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Sisolak Announces “Roadmap to Recovery”, and Cortez Masto Promises More Relief Programs for Nevadans in Need

Today, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) formally announced “Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery”. Yet while we already knew where we’d begin on this “Roadmap”, Sisolak nonetheless raised eyebrows over what he said and what he did not say tonight.

And hot on the heels of Sisolak’s formal announcement, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D) joined Battle Born Progress for a virtual meeting where she promised Congressional Democrats will fight against any and all Republican attempts to pull the plug on federal relief and recovery funding for Nevada.

So what’s this “Roadmap to Recovery” all about?

On Tuesday, Governor Steve Sisolak began to roll out “Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery” on his social media channels. Then on ABC’s Good Morning America yesterday, Sisolak announced that he would extend Nevada’s “Stay at Home” order, but will also amend it going forward to allow retail stores to reopen for curbside pickups (only) and allow for more outside activities. 

While a host of Republican operatives and politicians near and far (and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman) have been hammering Sisolak over his decision not to rapidly reopen businesses en masse, local medical experts have repeatedly cautioned that Nevada needs more COVID-19 testing and more medical supplies in order to safely begin reopening. And even there, these local experts recommend a more gradual phased-in reopening process instead of the rapid-fire reopenings being advocated by far-right provocateurs

As The Nevada Independent’s Megan Messerly thoroughly illustrated yesterday, current (known and available) Nevada data show a decline in new positively tested COVID-19 infections and “consistent and sustainable decreases” in COVID-19 hospitalizations and COVID-19 patients using ventilators. Yet while these numbers seem encouraging, they still don’t meet the federal government’s recommendation for states to report at least 14 days worth of consistent declines in infection rates and hospitalizations before reopening “non-essential businesses”. In addition, the Nevada Current’s Dana Gentry reported last week on a state memo that admits that Nevada is probably suffering more COVID-19 deaths than the state’s official reports have documented.

“It’s in the best interest of Washoe County if Carson City does well. It’s going to help White Pine if Lyon succeeds. This virus doesn’t know borders, so we must work together as neighbors and Nevadans to make sure we are all progressing toward the criteria and staying on track.” 
– Governor Steve Sisolak

Last night, Sisolak signed Emergency Directive 016 to officially end the “Stay at Home” order through May 15 and/or until the state has officially met the above-mentioned federal guidelines. As expected, “non-essential” retail shops can reopen for curbside pick-ups starting tomorrow (May 1). In addition religious organizations can do “drive-thru services”, golf courses (but just the greens, not the clubhouses!) and tennis courts can reopen, and extensions for legal and licensing deadlines, including a deadline extension for driver’s licenses and Nevada ID cards (that have expired during the shutdown) to 90 days following the reopening of Nevada DMV offices. From there, the official “Phase One” of further business reopenings may begin on May 15 or even sooner. But most likely, casinos, salons, gyms, and other high-risk businesses will have to wait longer before reopening.

Moments earlier, Sisolak reiterated all these points during his public briefing in Carson City and added a few new details to the “Roadmap to Recovery”. For one, Sisolak announced the Local Empowerment Advisory Panel (LEAP), which will include Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D), Eureka County Commission Chair J.J. Goicoechea (R), and representatives from the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO), the Nevada Legislature, and various state agencies. He explained his hope that the LEAP will encourage municipal authorities to cooperate more with each other and with the state 

On the lingering opposition from select rural officials (and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman), Sisolak retorted, “As your Governor, I maintain the responsibility for the health and safety of all Nevadans, and I know that it will hurt all Nevadans if any of our 17 counties are unsafe.” He continued, “It’s in the best interest of Washoe County if Carson City does well. It’s going to help White Pine if Lyon succeeds. This virus doesn’t know borders, so we must work together as neighbors and Nevadans to make sure we are all progressing toward the criteria and staying on track.”  

“Nevada now has the capacity to test all symptomatic individuals at this time, under the testing guidelines issued by the State. We have met this criteria.” 
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis at a press conference at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Pool) @rookie__rae

Following Kirkpatrick’s promise to launch 14 strike teams and greatly expand Clark County’s COVID-19 testing capacity during a town hall call with Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) on Tuesday, Sisolak announced tonight, “Nevada now has the capacity to test all symptomatic individuals at this time, under the testing guidelines issued by the State. We have met this criteria.” And from there, he added, “We will be building our capacity to test asymptomatic Nevadans as well, which is one of the primary goals of our response efforts.”

