RENO, Nev. (AP) — One of the leaders of Nevada’s fight to halt the spread of COVID-19 said Thursday the state’s goal of vaccinating 75% of the eligible population may not be realistic but that progress toward that goal is continuing to pay dividends with the average number of new cases being reported statewide dropping to its lowest level since June 2020.
The state’s positivity also rate fell to 4.8% on Wednesday. That’s higher than an all-time low of 4.2% reached March 28, but down from 5.7% April 21 and far below the peak high of 21.3% in mid-January.
The improvement comes despite the fact that the 14-day average for the number of people getting vaccinated has fallen to its lowest level since the end of January. The rolling average of 10,915 reported on Wednesday is less than half the peak of about 25,000 reached in mid-April.
Of all Nevadans age 12 and older, 46% have had their first shot and 37% are now fully vaccinated, officials said Thursday.
Kyra Morgan, the state biostatistician, commented Thursday on the possibility Nevada will never reach the 75% goal believed to be necessary to reach herd immunity to ultimately stop the spread of the virus.
“We are seeing a very obvious and significant decline in the number of people seeking vaccination. The goal of hitting 75%, it could end up that gets pushed out and/or might not be realistically be achievable,” Morgan told the state’s COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force.
“But even at the levels of vaccination we have currently, we are seeing a really significant impact on the transmission of COVID-19. So, it could be we are able to achieve pretty good results even if we aren’t at that 75% benchmark we sort of all had at the beginning of the vaccine rollout,” she said.
In addition to the positivity rate, the average number of new daily cases continues to improve. The 14-day rolling average for new cases in Nevada stood at 169 on Wednesday. It’s the first time it has dropped below 200 since June 9, 2020.
The state average peaked at 2,736 in mid-December. It has been below 500 since Feb. 19.
The World Health Organization recommends the positivity rate remain below 5% for 30 days before fully reopening.
Caleb Cage, chairman of the task force and head of the state’s COVID-19 response effort, acknowledged Thursday he was concerned when the positivity rate bumped back up to 5.7% on April 21 after having fallen to 5.5%.
“It’s been continuing to go down since then and has remained below 5%. That’s positive,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Clark County Commission dropped plans to tie business occupancy limits to public vaccination rates when businesses fully reopen in Las Vegas without social distancing rules on June 1. The county had required that 60% of the eligible population receive at least one shot of the vaccine in order for that to happen.
Health officials said they are concentrating on continued efforts vaccinate Nevadans with an emphasis on pop-up clinics in local communities, including at work sites, churches and schools.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Thursday that Clark County health officials will offer COVID-19 inoculations at middle and high schools during the summer break in an effort to get more newly eligible adolescents on the road to immunity.
The state plans to hire and train 40 people to make outreach calls over the next two weeks to 72,000 people who have received their first dose but have failed to follow-up with the second shot. That includes 41,700 people who are 55 or older.
The outreach effort also will target about 340,000 Nevadans who received flu vaccinations in the past but have not been vaccinated for COVID-19.