So. Nevada among metro areas still lacking Covid-19 test kits

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This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. (CDC photo and caption)
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This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. (CDC photo and caption)

As Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus, makes its way around the world, health officials in Las Vegas, a global tourism hub, still lack accurate diagnostic testing kits from the Centers for Disease Control, as do the majority of cities throughout the nation.  

Initial kits sent to local authorities were faulty, according to health officials.

“The CDC is beginning to send out new kits. We have not received ours and are not testing here yet,” says Jennifer Sizemore, spokesperson for the Southern Nevada Health District. “Only patients who meet the risk criteria for COVID-19 would be tested. This would include a travel history, or close contact with a confirmed case, etc.”

But CDC director Nancy Messonier says reliable test kits have not been sent out and are still being developed.  

“I am frustrated, like I know many of you are, that we’ve had issues with our test,” Messonier said in a phone briefing with media Tuesday morning.  “I want to assure you that we are working to modify the kit and hope to send out a new version to state and local jurisdictions soon.”

Messonier said twelve locations across the U.S. can test samples. Additionally, the CDC is testing samples and has no backlog. Test kits are also expected to soon be available commercially.  

Nevada has no known cases of Covid-19.  Unlike many other states, local health officials are not making public the number of people who have been asked to self-quarantine.  

As of Friday, 7,600 individuals in California have been asked to self-quarantine.  

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak declined to say if he’s satisfied with the state’s ability to detect and confine the disease.

“We would defer to the Department of Health and Human Services on questions surrounding Coronavirus,” a spokesman for the governor said.   

A spokesperson for the Washoe County Health District says the agency has been asked by the CDC not to release the number of people asked to self-quarantine.

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services says it has received no such request and has not instructed local health departments to keep secret the number of people asked to self-quarantine, but was unable to provide a figure.  

The CDC has tested only 426 Americans, according to its website, and places the number of infected at 14.  However, the statistics do not include 43 persons who have tested positive since being evacuated from China by the U.S. government. 

President Donald Trump is asking Congress to appropriate $2.5 billion for the fight against the coronavirus while publicly minimizing the threat.  

“I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away,” Trump said during a trip to India, according to news reports.  

But Messonier told reporters Tuesday morning that the rapid spread of the virus in South Korea, Iran and Italy warrants heightened awareness and preparation among Americans. 

“Cases of Covid-19 are appearing without a known means of exposure. … Our travel notices are changing almost daily,” Messonier said. “Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.” 

Absent a vaccine or effective treatment, Messonier said the U.S. will rely on “non-pharmaceutical interventions” (NPIs) such as closing schools in favor of internet classes, teleworking when possible, and cancelling public gatherings.  

“We have planned, we have done research… but it’s one thing to plan for those NPIs. It’s certainly another to implement them on a large scale,” she said, noting the measures will be disruptive to Americans’ daily lives..  

“I’ve been at CDC for 25 years and if you’d have asked public health officials over the course of that what they feared as an expectation, it was something exactly like this,” Messonier said.

Dana Gentry
Senior Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, a grandson, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.