After Thanksgiving spike, COVID cases, hospitalizations drop but that could change

After Thanksgiving spike, COVID cases, hospitalizations drop but that could change

After a spike after Thanksgiving earlier this month, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Clark County and statewide continue to decline, new state data show.

“We seem to be past the worst of the latest surge,” said Brian Labus, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UNLV’s School of Public Health.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t another one around the corner, but we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.

The 14-day average for new daily confirmed cases in Clark County fell to 195 this week from 248 last week — a 21 percent drop — according to data released Wednesday by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. Nationwide, new cases fell to 256 from 321 last week, a 20 percent drop.

Confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county decreased 11 percent, to 248 from 279 last week, hospitalizations statewide decreased 7 percent, to 304 from 327 last week.

The 14-day average for new daily deaths rose two to one in the county and statewide.

The drop in cases and hospitalizations follows a post-Thanksgiving surge caused in part by holiday travel and gatherings, authorities said. The increase corresponded to high concentrations of the virus found in the county’s wastewater. Surveillance of virus shed from the body and found in wastewater serves as an early warning system for disease trends.

At a wastewater monitoring site in Las Vegas, virus concentrations earlier this month were the highest seen there during the pandemic. Recently, concentrations have been declining or declining in areas, said Daniel Gerrity, principal research microbiologist for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

“While we’re still seeing high concentrations overall, it’s promising that we’re not seeing a steady increase across Southern Nevada leading into January,” he said.

Dr. Vanderbilt University’s William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert, said he expects to see another spike in COVID-19 in the coming weeks, this time stemming from the December holidays.

“So much viral transmission was happening while we were traveling and gathering,” he said. “There will be growth, but I don’t think it will be anything close to the magnitude we saw last January,” he said.

It’s a safe bet that there will be increases in both COVID-19 and the flu, said Schaffner, who did not provide any predictions about trends in respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

“RSV has not obeyed the rules in the last two years,” he said. High numbers of RSV have been reported this fall, months ahead of schedule, resulting in overcrowded pediatric hospital units across the country.

The number of children hospitalized with RSV has dropped over the past week, according to the Nevada Hospital Association. However, hospitals still need to keep children in emergency rooms until beds become available. Pediatric intensive care units remain full.

Influenza-related hospitalizations are also on the decline, the hospital association said.

Visits to hospital emergency rooms are declining across the state. About 15 percent of visits continue to be for COVID-19.

COVID gets milder for many

COVID-19 has become milder for many people and is less likely to result in hospitalization than earlier in the pandemic.

“It tends to be milder in vaccinated people,” UNLV’s Labus said. “And with many people having been infected multiple times over the course of the pandemic, many people are experiencing a milder course of the disease.”

Schaffner noted that COVID-19 continues to cause hospitalizations and deaths, particularly in elderly and immunocompromised individuals.

The Omicron BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 subvariants accounted for about 85 percent of the county’s COVID-19 cases in the past 30 days, according to genetic analysis of a sampling of positive COVID-19 test results from the Southern Nevada Health District.

Matthew Kappel, a senior epidemiologist at the health district, said he hasn’t come across any new strains of concern on his desk recently, “but it’s something we still have to be diligent about.” In the past, some new variants have caused new increases in cases.

Individuals can protect themselves and help prevent an outbreak by getting the updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine, Kappel said.

He advised those who will be in indoor gatherings and crowded places on New Year’s Eve to wear a well-fitted and good-quality mask. This is especially important, he said, for those with a compromised immune system.

“We just have to be vigilant and take those extra precautions during this time,” he said.

Contact Mary Hynes at [email protected] or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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