Health official: Uptick in COVID-19 cases isn’t delaying reopening plan

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Despite a recent uptick in positive COVID-19 cases in Nevada, state officials are moving forward with their plans to continue to reopen businesses.

According to Caleb Cage, director for the Nevada COVID-19 Response Team, the uptick in cases may have stemmed from an increase in community-based testing. That includes more testing in rural and tribal areas.

At a news conference on Thursday, Cage said the state’s data showed the jump in cases was the fourth highest increase seen since the pandemic was declared in Nevada.

More: Washoe reports largest single day increase in new cases, 2 more deaths

More: Utah to ‘pause’ on lifting virus restrictions as cases rise

Washoe County reported its largest single-day increase, with 61 new cases, on Thursday.

Health officials are also reporting an increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

Still, Cage said there was no evidence of a second statewide wave of coronavirus, but that health and state officials will continue to monitor the situation.

“Although we’re seeing an increase, we’re not seeing that increase go beyond the current range,” Cage said. “Currently, our test positivity rate remains at 5.4 percent, which is under the 10 percent rate that is recommended by the World Health Organization.”

Cage emphasized that the state is nearing the end of the two-week period for Phase 2 of the reopening plan.

“Are there plans in place? Are there things being done in order to prepare the state?” Caleb said. “The short answer is absolutely.”

The COVID-19 Response Team is still working on securing funding to purchase more personal protective equipment, collections kits and laboratory equipment.

State officials are also expanding lab capacity and contract tracing and will continue to gather test samples.

Nevada also received a $654,000 FEMA grant for crisis counseling.

According to Julia Peek, deputy administration for the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, the state hired 258 contract tracers who will start work on Saturday.

“That’s going to triple our workforce in a matter of a week,” she said.

Cage also emphasized “individual responsibility” and urged residents to continue to wash their hands, wear masks and practice social distancing.

He said Nevadans should also watch out for vulnerable populations and seek testing when they show symptoms.

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