On Feb. 10, during a morning press conference, Gov. Sisolak announced Nevada’s mask mandate would be lifted effective immediately after the state’s COVID-19 positive case numbers have shown steady declines over the last several weeks.
Gov. Sisolak stated that declining cases and hospitalizations contributed to his decision in lifting the mandate. In addition, Clark County’s 14-day test positivity rate, which tracks the number of people tested who are found to be infected with COVID-19, decreased by 1.1 percentage points to 22.8%.
Yet, even though Nevada is experiencing lower positive COVID-19 cases, there are still hundreds of people testing positive for the virus every single day. At the time of the announcement, Clark County had reported 489 new coronavirus cases and 33 deaths.
Although positive cases are lower, it’s important to remember the overall average of decreasing cases is coming directly after the Omicron surge in January.
During this time, Clark County was reporting over 3,000 positive cases a day. In comparison to the Omicron surge, any decrease from an immense number of cases would appear as a decline towards normalcy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), masks are recommended for communities logging either an average of 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents or a test positivity rate of at least 8%.
Since July 2021, Clark County has never dropped below the recommended CDC guidelines encouraging the mask mandate. As of Feb. 25, 2022, the county’s test positivity rate was 14% and had an average of 386 cases per 100,000 residents.
Candido Leon Cardenas, a marketing major and senior who attends classes on campus, is disappointed in the governor’s decision to lift the mask mandate.
“We are under the assumption that everyone is vaccinated and that the virus is no longer causing as much harm,” said Cardenas. “I think the reason it wasn’t causing as much harm is because we were under a mask mandate. Now, folks are feeling too comfortable and they’re having large gatherings without masks.”
Cardenas continued, “Just because we haven’t recently seen a lot of hospitalizations doesn’t mean we won’t again in the future and being without the mask mandate leaves us open to higher transmission rates.”
Gov. Sisolak encouraged those who wish to continue to wear a mask to do so, and UNLV has echoed the sentiment in an email sent on Thursday, following his press conference. The pandemic is nowhere near over, and for a city like ours with such high tourist rates, to exist without a mask mandate is dangerous for our residents and high-risk communities.