News from the Hitchcock Project

Nevada’s COVID Testing Rates Are Improving, But Still Lag Behind W.H.O Recommendation

By The Hitchcock Project

A Nevada Guard Airman administers a COVID test on the Reno-Sparks Indian-Colony in Hungry Valley, Nevada, on Nov. 12, 2020. Photo from Nevada National Guard via Flickr
A Nevada Guard Airman administers a COVID test on the Reno-Sparks Indian-Colony in Hungry Valley, Nevada, on Nov. 12, 2020. Photo from Nevada National Guard via Flickr

Of all the people tested for COVID in Nevada in early February, 11.8% tested positive for COVID. 

Here’s why that number matters. A test positivity rate greater than 5% suggests higher than desired COVID transmission rates. It also means the state may need to impose more restrictions to slow the spread, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

A map graphic showing Covid test positivity rates from Nevada and neighboring states. The World Health Organization says anything over 5% is too high, and the state needs to conduct more tests. Data pulled from individual state websites on Feb. 17, 2021, calculations vary slightly by state. Nevada: 11.8%
California: 4.1%
Utah: 13.52%
Oregon: 3.6%
Arizona: 9%
Idaho: 6.6%
Covid test positivity rates from Nevada and neighboring states. Data pulled from individual state websites on Feb. 17, 2021, calculations vary slightly by state: Nevada, California, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, Idaho Graphic by Shelly Suh.

Good news: Nevada’s number is trending down from the recent concerning peak of 21% testing positive in early January. Despite this positive direction, the state’s track record shows it hasn’t been able to maintain low positivity rates since the pandemic reached the United States in March. Nevada has only been able to maintain a test positivity rate below 5% for about thirty days from late May into June. 

A high test positivity rate also suggests some people who are infected with COVID aren’t being tested, which means that those infected folks may not know they need to socially isolate. 

The only ways to improve Nevada’s test positivity rate are: to do more testing, and more importantly, to reduce the COVID transmission so fewer people get sick. 

As of mid-February our more populous neighbor, California, has a test positivity rate of just over 3%. 

Brooke Hess-Homeier contributed reporting to this story.

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