Virus task force told Nevadans taking COVID-19 more seriously |

Virus task force told Nevadans taking COVID-19 more seriously

Several members of the Coronavirus Task Force said Thursday that people are taking the virus more seriously now with more complying with mask and social distancing requirements than in the past.

“We are seeing, actually, very good compliance,” said Terry Reynolds, head of the state Department of Business and Industry.

He was joined by Dave Forgerson, head of the Division of Emergency Management.

Local governments, he said, are telling his staff they’re seeing a change in people’s behavior with more people wearing masks and, “understanding the severity of the conditions.” He said that applies to some politicians who earlier resisted the health safety requirements.

Jamie Black, representing the Gaming Control Board, said their agents conducted a large number of surprise inspections all the way from major casinos down to bars with just a few poker machines.

“Overall, compliance with (the directive cutting gaming locations to 25 percent capacity) was very effective.” She said there were no more violations since her last report a week ago and gaming ended November with a total of 1,936 inspections.

Task Force Director Caleb Cage said he too is seeing some improvement in how people are acting.

“There are early indications we’re seeing some stabilization in the state,” he said.

Cage pointed out that Nevada is approaching the end of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s three week “pause” to see if Nevadans could slow the spread.

But State Biostatistician Kyra Morgan said the 14-day rolling average of new cases increased by about 50 in the past week and the 22.3 percent positivity rate, “is extremely high right now.” She said Nevada has essentially doubled the number of daily virus deaths since last summer and that, “there’s no indication we’re approaching a plateau.”

Analysts pointed out that one factor local officials have raised is the impact of prison virus cases have on their numbers. Morgan pointed out that, despite those concerns, removing the prison numbers wouldn’t have gotten any Nevada counties removed from the list of those flagged for high risk of transmitting the virus.

Nonetheless, Reynolds argued for creating a page that effectively treats prison cases separately from regular county case data. He said the same should be done for people in skilled nursing and assisted living settings as well as those on military bases and living in tribal communities because local officials have no control over those folks.

More than three quarters of the inmates at Carson’s Warm Springs prison are infected along with a majority of those in Carson’s Stewart Conservation Camp.

Cage agreed and asked for a separate page to account for prison infections.

Members agreed they should also look into better tracking for skilled nursing, assisted living, military and tribal community cases.

The Task Force was also told there have been growing problems in the turnaround times for COVID tests. But Mark Pandori, Nevada’s chief infectious disease specialist, said that is getting sorted out as the state lab prepared to bring on four more machines to try to cut turnaround to 24-48 hours. He said Elko will also get testing machines in the next couple of weeks, helping improve testing for rural communities.

The Task Force will meet again next Thursday to update the situation.