Visits to Las Vegas may have fueled coronavirus spread, study finds

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The spread of the coronavirus across the Southwest U.S. may be attributed to visits to Las Vegas, according to a study from smart thermometer company Kinsa Health.

“Travel to Las Vegas in recent months and a new coronavirus variant have likely contributed to the rapid, regional spread of cases across Southern California, Arizona and Nevada,” the company wrote Monday on its Health Weather website. “The data also shows strong correlations between the sickest counties and higher rates of travel to businesses along the Las Vegas Strip after New Year’s, as well as earlier in December, when the new variant took hold.”

Kinsa’s 2 million smart thermometers send anonymous data back to researchers to track spikes in fevers, which can help health leaders track the spread of disease.

“Generally, fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, and we can see that days or up to weeks before COVID-19 cases increase,” said Jane Putnam, Kinsa’s director of communications. “It’s a leading indicator of where increases are going to be.”

Kinsa researchers noted a correlation between communities in southern California with high rates of COVID-19 spread and travel to Las Vegas.

“An analysis of Kinsa’s daily illness data, which shows fluctuations in fevers weeks before test results are reported and is not affected by variations in testing regimes across state lines, shows that the southern California outbreak coincided with a similar spike in the southern half of Nevada and much of Arizona,” Kinsa researchers wrote.

According to cellphone location data from SafeGraph, people in the affected counties in California, Arizona and Nevada were up to twice as likely to have traveled to the Las Vegas Strip in December and January, Kinsa reported.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak had asked residents to stay in for New Year’s Eve, but hundreds ignored this, packing the Strip. While there were no fireworks on the Strip to celebrate 2021, the county did close part of the road to traffic.

The B.1.1.7 variant, first detected in the United Kingdom, was found in a sample in Nevada last week, researchers said Monday. The variant is more contagious than the one first discovered in Wuhan, China.

However, cases in Nevada appear to be dropping from mid-January highs. For the second day in a row, the state reported less than 1,000 new virus infections in the past 24 hours.

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