Fourteen of Nevada’s 17 counties continue to be at elevated risk for coronavirus transmission, including Carson City, which recorded a huge spike in cases due to an outbreak at the Warm Springs Correctional Center.
The Nevada Department of Corrections most recently reported a total of 424 inmates testing positive at the prison and Carson Health and by Tuesday Human Services reported an additional 43 cases, which could include staff members, pushing the city’s test positivity rate to 26 percent, well above the 8 percent the state finds acceptable. The state is working to remove the prison cases from the capital’s statistics as the population there accounts for three-quarters of the 602 active cases in the city, according to Jessica Rapp, public information officer, Carson City Health and Human Services.
But, while the inmate population is not out in the public to spread the virus, the outbreak at the prison is putting a strain on services such as testing.
Both the prison and CCHHS, which provides free testing for residents in the quad county area, send their tests to the Nevada State Public Health Lab. Test results from CCHHS-administered tests take between seven to 10 days to receive.
“The state has been working to find another testing option for the Department of Corrections, which would reduce the strain on the Nevada State Public Health Lab resulting in shorter turnaround times of testing results,” said Nancy Paulson, city manager.
The city said it was considering other labs for CCHHS testing, too, in its action plan submitted to the Nevada COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force last week.
“The two options that have been looked into are not viable. We are looking at one more option that will be discussed if it is determined to be viable,” said Paulson.
Inmates could also end up at Carson Tahoe Health, which is already seeing an uptick in COVID patients.
Paulson said they have asked the Department of Corrections what is being done at Warm Springs, but have not received a response.
Paulson said the city has asked the state’s help in getting the deadline extended for spending funding from the CARES Act. The city received approximately $1.2 million for expenses related to the pandemic but must spend it by the end of year. So far, the city has made money or supplies available to local non-profits, businesses and Carson Tahoe Health as well as buying its own equipment and supplies.
The city has a call Friday with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-NV, who is advocating for another federal stimulus package, said Paulson.
“The city manager and many staff members spend the majority of their time working on COVID-related issues,” said Acting Mayor Brad Bonkowski.
There are daily conference calls with the Nevada Association of Counties, and ongoing discussions with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Trump administration, Governor Steve Sisolak’s office, and other stakeholders, he said.
“I think the city is doing everything possible to slow the spread,” said Bonkowski. “Unfortunately, COVID does not appear to care who we talk to or what we do. It answers only to itself.”
CCHHS launched a new hotline number to keep up with demand. The new phone number for questions and concerns about the coronavirus and COVID-19 is (775) 434-1988 and is staffed Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
“Carson City is diligently working with all stakeholders in the community to stem the tide of COVID. As evidence of those efforts, 92% of our businesses are compliant with the Governor’s Directives. The City’s business owners and residents all face unique challenges in these unprecedented times, but I’m confident that they continue to do all they can to keep us safe. If anyone needs help, they’re encouraged to call the City Hotline at 775-434-1988 for assistance, such as door-to-door delivery of PPE provided free of charge by the City,” said Mayor-elect Lori Bagwell. “We are also working with our State partners (OSHO, State Lab, and the TaskForce) to develop strategies and best practices. It is an ongoing, daily process between government agencies, City staff, and the Board of Supervisors to stay out in front of properly monitoring and mitigating against new COVID cases.”
CCHHS is holding drive-through flu vaccine and coronavirus testing. All events are from 2-4 p.m. On Wednesday, an event is being held at the Virginia City Senior Center, 100 Mill St., Virginia City, and on Thursday at Mills Park Seely Loop off Saliman Road in Carson City. On Nov. 23, an event will be at Dayton Grocery Outlet, 7 Dayton Village Parkway, Dayton and on Nov. 24 at the Douglas Community Center, 1329 Waterloo Lane, Gardnerville.
CCHHS this week also sent out a release outlining safe ways to hold Thanksgiving, including sharing a meal with household family only and holding virtual events with extended family or friends.
Nevada Task Force Director Caleb Cage also urged people to stay home to celebrate.
“We understand that when groups gather, that’s how the disease is spread,” he said.
Carson Tahoe Health has established a drive-through COVID-19 testing clinic in the parking area outside the Carson Tahoe Specialty Medical Center, 775 Fleischmann Way, for people experiencing COVID-like symptoms. The site is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.to 5 p.m., and may be expended to the weekends in the future.
“As Mayor-Elect, I strongly urge everyone to wear masks, avoid unnecessary gatherings and think not only of one’s personal safety but that of others, too. This is a community fight, and we will prevail one step at a time. This takes making certain sacrifices that are not easy. I am aware of the urge to be with family and friends, especially during the upcoming holidays, but please give extra thought to how you can help protect yourselves, your families, your friends, and your neighbors. Please help us be as proactive and responsible as possible, and remember that we’re in this together,” Bagwell said. “Things are hard right now. I want everyone to know that their patience and perseverance will get us through this eventually. I want to extend a very personal, heartfelt thank you to everyone for looking out for your safety and the safety of your fellow Carsonites.”
CTH, which is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 patients, is encouraging caution and safe practices.
“We are not running a sprint, but a marathon, and we can’t see the finish line yet. We are doing everything we can to ensure our community is taken care of, COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients alike. Our plea is to ask everyone to take this seriously and follow the CDC guidelines: wear a mask, wash your hands, practice social distancing, and stay home if you can. If we can all come together to do this, we can slow the spread of COVID and have a tremendous impact on the health and well-being of our community,” said Diane Rush, director, marketing and communications and PIO.