Nevada health officials reported 1,642 new coronavirus cases and eight additional deaths on Monday, warning that the statewide surge shows few signs of slowing as the deadliest month of the pandemic comes to a close.
Nevada has reported 152,169 confirmed cases and 2,144 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Officials said the positivity rate, as measured by dividing new cases reported over the last 14 days by test encounters, had reached a record-high of 17.3% on Monday. Hospitalizations also peaked with 1,545 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients undergoing treatment.
Throughout the state, 76% of staffed hospital beds are occupied. In southern Nye County, all 25 staffed beds are occupied and in northern Churchill County, the hospital has 30 patients but only 28 beds.
Healthcare facilities in Northern Nevada "are now showing signs of serious strain," the Nevada Hospital Association wrote in a daily bulletin.
The association added: "Patients are being treated within alternative care sites, hospitals are functioning under crisis standards of care and some intensive care level patients from rural communities are being transferred to hospitals in Idaho, Utah, California, or Arizona for definitive treatment."
Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage warned that colder weather, indoor activities and back-to-back holidays could exacerbate the spread of the pandemic. He said the state did not yet have data to evaluate if recent holiday gatherings had spread the virus.
"At this point, it's too soon to determine the impacts from the Thanksgiving holiday. It is possible that we may see an increase in testing numbers within the next week if people chose not to seek testing over the holiday or because locations were limited," Cage said.
Nevada last week tightened capacity caps on businesses to 25% of what fire codes allow. In the first week under the new rules, state inspectors issued one citation. Owens Market & Ace Hardware in the small Elko County city of Carlin was fined $2,603 after an employee was seen not wearing a mask.
As cases have surged and state officials have renewed emphasis on compliance with health and safety guidelines, some cities have struggled to inspect the number of businesses they promised to in plans they submitted to the state's coronavirus task force.
Under a state-approved plan, Clark County is required to visit 750 businesses per day to observe for compliance, but Las Vegas — the county's largest city — has struggled to keep pace with the plan.
The plan directs Las Vegas officials to inspect 1,946 businesses per week. But in October, the city reported 975 to 1,375 inspections each week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
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.