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Daily COVID-19 update focuses on food security

Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage and Julia Peek, deputy administrator of Community Health Services were joined by Jennifer Ott, director of the Nevada Department of Agriculture on Monday to provide updates on Nevada’s ongoing COVID-19 response and discuss NDA’s programs.

All counties in Nevada, with the exception of Eureka and Storey, have been flagged for elevated disease transmission, and all met the criteria of a high case rate per 100,000 and had a high test positivity rate. Lincoln was the only county flagged for a low average of tests per day.

Nevada has logged 189,412 cases, an increase of 2,579 new cases since Sunday. The state has completed a total of 1,845,307 molecular tests since the beginning of COVID-19. For the most recent seven-day period, cases are growing at a rate of 1.5%, or 2,689, new cases per day. The test positivity rate over the last 14 days is 21.3%

According to the Nevada Hospital Association, there are currently 2,025 COVID-19 hospitalizations (1,804 confirmed, 221 suspected).

Ott said NDA is committed to its mission to preserve, protect and promote food and agriculture in Nevada, and that includes supporting a safe and abundant food supply for all Nevadans. NDA administers several school and community nutrition programs and partners with organizations throughout the state to help provide nutritious foods to Nevadans who need it.

Feeding America describes food insecurity as a household’s inability to provide enough food for every person to live an active, healthy life, and the organization estimates 1 in 5 Nevadans are food insecure. That number was 1 in 8 before the pandemic exacerbated food insecurity throughout the country, but especially in Nevada.

NDA began planning in early March for how they could continue to provide nutrition access for people who rely on nutrition programs. NDA elected to participate in all available USDA waivers to give necessary flexibility to continue food distribution and maintain Centers for Disease Control and Prevention safety guidelines.

In addition, for tribal and senior distribution, drive-thru distributions and waived signature requirement waivers were implemented to minimize risk. NDA established 72 alternative meal distribution sites within 48 hours of closures leading to more than 150 sites distributing food by the end of the first week.

NDA used $8 million in CARES Act funding to address food insecurity, improve access to local food and relieve stress on Nevada’s food supply.

The UNLV Food Pantry received some of this relief funding to provide software to allow for online food orders to maximize safety and maintain distribution. UNR’s Made In Nevada program used funding to set up an e-commerce site to connect food and agriculture businesses directly with consumers for ease of purchase.

Funding went to personal protective equipment at farmers’ markets and for farm workers, addressing storage of products stuck in a logistics pipeline to prevent food waste.

One example, Lattin Farms in Fallon, received funding to ensure they could continue to safely operate their on-farm produce stand and bring their product to farmers’ markets, ensuring Nevadans could maintain safe access to fresh and healthy food.

This included signage to reduce congregation, sanitation supplies and barriers for traffic flow.

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