Clark County on Thursday reported 489 new coronavirus cases and 33 deaths, as Gov. Steve Sisolak rescinded the statewide mask mandate in the face of declining case counts.
“There comes a time where you have to weigh the benefits of the mask versus the difficulties or the downside of wearing a mask, and today is the day that we decided that the scale tilts,” he said.
Sisolak’s announcement came as the omicron-driven surge of COVID-19 has dropped quickly throughout the state and especially in Clark County. The two-week moving average of daily new cases dropped again on Thursday to 708, just a few weeks after it shot above 3,000.
The county’s 14-day test positivity rate, which tracks the number of people tested who are found to be infected with COVID-19, decreased by 1.1 percentage points to 22.8 percent.
The mask mandate had been tied to metrics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For a county to exit the state mask mandate for crowded indoor public spaces, it had to 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.
A few rural counties in Nevada had bounced back and forth between tiers before omicron started to spread, but the entire state has been in the “high” or “substantial” transmission tier for over a month.
Clark County on Thursday showed a case rate of 247.32 per 100,000 people and a 7-day test positivity rate of 17.8 percent. Both those numbers represented a significant decline from a few weeks ago, but were still a ways away from meeting the CDC criteria previously needed to exit the mask mandate.
On Thursday, though, Sisolak said the time was right to undo the mandate, regardless of the current CDC numbers.
“While there is no longer a mask mandate in place, masks are proven to be effective at protecting people and lowering the risk of disease transmission,” the Southern Nevada Health District said in a statement. “We encourage people to wear well-fitting masks in public indoor spaces for additional protection while disease transmission is high, especially if they are unvaccinated or more at-risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”
Thursday’s updates pushed totals posted by the health district to 483,271 cases and 7,178 deaths. The two-week moving average of daily deaths held steady at 10. Deaths have often lagged behind other metrics as indicators of where a surge is heading, and those numbers have stayed relatively high over the past few weeks while the case rate and test positivity rate have declined sharply.
The number of people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 in the county declined by 56, to 909.
State and county health agencies often redistribute daily data after it is reported to better reflect the date of death or onset of symptoms, which is why the moving-average trend lines frequently differ from daily reports and are considered better indicators of the direction of the outbreak.
Meanwhile, the state reported 891 new COVID-19 cases and 41 deaths on Thursday, bringing totals posted by the state Department of Health and Human Services to 637,609 cases and 9,311 deaths.
New cases were well below the two-week moving average, which dropped from 1,278 on Wednesday to 1,138. The two-week moving average of daily deaths held at 14.
Of the state’s other closely-watched metrics, the 14-day test positivity rate dropped by 1.2 percentage points to 24.7 percent, while the number of people hospitalized with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 dropped by 81, to 1,101.
As of Thursday’s report, state data showed that 56.15 percent of Nevadans five and older are fully vaccinated, compared with 55.54 percent in Clark County.