Moments ago, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) made it official: All non-essential businesses must close shop until state officials deem it safe for them to reopen. Again, this is our new reality amidst the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Moments ago, Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) held a virtual town hall with local health officials to explain to constituents how federal, state, and local authorities are taking on the threat of novel coronavirus and COVID-19. I listened in on both events to get a better sense of what we can expect from our government at all levels in the coming days.
“Most importantly, practice social distancing. […] The more each of us can isolate ourselves, the more manageable the spread will become.”
– Rep. Susie Lee
Earlier today, The Nevada Independent first reported Sisolak’s plan to announce a recommended statewide shutdown of non-essential businesses, from casinos to salons and from dine-in restaurants to clothing boutiques. Vital Vegas then reported that all Las Vegas area gaming properties that haven’t already closed yet will shut down their casino floors by midnight tonight, then shut down their hotels by Thursday.
As we’ve been discussing on these pages for the past week, all of this is necessary to slow the spread of coronavirus. But as we’ve also been discussing for the past week, we’re still in for a world of economic pain in the days, weeks, and probably months ahead.
Rep. Susie Lee opened her virtual town hall with an explanation of why this matters: “Two things are incredibly important right now. First, practice good hygiene. […] And if you feel sick or you’ve been in contact with those [who’ve been infected], please contact your health provider to find out what your next steps need to be.”
Lee also addressed the reasoning behind the State of Nevada’s big announcement tonight: “Most importantly, practice social distancing. […] The more each of us can isolate ourselves, the more manageable the spread will become.” She continued, “This is a disease that’s immediately transmittable. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you may carry the disease.”
“Make sure we look out for one another with compassion.”
– Debra March, Mayor of Henderson
Along with Rep. Lee, UNLV School of Public Health Dean Dr. Shawn Gerstenberger, Southern Nevada Health District’s Jeff Quinn, Clark County School District Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara, Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, and Henderson Mayor Debra March were on board to explain what’s happening and why it’s happening.
Several of them explained the necessity of social distancing to “#FlattenTheCurve”, or prevent an absolute overload of COVID-19 cases that will overwhelm our health care system to the point of harming even more people. Despite the necessity to maintain physical distance of at least six feet, March expressed her desire that Nevadans and Americans come together in spirit to care for each other in this time of need. As the Mayor put it, “Make sure we look out for one another with compassion.”
Naft then explained how Clark County is expanding social services, such as emergency shelters, bridge housing, and rent assistance. And yes, Lee also explained what House Democrats are hoping to accomplish with both the $8.3 billion coronavirus emergency appropriations package and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
As Lee described the latter bill, “There will be coronavirus testing for everyone who needs it, including the uninsured. We’ll have paid emergency leave [14 days of paid sick leave and three months of extended family medical leave], enhanced unemployment insurance for those who’ve been laid off or furloughed, and more meals for food banks.” She continued, “This bill ensures that no one loses a job because they’re working to protect their families.”
“This is not the time for gyms to remain open. This is not the time for casinos to remain open. If you do not provide an essential service, you should not be open.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Just minutes later, Governor Steve Sisolak applauded Lee and the rest of Nevada’s Congressional delegation for uniting in support of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act at his own press conference at the Grant Sawyer State Building in Las Vegas. In addition, Sisolak pressed the federal government to do even more, such as guarantee paid sick leave to more workers and provide emergency cash aid (or emergency UBI) along the lines of what Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans are now promising Congress will soon pass.
Yet while we’re all awaiting further action from the federal government, Sisolak made clear that the State of Nevada is wasting no time to act. As Sisolak put it, “This is not the time for play dates, theater outings, parties with friends, or athletic events. […] Do not risk your health or the health of others. This is not a vacation.”
Sisolak continued, “This is not the time for gyms to remain open. This is not the time for casinos to remain open. If you do not provide an essential service, you should not be open.” For anyone who still doubted the reports from earlier today, Sisolak officially ordered all non-essential businesses to close for at least 30 days.
“By stopping the chain of transmission, we are taking the steps to stop this outbreak.”
– Dr. Brian Labus, UNLV School of Medicine
Posted by Governor Steve Sisolak on Tuesday, March 17, 2020
In a very cogent rebuttal of critics who accuse Sisolak and other state leaders of “overreacting”, Sisolak explained himself: “I have spent countless hours working with medical experts, and I fully believe this is the right decision. We have vulnerable populations here in Nevada, and it is our shared responsibility to protect our elderly and our health care workers.”
As of tonight, there are 6,302 confirmed coronavirus cases and 102 confirmed COVID-19 deaths nationwide. Here in Nevada, there are 55 people who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and one confirmed death after testing positive for COVID-19.
During Lee’s call with local health officials, UNLV Infectious Disease Epidemiologist Dr. Brian Labus confirmed that local health agencies don’t have enough test kits to provide coronavirus testing to everyone who needs it or wants it, but he expressed hope that the federal government will follow through (see above) in helping the district attain that full capacity.
Dr. Brian Labus then explained why this is particularly alarming: “This tends to hit our older population the hardest, but this can affect people of any age. […] This is worse than the flu, but we don’t know yet how worse it is than the flu.” Labus then added, “By stopping the chain of transmission, we are taking the steps to stop this outbreak.” Or in other words, since we still don’t know how many Nevadans are infected with COVID-19, the best way for us to prevent further infection is by way of social distancing.
“This is affecting the lives of our people. People are dying! It’s incumbent on the people of this state to take this seriously!”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
At his press conference, Sisolak echoed these health experts in declaring, “It’s our responsibility, our duty to the most vulnerable Nevadans, to prevent the spread of this disease. This means we have to stay home, Nevada.”
When asked by a reporter whether he’ll permit additional exemptions to the business shutdown, Sisolak angrily responded, “This is affecting the lives of our people. People are dying! It’s incumbent on the people of this state to take this seriously!”
At her virtual town hall, Lee urged constituents to contact her office if they need any assistance navigating federal and state resources in this time of need. At his event, Sisolak urged Nevadans to visit the state’s new Nevada Health Response site for up-to-date information on the State of Nevada’s coronavirus response and relief efforts. And on this note, I’ll leave this note again for anyone who needs it.
If you’re in need of medical treatment but can’t afford a trip to the hospital or doctor’s office, check this list of 59 low and no cost health clinics across Nevada. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief and local groups like Three Square.