Pandemic Chronicles: COVID cases triple in Washoe

unvaccinated people spread the more infectious COVID variant

PHOTO/FRANK X. MULLEN: A nurse at Renown Regional Medical Center takes information from motorists on line for vaccinations. More than 56% of Washoe County residents have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 22.

UPDATE, JULY 28: A renewal of Nevada’s mask mandate goes into effect on Friday, July 30. The CDC lists Washoe County in the “High Transmission” range on its COVID-19 Data Tracker. As of July 28, the county has reported: four Delta variant-related deaths since July 1, all were unvaccinated; 26 hospitalized Delta variant cases, 22 of those cases were not vaccinated and seven were in the Intensive Care Unit; and 100 patients with active Delta cases that have yet to recover.

The latest Washoe County resident to die of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus was a man in his 30s with no underlying health conditions except one: he was unvaccinated.

As of July 28, three other residents – also unvaccinated — have died as a result of being affected with the Delta form of the contagion. A total of 301 cases of the variant had been reported in the county as of that date; since the beginning of the month new daily cases have tripled, going from 23 to 69 per day.

Washoe County’s experience with the Delta mutation mirrors that of the rest of the state and the nation: 97 percent new COVID-19 cases involve people who had not received vaccinations. The delta variant is “one of the most infectious respiratory diseases ever seen by scientists, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Delta targets unvaccinated people

“Those who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine have the greatest risk of contracting, being hospitalized and dying from COVID-19,” said Kevin Dick, Washoe County district health officer.

 “Those who are choosing not to get vaccinated are contributing greatly to the increase in cases. The State of Nevada and Clark County have both reinstated COVID-19 mitigation measures to curb this recent surge and (Washoe County) might be forced to consider similar actions if these increases continue.” 

— Kevin Dick, health officer at Washoe County Health District.

IMAGE/PIXABAY: COVID-19 mutates into variants of the original virus. The delta form is much more contagious than the original virus.

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, there are 39 hospitalized patients in Washoe County who are confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19, which is up from 22 on June 10. NHA said 64% of licensed hospital beds are occupied in Washoe County.

The state dashboard reports that 56.51% of Washoe County residents 12 years and older have received the reccomended two shots of a COVID-19 vaccine. Fully- vaccinated persons no longer have to quarantine if exposed to an infectious case and remain symptom free. Those who are unvaccinated must quarantine if exposed.

Vaccines not 100% effective

Dick noted that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for protection against COVID-19. “However, vaccinated individuals should be aware that no vaccine is 100% effective,” he said. “COVID-19 transmission is occurring at substantial levels in Washoe County and there remains a risk that vaccinated individuals can be infected if they are exposed to others with the disease.”

While the chances of being infected are much lower than if an individual is not vaccinated, the risk of infection is multiplied if individuals have multiple exposures through their activities, Dick said. Overall, the risk of hospitalization or death for vaccinated individuals is “extremely low even if they do become infected,” according to Dick.

Washoe County officials urged residents older than 12 to get vaccinated as soon as possible, and to consider information from reliable sources when making the decision to be vaccinated. Vaccinations are readily available and provided free of charge regardless of insurance or immigration status.  

Immunization clinics offered 

The COVID-19 vaccine is being offered every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center from 8:30-11:30 a.m. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are recommended. Appointments may be made online. Community “pop-up” vaccine clinics also are scheduled. Local pharmacies and grocery stores are offering the vaccine as well and a vaccine site locator and schedules also are available on the Web.

Dick said those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home, isolate from others, and get a COVID-19 test with the Health District. A self-assessment and testing information is available here.

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