CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada health officials said Monday that they expect to see an uptick in new coronavirus cases after President Donald Trump held political rallies in the state over the weekend.
“We're anticipating to see a growth in cases over the next few weeks, which is really unfortunate, because, right now, we're just beginning to experience — over the last couple of weeks — a decrease in positivity and cases statewide, and a decrease in the burden on our hospital infrastructure,” Nevada COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage said.
Thousands of mostly mask-less supporters attended Trump campaign rallies in Minden on Saturday and Henderson on Sunday held in violation of state directives which cap at 50 the number of people who can attend public gatherings.
The Henderson event was the first rally held indoors since Trump spoke at an arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June. After cases subsequently surged, health officials there said the rally “likely contributed” to the uptick.
Case investigators have yet to trace any exposures to the president’s rallies in Minden or Henderson. Nevada Health Department deputy administrator Julia Peek said investigators “will certainly be looking at the data related to any of those events and future events as well.”
If the rallies contributed to the spread of the virus, it'll take time for the uptick in cases to be reflected in state data, Peek said.
“If you were at an event where individuals were unmasked and in close proximity to each other — be it a rally or a barbecue — you were potentially exposed, so five to seven days after you have that exposure, that’s when you look at getting tested,” she explained.
Nevada reported 277 new coronavirus cases and four new deaths on Monday, bringing the statewide totals to 73,814 cases and 1,456 deaths since the onset of the pandemic. The number of new cases reported per day has gradually decreased since peaking in mid-July.
Nevada's cumulative positivity rate — 10.2% — remains the eighth highest in the United States. The World Health Organization recommends states record less than 5% positivity rates for two weeks before reopening.
Cage said events such as rallies held in violation of state directives could prolong the pandemic and make it more difficult for Nevada to reopen businesses. In addition to preventing the spread of the virus, the directives are in place, Cage said, “to ensure that we can protect the economic interests of the state, which includes putting people back.”
“It's very much a challenge to our ongoing efforts to make sure that we’re not suffering from the consequences of the pandemic in an unnecessary way," he said.
Sam Metz 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.