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4 more deaths recorded in Pahrump from virus

Four more Pahrump residents died from COVID-19-related causes between Jan. 10 and Jan. 17, according to reports from Nye County officials.

The latest data from local health officials shows that Nye County recorded 256 new cases of the virus during that seven-day window; 241 of those cases were in Pahrump.

New cases among youth are surging in Nye County and elsewhere as the Omicron variant proves to be highly contagious.

Nye County schools posted 66 new cases of coronavirus between Jan. 10 to Jan. 17, according to reports from county officials. Of those cases, 46 were students and 20 were faculty.

Less than half the people in Nye County who are eligible for the vaccine have received it and the positivity rate here is 21.9 percent, meaning about one in five who test for the virus are positive.

In the state’s most populous area of Clark County, that rate is even higher — 35 percent.

In Las Vegas, hospitals hit a pandemic high on Tuesday, while other key metrics suggested the disease has not yet reached its peak.

The Southern Nevada Health District on Tuesday reported 1,641 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients in county hospitals, 40 more than the previous high of 1,601 patients reported on Jan. 6, 2021, and up 128 from the 1,513 reported on Friday.

The growing caseload comes at a time when Southern Nevada’s health care system already is under considerable stress, as reflected by a staffing crisis declared two weeks ago by the Nevada Hospital Association.

The trade group, which is expected to update its risk assessment on Wednesday, said last week that local hospitals have been able to provide adequate levels of care by relying “on overtime, team nursing, and other mitigation steps, realizing that these short-term solutions are not sustainable.”

That sounds dire, but the current surge fueled by the omicron variant of the coronavirus cannot be directly compared to last winter’s crest, due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.

Omicron cases, for example, typically do not lead to as many serious complications as its predecessors.

The 280 COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit as of Tuesday’s update was well below last winter’s peak of 364 on Jan. 11, 2021, for instance.

Also, it’s not clear how reporting of COVID-19 cases may have shifted during the course of the pandemic.

Who’s a COVID patient, and who isn’t?

University Medical Center spokesman Scott Kerby explained Tuesday that of the 162 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 there, 51 were admitted for COVID-19-related complaints. The others were identified through the hospital’s protocol of testing all admitted patients, he said.

Of 116 adult patients receiving intensive care at UMC, 26 were COVID-19 patients, or about 22 percent. The hospital has a total of 140 adult ICU beds, including surge beds added in response to the recent increase in patient volume, he said.

Ten of 20 beds in the pediatric intensive care unit at UMC Children’s Hospital were occupied, two by children with COVID-19.

While it remains unclear how the omicron surge will translate to hospitalizations and deaths, Tuesday’s updates provided no signs that the rapid growth in new cases is slowing.

The health district reported 4,870 new coronavirus cases during the preceding day, well above the two-week moving average of 3,618. The average was up from 3,316 in Friday’s update.

Updated state figures covering four days helped fill in some blank spots in the county picture, as the local district updated its COVID-19 metrics on Monday while the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services did not as it observed the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday.

Updated masking guidance

Meanwhile, the state updated guidance on its face mask mandate for crowded indoor public areas.

While the state tracks most of its COVID-19 metrics using a 14-day moving average, its mask mandate is based on the CDC’s seven-day average.

For a county to exit the state mask mandate for crowded indoor public spaces, it must record back-to-back weeks with a seven-day average case rate under 50 per 100,000 residents and a seven-day test positivity rate below 8 percent — metrics considered as posing a “moderate” or “low” risk of transmission by the CDC.

CDC data showed that the entire state is currently in the “high” transmission tier. That means the entire state will once again be under a mask mandate starting Friday.

Despite the growing percentage of breakthrough cases, a new state report showed that Nevadans are more than 10 times more likely to get COVID-19 if they’re unvaccinated. The case rate for vaccinated individuals stood at 3,243 per 100,000 residents, vs. 33,774 per 100,000 for unvaccinated individuals.

Contact Jonah Dylan at jdylan@reviewjournal.com. Brent Schanding and Mary Hynes contributed to this report.

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