Nevada will have dozens of pop-up COVID-19 vaccination sites over the coming weeks and federal workers to help reach out to the unvaccinated as the state confronts a jump in virus cases and hospitalizations, officials said Thursday.
Nevada has seen a 136% increase in hospitalizations of people with the coronavirus since May 31 — the day before the state fully reopened and lifted most of its restrictions on businesses. The rate of hospitalizations had increased 62% over the last 14 days alone, health officials said during a virtual news conference.
Most of the cases involved people who were not vaccinated, and the bulk of the increase is in southern Nevada’s Clark County, which includes Las Vegas and most of the state’s population.
“The heightened hospitalizations in Clark are the key cause for the concern, although they have not yet been accompanied by rising deaths,” said Candice McDaniel, the deputy director of programs at the Department of Health and Human Services.
The rate of positive COVID-19 tests has more than doubled over the past two weeks, with the 14-day positivity rate reaching 8.2% Thursday.
Adding to the worry is that the rise in newly reported cases and hospitalizations come as the highly contagious delta variant, first detected in India, has become the most prevalent form of the virus in the state.
“If you are unvaccinated in the state of Nevada, that risk we’ve all faced since our first case over a year ago remains,” said Michelle White, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s chief of staff. “However, now that risk can be even greater with the emergence of the variants and increased mobility.”
White did not directly answer questions on whether Sisolak is considering restoring mitigation measures such as restrictions on businesses or rules requiring face coverings. “Right now we are completely focused on using all available resources to get as many Nevadans vaccinated as soon as possible,” she said.
The highly contagious delta variant accounts for 59% of all cases that have been genetically analyzed, McDaniel said.
The rise is attributed to a mix of increased travel, the delta variant, population density, vaccination rates that are lower than officials would like and extreme heat forcing people indoors and into close quarters, McDaniel said.
Federal Emergency Management Agency workers are expected to arrive in the state next week to help officials try to reach out to unvaccinated residents, and more are due to arrive the week after.
Nearly 60 pop-up vaccination sites in southern Nevada have been scheduled for July and the first few weeks of August, McDaniel said, with officials trying to target specific communities and zip codes with lower vaccination rates.
That includes events like a pop-up site scheduled Saturday in Las Vegas offering free COVID-19 vaccines during a clinic where members of the public can visit and receive services like free vision screenings. The event, put on by the Latino community outreach group Puentes, is being held at an apartment complex in a zip code where only 34% of the population is fully vaccinated. U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is expected to attend and encourage people to get shots.
Nevada officials are also hoping that vaccination rates will rise — or at the very least not drop off — with the launch Thursday evening of the first drawing from the state’s “Vax Nevada Days” prize program for state residents who have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Prize winners will be announced every Thursday for eight weeks beginning July 8. Students ages 12 to 17 can get college tuition credits worth $5,000 to $50,000. People 18 and older are eligible for prizes from $1,000 to $250,000.
Among almost 2,000 winners, one grand prize winner of $1 million will be announced Aug. 26. The prizes are paid for with federal coronavirus relief dollars.