Amid a months-long coronavirus surge, Nevada has surpassed South Dakota and now has more COVID-19 patients hospitalized per million residents than any other state in the U.S., according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As of Wednesday, 588 out of every 1 million state residents was hospitalized for COVID-19, more than the rate of 566 per million reported in South Dakota, where Gov. Kristi Noem has for months opposed mask mandates and other measures to contain the virus.
The data, compiled by The COVID Tracking Project shows coronavirus hospitalizations have risen sharply since early October in Nevada.
Nevada officials logged 2,783 new coronavirus cases and 45 deaths Friday, bringing the statewide total to 181,310 confirmed cases and 2,479 deaths since the start of the pandemic. In Nevada, which calculates positivity rates by dividing new cases by test encounters, officials reported the test positivity rate over the last 14 days is 21.9%.
Throughout the state, 5,629 individuals are currently hospitalized, about one-third of whom, or 1,854, are confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19. In Carson City and two counties, hospitals report having more patients than staffed beds. But the Nevada Hospital Association said in a technical bulletin on Friday that the rate at which hospitalizations is increasing had started to slow in rural and northern Nevada.
State COVID-19 response director said northern Nevada had passed its "high watermark" in terms of hospitalizations in early December. Many, however, fear a holiday surge could continue to push facilities to the brink.
In late November, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak tightened Nevada's virus-prevention measures, including the number of customers businesses can accept and the number of people allowed to gather. He said he planned to re-evaluate the restrictions, which he referred to as a "statewide pause" after three weeks, which would be on Dec. 16. State officials have not indicated whether they plan to adjust the restrictions ahead of holidays.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.