As I write this column the morning of Friday the 13th, the mounting coronavirus-related news across Northern Nevada is as ominous as the superstition-laden date itself.
My usual early-morning routine is to publish several stories to the NNBW website and schedule social media posts. After combing though my email inbox for anything urgent, the next task is to visit various regional news websites to catch up on the latest news.
Friday morning’s news in particular was eye-opening — though, not surprising.
Let’s start with my first visit each morning, the Reno Gazette Journal, which blared the following 7 a.m. breaking news headline: “Reno area hospitals ‘on the verge of being overwhelmed’ by COVID-19 surge.”
The story from the RGJ’s Jason Hidalgo revealed solid, fact-based details that backed up the bleak headline. For example, here’s one line from the story: “Coronavirus hospitalizations in Washoe County and Carson City totaled 40 patients as recently as Sept. 7, according to the Nevada Hospital Association. By Nov. 11, however, coronavirus hospitalizations in Washoe and Carson have more than quadrupled to 195.”
The story provided further examples that expounded on the data, including:
- Northern Nevada Medical Center, which typically sees 2-4 ER patients each day with COVID-like symptoms, has seen that number balloon to 25-30 within the last week (of note, not all patients need to be hospitalized).
- As of Nov. 12, Carson City was leading the state with a 30-day case rate of 1,293 per 100,000 people.
- Carson City reported the highest hospital occupancy rate in the state at 87% followed by Washoe County at 85%; and in terms of ICU beds, while Clark and Washoe counties reported 66% and 65% occupancy, respectively, Carson was at 83% (also of important note, occupancy rate percentages include all patients, not just those with COVID-19).
Still, “we’re seeing a fairly significant increase in the number of COVID patients that we are taking care of,” Dr. Allen Fink, vice president and chief medical officer for Carson Tahoe Health, told the RGJ. “We have far more COVID-19 patients in the hospital now than we did in the spring and summer.”
Shifting to the Nevada Independent, throughout 2020 I’ve followed Megan Messerly’s recurring “Coronavirus Contextualized” feature, which explores and extrapolates data relative to COVID-19’s healthcare impacts.
The 30th rendition published Friday morning reported a record 1,379 new cases on average each day over the last seven days as of Nov. 12; the previous record was 1,176 on July 20. The state surpassed that record on Nov. 7, when it hit a seven-day average of 1,197, and has continued to beat its own new records almost every day since.
Another stat: “One in 27 Nevadans has tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic,” Messerly reports.
“We have seen that going through the steps that we’ve gone through to date to open up the economy, we do not have a sense of control over COVID currently in our communities, which was our goal,” state biostatistician Kyra Moran said at a meeting of the state’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force on Nov. 12, according to Messerly’s story. “Our goal was to do that ... slowly and steadily in a way that we could not get back to where we were, and the reason I just wanted to make a comment now is because at this point, we are back where we were, and we do not have control over COVID.”
That last part particularly sticks out: “We do not have control over COVID.”
Other news sites across the state shared similar stories Friday and throughout last week, including news of multiple schools shutting down, as well as coverage from Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Nov. 10 press conference when he issued a “Stay at Home 2.0” plea for residents and businesses to limit travel, in-person meetings and gatherings for 2 weeks.
“If we don’t come together at this moment, I will be forced to take action in 14 days,” the governor said, referencing the potential to once again order business shutdowns and/or more stringent lockdowns.
Earlier in the day, Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve alluded to as much during a media call featuring city and county government and healthcare leaders discussing the Truckee Meadows COVID Risk Meter.
“This is really, really critical right now … this is not the time to have COVID fatigue. If I were to tell you right now we have a tsunami coming, we’d all be … running for the hills. Unfortunately, this is starting to become a perfect storm,” Schieve said.
In terms of looming business closures, the mayor acknowledged that potential and how “very unpopular” further shutdowns would be.
“It’s not my job to be popular. It’s important to keep our economy open … but if we cannot get a handle on this, that is where we are going to go,” she said. “Everyone needs to understand the severity of where we’re at right now.”
I’m writing this on Nov. 13 due to the NNBW’s early press deadlines, so by now, the data has likely changed — hopefully for the better, though I’m not putting my eggs in that basket. As I’ve learned over the years when writing business plans and helping manage profit margins, hope is not a strategy.
Which is why I feel — and this is not intended to be “fear mongering” — Sisolak’s pleas for Nevadans to be safe aren’t going to amount to much. Once businesses reopened this spring and summer, the numbers slowly worsened. COVID fatigue, not to mention continued belief by some that this is still a “scamdemic,” has clearly played a factor.
It’s one thing to hope for the best, but when the numbers and data suggest the complete opposite, it’s simply a poor strategy.
My advice is to trust our experts, be safe and wear a mask. Call it an ominous take if you will, but regardless of where you fall politically, being arrogant in the face of our healthcare workers is only going to make things worse.
Kevin MacMillan is editor of the Northern Nevada Business Weekly. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.