LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — As families make holiday travel plans and falling temperatures drive people indoors, The Southern Nevada Health District has warned of a possible fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Europe has entered a fifth wave, and the continent generally serves as a bellwether for infection rates in the United States, said Dr. Cassius Lockett, director of disease surveillance and control for SNHD.
The forecast comes as a new SNHD report shows vaccinated people are making up a larger portion of new recorded cases.
"Fully vaccinated COVID infections started increasing with the introduction of the highly infectious Delta variant in our community," Lockett said.
Infections among vaccinated people, known as breakthrough cases, have grown from .01% of all cases in January, when vaccinations began, to 23.39% in November.
SNHD officials said more breakthrough cases would naturally occur as more people get vaccinated, but the Delta variant has played a larger role in the increase in Southern Nevada.
The good news, Lockett said, is that hospitalizations and deaths among vaccinated people are staying low and steady — even as positive cases rise.
"There are breakthroughs with all vaccines," Lockett said. "None of them are perfect, it happens — but if a vaccine helps prevent severe illness and hospitalizations, it's really done its job."
Lockett said booster shots now available to all people over the age of 12 will help reduce the portion of vaccinated people testing positive in Southern Nevada, but the key to getting past the pandemic lies with vaccinating people who have still denied the shot.
"We definitely are not going to boost our way out of this. It's not going to happen," he said. "This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated."
Lockett said people should get tested for COVID-19 before gathering for the holidays, and anyone who hasn't been vaccinated should consider getting the shot to help avoid a fifth wave of the pandemic in the U.S.
SNHD said 57.11% of people in Clark County have initiated their vaccination regimen and 47.95% of the population has been fully vaccinated.