in an effort to distribute them as quickly as possible upon approval.
But she says the anticipated vaccines pose a variety of challenges. They require ultracold storage and handling. Three suitable facilities have been identified in Nevada, she said.
Additionally, the two doses administered must come from the same manufacturer. In other words, the vaccines are not interchangeable.
Bennett called the vaccine campaign the “greatest public health effort of our generation.”
Sisolak said he’s working with educators on returning students to the classroom.
“We have some tough choices to make and we’re going to have to make it together,” he said.
“We need the public’s help and cooperation everyday to make this possible.”
“It’s all up to you,” Sisolak said. “You are the deciding factor of whether we can make this happen. You have to make a choice today. Do you care as much about your child returning to in-person learning as you do about a Halloween party?”
“I choose our students. I choose our jobs,” he said.