First coronavirus death blow to regional health officials |

First coronavirus death blow to regional health officials

The death this week of a Carson City woman attributed to the coronavirus was a blow to the people working to keep the disease from spreading.

“We had a death in the hospital two days ago that shook the epidemiology staff,” Deputy East Fork Fire Chief Dave Fogerson said Friday.

He pointed out that each person who tests positive for the virus and their immediate circle are contacted daily to make sure they’re doing OK, and that the epidemiologists get to know those suffering with the disease and their families.

“We were hoping to be a region that didn’t experience a death and we had one this week,” Jeanne Freeman, director of Carson City Health and Human Services said on Friday.

The woman in her 70s had an underlying health condition.

Freeman said testing of 1,800 asymptomatic residents across Douglas, Carson Storey and Lyon proposed for the first week of May is designed to give political leaders, including the governor, the data they’ve asked for to determine when its safe to reopen.

“If he needs data and doesn’t know how prevalent the disease is in the community, it’s high time we hop on that horse,” she told the Douglas County Local Emergency Planning Committee.

“We’re looking at how many people we need to test in order for us to know what the prevalence is in our community.”

She said she believes people will be interested in participating in the test during the first weeks of May, and that she’d like to begin testing every two weeks.

“The idea is that there are people, who are asymptomatic who are going to test positive,” she said. “The people who make appointments may show up symptomatic, but we’ll still test them.”

She said subsequent tests will require an extension of the National Guard call-up that expires the middle of May.

“We’re trying to expand what that picture looks like in all positions, so we can get leaders information they need to make the decisions.”

Another limitation would be the demand for tests from surrounding jurisdictions.

“We want to be good neighbors and make sure there are test kits for others to use,” she said.

The tests will be done with a nasal swab and are very effective at determining whether someone has the disease, but won’t show if they’ve had it in the past and recovered.

Freeman said the Nevada State Public Health Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, is validating antibody tests.

Once that’s done there will be a means to determine if someone’s had the disease and whether any immunity is developed as a result.

While Washoe County has started unveiling coronavirus results by ZIP Code, Freeman said public health officers are reluctant to share that information to protect patient confidentiality.

“Because we’ve had such small numbers populationwise we’ve been careful not to give out information that identifies someone by doing those maps too early,” she said. 

Revealing ZIP codes might also give people in areas with fewer reported infections a false sense of security.

“We know it’s important, but we want to get the messaging right,” she said.

To add to the misery, Freeman said quad-county public health officials are preparing for what could be a banner flu season next October.