By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada health officials said Thursday they are closely monitoring a recent uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide but don’t yet believe a second wave of the coronavirus outbreak has arrived.
Nevada has seen an above-average rise in daily positive cases this week and experienced six consecutive days of an increase in the number of cases requiring hospitalization, said Caleb Cage, the state’s COVID-19 response director.
The most recent spike is the fourth highest since the pandemic was declared in mid-March in Nevada, which now has nearly 10,400 cases and 458 deaths, he said.
But “it is still very early on in this process,” Cage told reporters during a video conference Thursday.
“Our assessment based on this data is that we are not seeing evidence of a second wave of COVID-19 in the state of Nevada yet,” he said. “However, state and local public health officials are continuing to monitor this information and data on a more-than daily basis.”
“The objective is to continue to reopen and keep open the state of Nevada,” he said. “Because of social-distancing and the policies that have been put in place, we have managed to not overwhelm our hospitals, to flatten the curve, to be sure we are minimizing the infection rate here in the state of Nevada. We’ve also taken aggressive steps to monitor what is going on in the region.”
The 244 new cases reported Tuesday marked the largest single-day jump since May 22 when 295 were logged, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. The daily average is about 156 during the past week.
Cage said the recent spike may be due to significantly more testing statewide over the past two weeks.
On Thursday, the rate of Nevadans testing positive for COVID-19 stood at 5.4% — well under the 10% positivity rate recommended by the World Health Organization, he said.
Nevada’s positivity rate peaked at 12% in late April. It dropped below 10% on May 11 and had steadily declined to 5.4% Monday before bumping back up to 5.5% Tuesday.
Last month, Gov. Steve Sisolak loosened restrictions on businesses under phase two of his statewide strategy and allowed casinos to reopen at half capacity on June 4. He announced earlier this week schools could start to reopen for summer classes and other programs, and agreed to allow practices for summer youth sports without spectators.
Sisolak said he would revisit additional reopenings next week, but warned he could restore or implement new restrictions if there’s a resurgence of the virus.
“We are near the end of the two-week period of phase two right now,” Cage said. “Over the next week or longer we will be assessing that information.”
The governor has said he does not have specific guidelines for a third phase of reopening, and Cage said new data will help determine what that may look like. It’s unclear how many phases there may be before Nevada fully reopens.
In other COVID-19 developments, the Elko City Council has agreed to forgive some of the licensing fees for the four legal brothels in the northeast Nevada town that have been closed since mid-May due to the coronavirus.
The Elko Daily Free Press reports the council scheduled a final vote June 23 to formally waive three months of the local brothel fee, which totals $6,500 annually. The brothels had requested forgiveness of six months worth of the licensing fee. While the council is granting only half of that it also agreed to forgive three months worth of liquor license fees that total $888 annually.
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