About 193 Pershing County residents endured nasal swabs during voluntary COVID-19 community testing conducted by Pershing General Hospital and the Nevada National Guard.
About 193 Pershing County residents endured nasal swabs during voluntary COVID-19 community testing conducted by Pershing General Hospital and the Nevada National Guard.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pershing County was relatively low last week with 13 positive cases after 2,627 county residents had been tested. Three of those infected had recovered and there had been no deaths in the county according to Nevada Health Response.

In Humboldt County, 1,741 individuals had been tested with 91 positive cases and 4 deaths. 

More testing due to contact tracing could reveal more coronavirus in Pershing County than the data reveals. Contact tracing could be an unwanted invasion of privacy but it’s an efficient way of inhibiting the spread of COVID-19 according to County Health Officer Dr. Kamin Van Guilder. 

“I think contact tracing has been a success so far,” she said. “We definitely see decreased cases when people self-isolate when ill and contacts quarantine when advised. The quarantine/isolation can be enforced by me and the Sheriff if needed. So far that has not been needed here.”

Those who test positive but are asymptomatic can get back to work after ten days in isolation. Those who have symptoms can also return to work after ten days as long as their symptoms have improved and they have not had a fever for at least 24 hours, Dr. Van Guilder said. 

Some symptomatic patients who “recover” by no longer showing symptoms may continue to test positive “for several weeks after they recover” and could still be spreading the disease to others.

Close contacts of COVID cases, even if they test negative, must self-quarantine for 14 days after COVID exposure due to the “incubation period” of the virus, Dr. Van Guilder said. A “close contact” is anyone who has spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of an infected individual.

As a result of contact tracing, Pershing County District Attorney Bryce Shields and his entire staff were ordered to quarantine themselves at home after one asymptomatic staff member tested positive. Other staff members have tested negative so far but some of the results are still pending. Shields said his office staff and attorneys have been able to do their jobs from home.

“There has been little to no interruption to office productivity or court hearings because employees are working from home and the attorneys are able to appear in court telephonically or through video conferencing,” he said. “The quarantine will last until Saturday, July 25, 2020. I anticipate that all staff members will return to the office on Monday, July 25, 2020 provided that all test results are negative and no employee manifests symptoms of COVID-19.”

At a recent county commission meeting, Commissioner Robert McDougal questioned the need to quarantine county employees who have tested negative and have no coronavirus symptoms.

“This notion of staying in quarantine even after you’ve tested negative,” he told the board. “I agree Bryce, I’m not a doctor either but it sounds like a scam. A lot of this stuff has been built on hysteria. There are people that are vulnerable and absolutely we have to be considerate and make sure those people are not exposed but I also don’t want this to be an excuse to have the county not being able to do the job. If you can do the job from home, I don’t have a problem.”

County employees who are ordered by a physician to self-quarantine but cannot do their jobs at home must file for county administrative leave and complete FMLA paperwork so the county will be reimbursed by CARES Act funds intended for COVID-19 related expenses.

Dr. Van Guilder recommended the county use CARES Act funds to improve workplace safety. 

“It’s important that we all take a good look at our work environments and see what else we can do to try and keep us safe and well during this pandemic. Adequate ventilation is something we may overlook and may not be something we can easily remedy in our older buildings.”

Some may not even know they are infected and others may have minor symptoms, but the virus can kill people who develop severe inflammation leading to blood clots and breathing problems.

Some “carriers” of the coronavirus are a greater public health threat than others.

“Each person who becomes infected has different levels of the virus in their system,” Dr. Van Guilder said in her update. “Those with higher viral counts are more likely to transmit the virus. Those with lower viral counts less likely. The only way to know the count is to be tested.”

In his July 18 situation report, Director of Emergency Management Sean Burke pointed out that, of the 13 positive tests, only one case was still “active” and all the other cases were either asymptomatic or the individuals had “recovered” and no longer exhibited COVID symptoms.

But, recovered and asymptomatic people could still be exposing others to COVID-19.

“I’m sure everyone is aware of the significant spike in cases around the state,” Burke told Pershing County leaders. “This is not just a big city problem either...Elko County has seen an explosive growth in their numbers. Improved testing is contributing to these higher numbers but the reopening has definitely contributed to additional exposures.”