Nevada isn’t doing as many coronavirus tests as some health researchers would like, but state officials remain “comfortable and confident” they can meet testing benchmarks put forward by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies.
A Tuesday report from NPR found Nevada, like most other states, wasn’t doing enough testing to subdue or even suppress the virus.
The report, based on research from the Harvard Global Health Institute, said the Silver State needs to nearly quadruple its average weekly testing numbers to defeat the deadly disease.
COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said officials are making progress toward several government-recommended testing metrics, but did not directly answer questions about whether the state had reopened too early without conducting enough tests.
“We’re seeing a slow but steady increase in cases and expect to continue to see a slow but steady increase in cases,” Cage said on a Tuesday conference call with reporters. “One of the metrics we’re continuing to pursue is (testing) 2 percent of the state’s population per month over the course of a year.
“We’re comfortable and confident we’ll be able to meet that number.”
Officials are also keeping up efforts to correct “irregularities” in the state’s coronavirus data after the Southern Nevada Health District misreported a record-shattering number of new cases on Saturday.
Hours after reporting a shocking surge of 971 new COVID patients, the Las Vegas-based health district confirmed nearly two-thirds of those results were actually from lab reports dated on June 23 and June 24. A 736-case increase reported in Southern Nevada on Sunday also included more than 300 cases that came from three-day-old lab reports, Cage told reporters on Tuesday.
“This will be corrected in the near future,” he said.
Julia Peek, Nevada’s deputy administrator of Community Health Services, said the state identified 1,500 new cases in June by tracking down individuals who may have unwittingly come in contact with a COVID carrier.
She said many of those new patients were not adhering to social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines.
“This is exactly how contact tracing is supposed to work,” Peek added. “By helping us identify possible cases early in the process, so that people can get the care and resources they need.”
Officials say virus-related hospitalizations have stayed on an upward trend since May 31, though use of hospital ventilators and intensive care unit beds remains “pretty stable.”
Nevada’s rate of new COVID cases grew by 4 percent over the past week, almost tripling the growth trend seen during the last week of May.
The Silver State has seen a record-setting spike in new coronavirus cases since casinos reopened on June 4. Officials reported 562 new cases of the disease on Tuesday. The number of confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations rose to 407, the highest mark since the outbreak began.
Three additional deaths were reported, including one in Washoe County, a man in his 60s with underlying health conditions. That brings the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Nevada to 507.
James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.