Story at a glance

  • The transmission rate of a disease is often used by epidemiologists to determine how it will continue to spread.
  • Nevada has the highest coronavirus transmission rate in the United States.
  • Many states have rates above 1 as cases continue to spike post-reopening.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Americans have been flooded with data and statistics on the spread of COVID-19. But one of the key indicators recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is perhaps less understood: the rate of coronavirus transmission. 

The epidemiological statistic is represented by the symbol “Rt” or “R0” and represents the average number of people who will contract a contagious disease from one person with that disease out of a population of people who were previously free of infection and haven’t been vaccinated.


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If the rate of transmission is “1,” then each existing infection causes one new infection. If it’s less than one, and each existing infection causes less than one new infection, it's likely the contagion will eventually die out and stop spreading. If it’s more than one, and each existing infection causes more than one new infection, the disease’s spread is likely to worsen. 

As of June 30, one state had a coronavirus transmission rate of 1: Colorado, according to Statista. Fifteen states had coronavirus transmission rates lower than one, while the rest had rates higher than one. Nevada had the worst coronavirus transmission rate at 1.56, the only state with a Rt/R0 rate higher than 1.5. 

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The state has had 19,733 confirmed cases and 525 COVID-related deaths after 341,463 tests performed on a population of just more than 3 million people. The state began reopening businesses on May 9, but has paused on phase two of reopening as cases began to climb once again. 

“I don’t think we can disagree that we’re seeing a lot of transmission in Nevada,” Brian Labus, a member of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s medical advisory team, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which also pointed out that the number doesn't take into account differing levels of transmission in different areas. Still, Labus added, “Whether we’re first or 10th, neither one of those is acceptable.”


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Published on Jul 02, 2020