Sisolak also briefly mentioned the state’s efforts to conduct contact tracing to gather critical intelligence that will be needed to contain future COVID-19 outbreaks. Yet in light of ongoing reports that the Trump administration is still not putting in effort to assist state and local authorities on contact tracing, Sisolak admitted that the state is seeking help from private entities to boost Nevada’s contact tracing efforts.

And at no point during the briefing did Sisolak address the growing reports suggesting that COVID-19 was spreading in Las Vegas during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January. While the state’s official “Roadmap to Recovery” blueprint only cites one individual who was tested by the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) on January 29 and who ultimately tested negative, health officials in Santa Clara County, California, are increasingly eyeing CES as an event that could have facilitated the spread once attendees returned from Las Vegas to Silicon Valley and elsewhere. 

“We need to protect public safety, including worker safety. We have to shelter in place because we don’t have enough testing and we don’t have a vaccine.” 
– U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto
Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto. Photo by Andrew Davey

Shortly after Sisolak ended his briefing, U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto went on a Facebook Live session with Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus to discuss Congressional Democrats’ efforts to secure more COVID-19 relief and recovery funding. Early on, Cortez Masto declared, “Right now, health care is the most important thing. We need to protect public safety, including worker safety. We have to shelter in place because we don’t have enough testing and we don’t have a vaccine.”

Cortez Masto then offered this practical explanation of why Sisolak’s “Stay at Home” order and other social distancing rules have been necessary: “We have to protect our workers, and we have to protect our visitors. We get over 43 million visitors per year. Even if we open our doors again, they’re not coming if they don’t think they’ll be safe.”

If you have questions about #COVID19 relief, bring them TONIGHT at 6:00PM to our FB Live discussion with Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. Join us tonight at 6:00PM!

Posted by Battle Born Progress on Thursday, April 30, 2020

On Democrats’ pending “CARES 2.0” relief package, Cortez Masto said, “We have to help people pay rent and put food on the table. We also have to do more on health care.” While she didn’t appear to fully commit to Horsford’s proposed extension of fully subsidized COBRA health insurance for select laid-off workers, she strongly implied that Democrats will demand that and/or some other expansion of health care coverage in “CARES 2.0”.

And in response to questions over immigrant families being excluded from the benefits offered in prior relief legislation, Cortez Masto vented, “There are so many families who are suffering right now, yet there’s a concerted effort by [President Donald Trump] and [U.S. Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Kentucky] to leave people out.” She then reassured the audience, “We’re working to make sure immigrant families are included.”

“It’s an absurd statement for Mitch McConnell to make. […] Are we going to lay off our frontline workers? It’s outrageous!” 
– U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, on McConnell’s recent threats to force “blue states” into bankruptcy
Photo by Andrew Davey

While Sisolak has mostly been cautious in faulting the Trump administration’s approach to COVID-19, Cortez Masto did not hold back tonight, and she went even further in calling out McConnell’s increasingly adversarial stance on further federal relief and recovery efforts. On the heels of Sisolak’s office revising state budget deficit estimates to anywhere from $1.7 billion to $2.9 billion this biennium, Cortez Masto condemned McConnell’s recent threat to force “blue states” into bankruptcy: “It’s an absurd statement for Mitch McConnell to make. […] Are we going to lay off our frontline workers? It’s outrageous!”

Speaking of bankruptcy, Cortez Masto also called out banks and large companies that “gamed the system” by directing the CARES Act’s “Paycheck Protection Program” (PPP) away from small businesses that needed PPP aid the most. According to Cortez Masto, “The money for the PPP program went through the banks, and some of the larger banks were only providing PPP to businesses they had prior relationships with. They were not establishing new relationships with small businesses.” She then expressed hope that the $484 billion supplemental law will correct what went wrong the last time.

Photo by Andrew Davey

Cortez Masto then promised that she, Senator Jacky Rosen (D), and House Democrats are working to ensure “CARES 2.0” includes more and better oversight of federal relief programs, along with more aid to state and local governments, a “Heroes Fund” to guarantee hazard pay for frontline medical workers, and funding to expand vote-by-mail access in all 50 states.

If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health DistrictWashoe County Health DistrictCarson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square.

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