RENO, Nev. (AP) — The Tesla battery factory where Tesla and Panasonic employees work east of Reno, and Renown Regional Medical Center are the job sites where the most coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Washoe County since June, health officials said Monday.
Meanwhile, Nevada’s COVID-19 response director said he was cautiously optimistic about the fact that the state’s cumulative positivity rate had stayed below 10% for more than a week.
The Washoe County Health District released the job site data after the Reno Gazette-Journal first reported the results on its web site Monday based on an earlier records request it submitted to the district.
Walmart, the University of Nevada, Reno and UPS were next on the list for the Reno-Sparks area, followed by four of the largest hotel-casinos, the Washoe County School District and Saint Mary’s Regional Hospital.
It marks the first time the Washoe County Health District has provided such information since Gov. Steve Sisolak asked individual counties to begin compiling data on the spread of COVID-19 at workplaces.
Just because the job site is listed as a location for possible spread of the virus doesn't mean someone contracted COVID-19 there, health district spokesman Scott Oxarart said.
The data includes all locations and workplaces visited by 10 or more individuals who contracted the virus.
Renown actually topped the health district’s list with 104 cases, but Tesla (72) and Panasonic (45) combined for a total of 117 cases at the Gigafactory. The “self-employed” category was next with 44, then Walmart (41), UNR (32), unemployed (29), UPS (27), Atlantis (26), Peppermill (26), Grand Sierra Resort (25), Washoe County School District (25), Silver Legacy (24) and Saint Mary’s (22).
Others on the list included 17 at the VA Hospital and 15 at the Nugget in Sparks, but no other job site exceeded 20 cases.
Health officials on Monday reported 463 new positive coronavirus cases, bringing the statewide total to 79,191 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic. The death count remained at 1,585 after officials reported no new deaths.
The new cases kept Nevada's cumulative test positivity rate at 9.9%, marking the ninth day in a row it's hovered below 10% and prompting Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage to feel cautiously optimistic about what he called a “steady trend."
The number of new daily cases remains dramatically lower than their July 15 peak of 1,447 cases, but has ticked up slightly since the first full week of September, when Nevada officials reported an average of 276 cases per day.
Julia Peek, a deputy administrator in the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said that case investigators had traced one coronavirus case to President Trump's Sept. 12 rally in Minden.
Peek and Cage said it was difficult to point to reasons for a slight uptick in September or draw conclusions about whether non-compliance of Gov. Steve Sisolak's directives on Labor Day weekend or during the political rallies the next weekend was a contributing factor.
Their hesitancy marked a contrast with their response post-July 4 weekend, when Cage attributed a mid-July uptick to holiday celebrations and noncompliance.
"While we cannot do a one-for-one direct association of those cases yet, there does seem to be (an increase)," Cage said.
Also Monday, the University Medical Center in Las Vegas reported a sharp decline in the number of people hospitalized or seeking emergency care for COVID-19 and said its dedicated coronavirus testing laboratory is now averaging a 12-hour turnaround for test results.
The hospital’s COVID-19 inpatient census has decreased by about 73% since peaking at 121 in late July, CEO Mason Van Houweling said in a statement, and now totals about 33 patients with confirmed virus cases. The hospital said its intensive care unit occupancy rate also has dropped to 78% after climbing to 92% on July 10.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
AP writer Ken Ritter contributed reporting from Las Vegas. Metz, who reported from Carson City, is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.