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Amid mask complaints, Nevada hits new daily virus death toll

December 17, 2020 GMT

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada reported a new record number of coronavirus deaths for a single day on Wednesday, the morning after Reno-area residents voiced strong objections to lawmakers about mask mandates, business restrictions and school closures.

The 57 deaths topped the previous record of 50 set last Thursday, and they came as the state nears the 200,000 milestone of diagnosed cases of COVID-19.

The Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas tallied almost 1,900 of the additional cases and 43 of the new deaths.

Caleb Cage, state COVID-19 response chief, said officials have charted a statewide average of more than 2,500 new cases per day for the last seven days.

In Reno, Washoe County health district officer Kevin Dick said he was encouraged by a decline in daily new cases since the northern Nevada county became a COVID-19 hotspot in recent months and record highs were recorded at the end of November.

But he warned that transmission is still at a very high level in the Reno-Sparks area and fears another new surge after Christmas.

Some of the more than 60 residents who testified during a Washoe County Commission on Tuesday complained that businesses were being destroyed and children lacked quality education. Some speakers did not wear masks or improperly wore them.

No commissioners, including Chairman Bob Lucey, reminded residents of Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mask mandate requiring facial coverings in settings like the meeting when people not from their households are present, the Reno Gazette-Journal r eported.

Lucey, who told people before the meeting to wear masks or be escorted out, said officers removed at least five people who did not follow the rules.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said people should not be allowed to make public comments or be inside the building without wearing masks. “Businesses have to follow this protocol, so should government agencies,” she said.

Dick told reporters Wednesday he hopes the worst of a post-Thanksgiving surge of cases has passed, and he’s encouraged by a decline in new cases during the last two weeks.

“But our history has been that we have surged, then we have kind of plateaued ... then we have surged again on top of that,” he said. “With the Christmas holiday and other holidays coming up, there’s the potential we could surge again to even higher levels as we’ve seen occur in the past.”

More than 31,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Washoe County, and more than 380 have died since March.

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Dick said 159 of those deaths — more than 40% of the county’s pandemic total overall — have been reported in the last month. Fifty were in the last week alone.

Washoe County’s seven-day moving average for reported daily new cases peaked at 531 on Nov. 27 before dipping below 400 in early December and rising again to 453 on Dec. 8. It stood at 389 on Wednesday.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.