The governor’s coronavirus task force voted Thursday to relax the rules that determine whether a county is flagged as a virus risk just a bit.
The decision came at the recommendation of state Biostatistician Kyra Morgan who said it was based in part on new guidance from the federal government and a review of what other states are doing.
She said the changes would shift the state to a more sustainable “new normal.”
Her recommendations were to raise the percentage of positive tests and reduce the daily number of tests counties must conduct. The minimum number of tests — 150 per 100,000 population — has been a significant problem for small rural counties, getting a number of them flagged as potential hot spots.
She said that number can safely be reduced to 100.
In addition, Morgan said the percentage of positives in daily testing can safely be increased from 7 percent to 8 percent.
Task Force Director Caleb Cage and Morgan both pointed out that those changes wouldn’t remove either of the two counties currently flagged by the state from that list. Both Washoe and Humboldt counties have a positivity percentage of 8.4 last week. Humboldt’s problem is its low test rate. Washoe’s is the high number of cases per 100,000 population — 412, which is double the cutoff of 200.
Under the state’s current rules, any county that fails to meet two of those three criteria is flagged as a potential hot spot.
Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick told the task force their increasing numbers of cases are in the 18-24 age group, which he attributed to conduct by students at the University of Nevada Reno. He said the bars that are now open at 50 percent capacity haven’t been a significant source of infections.
State Business and Industry Department officials said in 8,974 observations of businesses, compliance with masking, social distancing and sanitization rules has been 90.4 percent in northern bars and 94 in Northern Nevada restaurants.