RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada health officials say rural areas with low vaccination rates remain a concern, but overall COVID-19 trends continue to improve statewide, with a test positivity rate that’s dropped below 8% for the first time since early July.
“The delta surge continues to recede across Nevada, with all key COVID-19 metrics declining,” state officials reported in a weekly update late Thursday.
Daily cases declined 26% between Sept. 21 and Oct. 5. The 14-day average for new cases fell to 527 on Thursday — less than half the 1,193 reported in mid-August before a steady decline began.
“However, the surge is not over,” the weekly bulletin warned. “Rural hospitalizations remain near their peak and Nevada is still averaging five times more cases than in June.”
Officials added that while hospital capacity in rural communities continues to be strained, “significant challenges are not as widespread as they were in July and August.” Statewide hospitalizations declined 11% between Sept. 23 and Oct. 7.
As of Thursday, the test positivity rate was 7.9% statewide across Nevada, where 55.1% of all residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated and 63.7% have initiated vaccination.
The positivity rate has dropped to 6.9% in Clark County and the Las Vegas area, and 10.9% in Washoe County, including Reno-Sparks, where it was as high as 18% in mid-September.
About 54% of eligible residents are fully vaccinated in Clark County and 64.2% in Washoe County, with 64% and 70.4% respectively having received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccination.
Only 49.5% are fully vaccinated across all the rest of Nevada combined outside of Clark, Washoe and Carson City, with 44.8% having initiated vaccinations. The positivity rate in those rural areas is 13.7%.
Health officials said Thursday upcoming surges nationally and in Nevada are not expected to be as significant as prior surges, but that will depend on whether more people get vaccinated and continue to wear masks in public.
One national model predicts a continuous decline in cases until March 2022, but another predicts cases will rise back to near current levels by January 2022, they said.
“A severe winter surge is more likely if a new, more transmissible variant emerges or if people stop wearing masks or getting vaccinated,” they said.