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With Businesses Open And Large Protests, Does The Health District Fear A Coronavirus Spike?

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Eloina Marquez cleans at a roulette table at the reopening of the Bellagio hotel and casino Thursday, June 4, 2020, in Las Vegas.

As Nevada moves steadily through Phase 2 of reopening, there are still questions about coronavirus transmission, infections, and test reliability. 

Recent reports across the country suggest a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases as more states reopen their economies and people tired of being cooped up start gathering in large groups.

Plus, mass rallies in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in protest of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer have health officials concerned. 

Dr. Vit Kraushaar is a medical investigator with the Southern Nevada Health District. He has been analyzing coronavirus data since the beginning of the pandemic. 

“As we started lifting some of the restrictions on movement and travel and as people have stopped social distancing at home as much, we did anticipate an increase in the number of cases,” he said.

He said there are a couple of reasons for the jump in numbers, including an increase in testing. Since more people are being tested, it is more likely that positive cases will be found.

Dr. Kraushaar said another reason for the increase is community spread and that is why a rise in the number of hospitalizations connected to COVID-19 is alarming.

“Certainly, if you start to see an increase in hospitalizations, you know that the increase is real in the number of cases and it’s not just related to testing,” he said.

But the hospitalization numbers that really matter are the number of new people admitted per day. For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate systems that do not require hospitalization.

Dr. Kraushaar said the health district has seen a spike of nearly 1,000 cases in the last seven days. There are now 8,100 coronavirus cases in Southern Nevada and 375 people have died from COVID-19. 

“What’s concerning to me is just how quickly this has been happening," he said, "It has only been a couple of weeks since we’ve really been lifting some of these restrictions and already we’re seeing the number of cases go up.”

He said Nevada did a great job flattening the curve, which means keeping the numbers cases low by staying home and avoiding contact with people.

“But now as people are going back to work, as people are going back to restaurants and going shopping, I think people are sometimes forgetting that they still need to maintain some of those precautions that they were previously doing,” Dr. Kraushaar said.

Without proper social distancing and wearing protective gear like a mask, he is worried about what will happen. 

“What worries me the most is that there is this false sense of security that because we flattened the curve, we can all go back to our normal lives but this is something we really need to maintain these new behaviors for probably the next year or at least until a viable vaccine comes out,” he said.

The outbreak has had more than a toll on human lives. It has dramatically hurt economies around the world. Dr. Kraushaar admits if it takes several years to get the virus under control then shutting down the economy is not a viable option.

"I think going forward the most important thing we do as a society is figure out how do we take the precautions that we need to take and how do we maintain those precautions over a long period of time," he said, "Because it really has to be sustainable."

Dr. Kraushaar compared the precautions to a crash diet. Someone on a crash diet might lose weight for a little while but he or she will likely regain the weight when he or she returns to eating normally. It is far more effective to do something that is sustainable. 

He advises people to wear face coverings in public, maintain social distancing and wash your hands frequently.

Dr. Kraushaar did point to one bright spot in the county's response to the virus. He said the health district now has more capacity to trace the contacts of people who have tested positive and let them know to self-quarantine. 

Dr. Vit Kraushaar, Medical Investigator, Southern Nevada Health District

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Zachary Green is the Coordinating Producer and a Reporter for KNPR's State of Nevada Program. He reports on Clark County, minority affairs, health, real estate, business, and gardening. You'll occasionally hear Zachary Green reporting and fill-in hosting on the State of Nevada program.