LAS VEGAS — With words including "alarming" and "extremely concerning," Nevada's COVID-19 response panel heard Thursday that the state is tallying more cases of coronavirus per capita than neighboring California and Arizona.
State health officials reported separately a record 50 new deaths and 2,193 new COVID-19 cases, and a test positivity rate of 22.1% during the last two weeks.
"Our test positivity rate is extremely high in Nevada right now," Kyra Morgan, chief state biostatistician, told the COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force.
She called the figure "obviously very alarming" and nearly the highest in the U.S.
"The daily case rate is consistently double that of our summer peak," Morgan said as she ticked off data during the panel's weekly meeting, held via internet conference call. "We're currently reporting near-record numbers of daily deaths. There's not any indication that we're approaching a plateau."
The 50 deaths eclipsed the 48 reported Dec. 3 by the state Department of Health and Human Services. They brought the total to 2,434 dead since March, and 178,527 known infections.
Nationally, 3,124 deaths were reported Wednesday, the highest one-day total during the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Nevada has more cases per 1,000 people than Arizona and California, Morgan said.
In Arizona, hospital and public health officials warn that caring for COVID-19 will limit availability of staff, space and equipment for other medical needs like heart attacks and cancer surgeries. In California, residents are being urged to stay home as much as possible because hospitals are filling with coronavirus patients.
In Nevada, Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno is operating an auxiliary care site for patients in its parking garage.
Nearly 91% of new cases in Nevada are in Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County, Reno and surrounding Washoe County, and Carson City, according to a White House weekly report about coronavirus in states.
Morgan said the estimated number of active cases in Nevada, at 27,839, is more than double the previous peak of 11,452 set July 19. However, she said data showed fewer than 1% of cases now result in death.
Caleb Cage, task force chairman, noted that Nevada is nearing the end of a three-week period of tightened restrictions that Gov. Steve Sisolak termed a statewide "pause." The governor, a Democrat, reduced occupancy limits beginning Nov. 24 for bars, restaurants and other businesses from 50% to 25% or 50 people, whichever is less.
Cage did not say whether Sisolak is considering stricter measures.
"There are some early indications that we're seeing some stabilization in some parts of the state," Cage said, "some other indications that we're seeing climbs from the post-Thanksgiving holiday and others."
Positivity is increasing in every county but Storey, Morgan told the panel, calling the numbers "extremely concerning."
"Counties continue to trend up," she said.