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State announced data-driven COVID-19 mitigation plans

Gov. Steve Sisolak and the Nevada Health Response team Monday unveiled a new long-term mitigation strategy for the state to help provide predictability and stability moving forward.

The plan was developed recognizing Nevada and the nation are still in response mode to the COVID-19 pandemic and will be for the foreseeable future. The virus is still infecting people and is likely to do so for the months ahead until a vaccine is developed.

“This is a natural evolution in the state’s response, and one that recognizes the need for a deliberate and predictable response to the protracted crisis of a global pandemic,” Sisolak said.

A copy of the plan and other supporting documents are available online at nvhealthresponse.nv.gov.

“To be successful, we have developed a sustainable, targeted response model, one that will allow us to utilize all available state and county assets in this response and recovery effort, maximize consistency and accountability and prioritize the communication of the state’s most accurate data to the public and to decision makers,” Sisolak said. “This is a natural evolution in the state’s response, and one that recognizes the need for a deliberate and predictable response to the protracted crisis of a global pandemic.”

Sisolak went through the basics of Nevada’s earlier response to the pandemic, including stay-at-home orders and closures, which the governor said worked because, outside of a vaccine, decreasing interactions and mobility is the most successful measure in mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But Sisolak went on to say repeating those steps is something nobody wants to see.

“Shutting down public and economic activity throughout the state is not sustainable in the long term,” he said. “Hundreds of thousands lost their jobs, businesses suffered and our fragile economy took a massive hit, leading to negative impacts felt from the state’s budget all the way down to household budgets throughout Nevada.

“But the good news is this: By switching to a strategic, targeted approach, we can protect the health and safety of Nevadans by mitigating the spread of disease at the root of where it is occurring, all while keeping our economy open and avoiding hurting the businesses that are doing their part.”

The current plan requires decisions to be based on a county’s risk level based on specific criteria which will be updated weekly.

“Overall, what Nevadans need to know is this: the criteria determines a county’s risk level and the risk level determines the mitigation level,” said Caleb Cage, Nevada’s COVID-19 response director. “We will be using the same criteria previously announced, which includes looking at testing, case rates and positivity, but we will be looking at a slightly longer time frame for each of those criteria to get a better idea of the spread of COVID in counties and to help normalize and stabilize the data.”

Data includes the average number of tests per day per 100,000 people, reported over a 14-day period with a seven-day lag; the case rate per 100,000, which is now completed by taking the total number of cases diagnosed and reported over a 30-day period divided by the number of people living in the county; and the testing positivity rate, which is reported over a 14-day period with a seven-day lag.

“Every week, using this data, the state will update the three Elevated Disease Transmission criteria for each county,” Sisolak explained. “The COVID-19 response task force then will be able to review the criteria and see which counties are experiencing a decreased or increased risk.”

Sisolak said that a county that is seeing an increased risk, the task force and county officials would enter an assessment and review process that could result in changing the county’s mitigation level. That will attempt to determine the root cause of the spread and decide what, if any, measures need to be part of a plan to address it.

For example, Cage said, if the assessment determines that an increase in positives in a county are all stemming from skilled nursing facilities, then it wouldn’t make sense to close down indoor dining. The plan should be focused on stopping the spread at those nursing facilities.

A plan could include increased enforcement, a decrease in permitted gathering size, a decrease in fire code capacity for certain businesses and more.

The task force also will look at such factors as hospital capacity, access to personal protective equipment, testing capacity, case investigation and contact tracing, protection of vulnerable populations and enforcement.

“This new approach will ensure the state, in coordination with each county, can assess all the data and make timely decisions to address identified risk areas and take swift action,” Sisolak said.

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