Churchill County escapes closure

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Seven Nevada counties ordered to close their bars

Seven Nevada counties have been ordered to close their bars at midnight to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The list includes Lyon, Clark and Washoe, home to 90 percent of the state’s residents.

But Carson City escaped closure as did Douglas, Churchill and Storey counties.

They are among the 10 counties that don’t have to shut down bars and bar areas of restaurants.

“This good news is a result of our citizens heeding the directives and watching out for their neighbors and friends by social distancing,” said Jim Barbee, Churchill County manager.

Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered the closure after inspectors reported to him that more than half the bars inspected were not following restrictions including social distancing.

He described the situation as unacceptable saying those bars appear to be a major problem causing the rapidly rising number of positive virus cases in the past few weeks.

In Fallon, though, the numbers have remained low.

Nevada’s COVID-19 Elevated Disease Transmission Tracker (link to tracker) shows Churchill as having an average number of tests per day of 175.6, a case rate of 61.8 and test positivity rate of 2 percent.

“Thank you to everyone who is doing their part to keep our numbers down below these criteria thresholds so that these businesses may remain open here in Churchill County,” Barbee said. “While we recognize that more people in our community are being diagnosed, that is to be expected with higher test rates and as the virus moves through our population. We continue to strongly urge vulnerable populations to take extra precautions to protect their health.”

To determine which counties were the at the heart of the bar shutdown, the state Health and Human Services Department and Division of Emergency Management measured the situation in each of the 17 counties based on how many virus tests were being conducted each day per 100,000 residents, the positive case rate per 100,000 in the last two weeks and the percentage of those tests coming back positive.

To stay open, counties had to test an average of at least 100 people per 100,000 residents a day, their total positive cases over the past two weeks had to be lower than 100 per 100,000 population and the percentage of positive cases had to be less than 7 percent of those tested.

Failing any two of the three measures meant bars in a county must shut down as they did in Phase 1 of the reopening.

In addition to Washoe and Clark, the counties that failed and must close bars are Elko, Humboldt, Lander and Lyon counties that each failed two of the three and Nye which failed all three.

Those closures also impact the bars in restaurants that serve food, shutting the bar areas themselves but allowing customers to purchase and consume alcohol at tables and socially distanced booths.

Sisolak said Thursday that the scoring system was designed to close bars in counties having the most serious problems with the virus but to avoid economic damage to the bars in counties doing well in controlling the situation.

Sisolak has said the situation in each of the counties with shuttered bars will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

Additionally, the governor imposed statewide rules limiting dining in restaurants to groups of six people.

Sisolak's new directive is the second time Nevada has tightened restrictions since the state began reopening, starting with restaurants in May and bars and casinos in early June.

Earlier this week, results from the first coronavirus antibody study conducted in Nevada suggests COVID-19 test results dramatically underestimate the number of people who actually have been infected by the disease, health officials said.

The joint study by the Washoe County Health District and researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno concludes that four to five times more people likely have been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 than have been formally confirmed as positive cases to date in the Reno-Sparks area.

Based on blood tests for antibodies, the study conducted last month indicates 2.3% of adults in Washoe County had an infection or exposure resulting in an immune response to the virus.

That means that while only about 1,800 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed as positive in Washoe County as of June 10 based on nasal swab testing, the real number of adult infections in the county was probably closer to 8,200.

Heather Kerwin, the epidemiology program manager at the county health district, said the number of positive cases the county and state report on a daily basis are still an accurate reflection of the number of people who formally have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

"It's not our numbers are wrong," she said. "But by looking at antibody prevalence in a population, you can extrapolate that number back to the entire population and say this is how many estimated number of cases we think have actually happened to date."

While the study suggests the number of cases is up to five times higher than previously assumed, the coronavirus fatality rate is considerably lower than traditional testing suggests. Based on the new estimates, the fatality rate is about 0.8% — not 3.7%.

The study with a 95% confidence rate using a weighted formula began with the random selection of 1,270 households from within 128 unique census blocks in Washoe County. From those, 234 adult participants agreed to respond and provide a blood sample for the COVID-19 antibody tests conducted June 9-10.

Six of those 234 participants had markers for the antibody in their blood, which means that at some time they had contracted the virus. Only one of the six recalled feeling ill or showing any signs of symptoms of COVID-19.

"It definitely tells us there are more infections out there that either asymptomatic or so mild that people are not seeking testing. A lot of the disease goes unreported," Kerwin said.

Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said Wednesday the study should serve as a sobering reminder that "we are nowhere near out of this." He said that while the county currently has 1,073 confirmed active cases, the study suggests the true number of active cases is probably 5,000 or more.

With wire reports 


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