RENO — Nevada health officials are closely monitoring a recent uptick in confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide, including the biggest one-day increase to date in the Reno area reported Thursday, but the state's response director isn't yet convinced 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, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said.
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 morning.
"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 statewide 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.
Washoe County, including Reno-Sparks, reported a new single-day high of 61 additional cases on Thursday. The previous high was 54 reported May 17 and May 26.
The county' seven-day moving average also has reached a new high of about 35, up from the previous peak of about 32 on April 14, Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said.
Cage said the recent statewide spike may be due to significantly more testing over the past two weeks. Dick agreed, but also blamed the growth in new cases on people failing to wear masks in public or practice safe social distancing.
Dick said he and others earlier accepted models suggesting "our peak was probably behind us."
But "now we have a new higher peak of daily cases and may be moving higher yet," he said in a statement Thursday afternoon. "This is a stark reminder that COVID-19 is still spreading at a concerning rate in our community."
The vast majority of Nevada's COVID-19 cases and deaths — 8,100 and 375, respectively — have been in Clark County, including Las Vegas. Washoe County is second with 1,893 cases and 69 deaths.
On Thursday, Cage said 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.
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 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.
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-March 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.