Cage: New COVID-19 deaths predate actions in June |

Cage: New COVID-19 deaths predate actions in June

By Ken Ritter Associated Press
Dealers in masks wait for customers before the reopening of the D Las Vegas hotel and casino, Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Las Vegas. Casinos were allowed to reopen on Thursday after temporary closures as a precaution against the coronavirus.
AP Photo/John Locher

LAS VEGAS — A state official on Wednesday attributed a second straight daily record number of reported COVID-19 deaths to what people were doing five weeks ago — before Gov. Steve Sisolak made mask use mandatory and closed bars again in late June.

Caleb Cage, state pandemic response director, acknowledged the 28 new deaths matched the 28 reported Tuesday, the highest single-day total since Nevada’s first COVID-19 death was reported March 16. The statewide death total is now at least 704.

State health officials say that of the more than 401,000 people tested to date, nearly 37,000 have been found to have the virus, or 9.6%

“Yes, we have seen 56 new cases of deaths reported in the last two days,” Cage told reporters on a day the number of newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 also again topped 1,100.

“This is why the governor put a mask order in place … that went into effect on June 26,” Cage said. “This is why he shut down the bars in seven counties in our state to stop the spread.”

Sisolak first closed casinos, bars, restaurants and “non-essential” businesses in mid-March, imposing a stay-at-home order to prevent people from gathering and spreading the contagious virus. He relaxed restrictions starting with restaurants, stores and open-air malls in May, and bars and casinos in early June. Casinos remain open.

In late June, the governor cited what he called a spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19 and made the wearing of masks or face coverings in public places a mandate. He also reimposed restrictions on bars and restaurants in seven counties, including those surrounding Las Vegas and Reno. He has not set an end date for the restrictions.

Cage said he was saddened by deaths of people who he said probably contracted the virus about five weeks ago.

“That’s not in any way to spin this,” he said. “It’s just that this disease plays out over a long period of time.”

State health officials have reported an average of almost 1,000 new cases per day for the last two weeks. More than 91% of new cases on Wednesday emerged in the Las Vegas area and 6% in the Reno area, Cage said.

In Las Vegas, area officials are highlighting efforts to identify and notify people who may have been exposed to the virus — including the hiring of more than 400 case investigators and contact tracers to augment the health district staff of 60.

Julia Peek, deputy state Community Health Services administrator, reported Wednesday those efforts had so far reached “more than 6,000 people who may not have known they were exposed to a positive case who were able to get tested and connected to resources.”

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority recover.