Reno Councilman Devon Reese was tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday April 29, 2020. Reno Gazette Journal
Washoe County reported 48 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest single-day spike of positive tests since the pandemic started.
Health officials on Friday said the spike was the result of recent family gatherings over the Easter weekend. The county also reported three more deaths on Friday, a woman in her 60s, another woman in her 40s with underlying health conditions and a man in his 70s with underlying health conditions. There are now 33 deaths and 546 actives cases in the county.
In a call with media on Friday, Heather Kerwin, senior epidemiologist for the Washoe County Health District, said most of the 48 cases reported on Friday stem from those Easter gatherings.
She said most people start exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms between three to five days after being exposed. The first week may feel like having allergies or a mild cold, but by the seventh or ninth day after onset, most people start to experience more severe symptoms. That includes a deep cough and a fever.
She said the spike is a “ripple effect” from the recent Easter gatherings.
“It’s not from one gathering, specifically,” she said. “It’s primarily family gatherings. Family is family, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re in your household.”
Kerwin said people who are still working may be loosening up on hand hygiene.
“It’s a lot of little gatherings and larger households all coming down with it as well,” she said.
Although the county may have hit a peak in cases in mid-April, Health Officer Kevin Dick emphasized this is not the time to relax.
“I think this is a reminder as well of the role and responsibility of each individual in our community that they have to help us move forward in reopening our economy,” Dick said at a news conference on Friday.
Dick and Kerwin reminded people to continue practicing social distancing and wearing masks while out in public.
Kerwin said she recently went shopping at various grocery stores and witnesses very few people who were actually wearing masks. That may be an indication of how seriously people are taking the outbreak, she said.
The health district has also seen an increase in people who are diagnosed at the time of hospitalization, “which is concerning because it means they’ve waited so long and have gotten so severely ill that now they require hospitalization,” she said.
Washoe County Commissioner Robert Lucey said the number of positive cases could also impact whether the state moves forward with its plan to reopen the economy.
“As the governor pointed out last night, he wasn’t even going to discuss opening up bars or casinos until 14 days after we get to Phase 1,” Lucey said of Sisolak’s speech, which he gave Thursday evening.
He emphasized that the reopening of businesses will correlate with any surges in positive cases and spikes in hospitalizations.
“We’re going to see days like this as we continue through this pandemic,” he said. “It’s just how it’s going to be.”
Lucey said 10,000 people have already been tested — about 2 percent of the population in Washoe County. As testing ramps up, so will the number of cases, he said.
“You’re going to see spikes,” he said. “This is not going to go away anytime soon.”
Reno Vice Mayor Devon Reese also echoed Lucey’s comments during the press briefing on Friday. He said some individuals might feel reluctant to get tested to not take away from first responders or high-risk individuals.
He said an increase in cases might not mean the county is heading in the wrong direction, but rather it’s an indication that more data is now available.
Despite the jump in cases on Friday, Sparks Mayor Ron Smith said he believes most people are behaving responsibly.
“They’re getting frustrated with being locked away at home, but I think they’re standing up to the plate,” Smith said. “I think they’re doing it.”
Marcella Corona is a breaking news reporter who covers crime and justice in Northern Nevada. Support her work by subscribing to RGJ.com.
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