Nevada official traces new high in COVID-19 cases to Fourth of July
LAS VEGAS — A record high on Tuesday in the daily number of positive coronavirus tests in Nevada may be the result of lax mask-wearing and a lack of social distancing during the Independence Day holiday, state officials said.
“Nevada continues to see a resurgence in COVID-19 hospitalizations,” Caleb Cage, state pandemic response chief, said less than a week after Gov. Steve Sisolak responded to a spike in reported cases by again closing bars and restaurants in the Las Vegas and Reno areas and in five other counties.
“We believe that many of the new cases in this recent surge are coming from the Fourth of July weekend,” Cage said. He called the finding concerning.
In response to the governor’s order, 37 bars and taverns filed a lawsuit Sunday against the state and Sisolak, arguing the order to close drinking establishments again “arbitrarily and capriciously” violates their rights. The governor’s office and state Attorney General Aaron Ford declined to comment about the court filing.
The governor earlier imposed a mandate for people to wear masks in public, including patrons at casinos. That has spurred protests and the creation of a political opposition group called “No Mask Nevada.”
The state Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday reported 1,104 new cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the total to nearly 30,000 since the pandemic began. At least 612 people have died.
Nearly three in five confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nevada involve people ages 20-59, and 43% of cases involve Hispanics.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority recover.
The daily number of new cases topped a previous single-day high of 1,004, set last Thursday — the day Sisolak announced he was re-imposing closures he initially ordered in mid-March and lifted in late May and early June.
Cage and Julia Peek, a top Nevada community health administrator, told reporters during a daily conference call that contact tracing is expected to show the link between the holiday and the number of new cases. They also noted the daily total included about 400 cases delayed in reports by two Las Vegas-area laboratories.
Officials had cited worries that parties and fireworks get-togethers would contribute to a rise in COVID-19 cases.
County code officers, state casino regulators and Occupational Safety and Health inspectors visited thousands of businesses after Sisolak’s mask mandate took effect June 26. Officials initially found one in four businesses in and around Las Vegas did not comply. They also found the use of masks scarce at Las Vegas casinos and hotel swimming pools.
“We are still very much in the middle of the pandemic,” Cage said, putting statewide hospital occupancy rates at 77%. He said 16% of patients currently hospitalized have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
“The virus is not going to go away anytime soon, and it continues to spread,” he said.
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