Health District: COVID-19 case numbers improving as U.K. COVID variant raises concerns

Nevada News
Washoe County School District employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine at North Valleys High School in Reno on Jan. 23, 2021.

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The number of new COVID-19 cases in Washoe County is on the decline, according to the Washoe County Health District.

The 7-day moving average of new cases hit 119.4 on Wednesday after reaching as low as 109.4 on Tuesday, the lowest weekly average of new cases since Oct. 16.

“This is about the lowest we’ve been since about mid-October,” Washoe County Health District officer Kevin Dick said. “Which is really when we had the sharp increase and surge that resulted in over 500 new cases per day at our peak with the 7-day moving average.”

From Tuesday:Truckee Meadows COVID Risk Meter downgraded; new variant ‘likely’ in Washoe, officials say

Deaths in January well below December levels

Dick pointed out that fewer people have died so far of coronavirus-related causes in January than in December. Last month, 211 people died of COVID-19 complications compared to 100 people in January as of Jan. 27. 

“We’re hoping we continue to see this decrease, we had experienced an increase in the number of deaths following the surge in cases that peaked in late November,” Dick said.

Concerns about new U.K. variant

The health district is also keeping an eye out on the U.K. variant of COVID-19, also known as the B.1.1.7 virus. It was detected in Southern Nevada last week. According to Dick, the U.K. variant is more contagious and could possibly have made its way to Washoe County through travel. 

Though the current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the U.K. variant, Dick stressed that it is important to continue measures such as mask wearing and hand washing as the new variant is easier to pass on.

“For the new variant, we do believe the vaccine is effective but the variant binds tighter when it enters your body,” Dick said. “That’s why it is believed to have higher transmission to occur.”

Vaccine rollout continues

The introduction of the B.1.1.7 variant does not change the timeline for vaccines in Washoe County, Dick said. 

Washoe County has now vaccinated 18,140 people and 3,768 have already received their second dose of the vaccine as of Tuesday, according to Dick. Vaccine efforts are ramping up statewide as a 15% increase in vaccine allotment is expected to be delivered to Nevada next week, allowing additional doses to be provided to Washoe County.

Dick said he guesses that there will be about 600 additional doses per week. Washoe County is aiming to be able to dispense 2,400 vaccinations a day in order to meet about two-thirds of the county population vaccinated over 6 months.

“We have plenty of capacity for increase,” Dick said. “…we can easily meet, and far exceed, that number if we’re able to get enough vaccine.”

Follow reporter Terell Wilkins on Twitter, @terelljwilkins, call him at 252-367-8463 or email him at twilkins@rgj.com.

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