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Sisolak Hails Progress in Developing New Testing Resources, Calls for Patience Amidst Questions on When Nevada Will End COVID-19 Induced Shutdown

Tonight, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) again took to the Old State Capitol in Carson City to address Nevadans on the state of the state’s COVID-19 response and relief efforts. He and the head of the state’s public health laboratory struck an upbeat note on Nevada producing more of its own testing resources, but they also made clear that we can’t safely “Reopen Nevada” until we have enough testing resources to know when and where it’s safe to begin reopening.

Before we hear from Sisolak, we need to talk about Trump.

 

For weeks, we’ve been warning you not to buy into President Donald Trump’s and other far-right pundits’ “game changing” hype on hydroxychloroquine. We’ve also been warning you not to fall for the chatter over “herd immunity” and/or the promotion of other unproven or outright fraudulent “coronavirus cures”.

Since last year, we’ve been warning you about Donald Trump’s “emergency” declaration and the real emergency of the fragility of our democracy. As I warned back in February (2020), “It can happen here, and it’s already begun to happen here. Authoritarianism and fascism often don’t conquer overnight. Instead, it often arrives via a slow rot. So here we are, watching our institutions rot from the inside out. What will we do about it?”

 

Now that we’re deep in a global pandemic, Trump and his cronies are literally cashing in on this crisis, between their hydroxychloroquine-related stock holdings, First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her spouse Jared Kushner taking charge of the federal government’s relief efforts, Donald Trump’s transformation of “White House coronavirus briefings” into televised campaign rallies, and Trump’s and his allies’ use of federal relief efforts (such as the CARES Act and medical supply deliveries) to reward “business community” allies and punish political opponents.

No matter what your perpetually angry uncle is posting on Facebook (and what a certain Mayor proclaims from Las Vegas City Hall), it’s downright dangerous to “Reopen America” with no realistic plan to expand COVID-19 testing and insignificant action to expand our health care system’s capability to treat patients. Yet as of now, the White House lacks such a realistic plan to expand avenues for testing and prefers political blame games over real health care solutions. So please, spare me the “he’s acting more presidential!” nonsense when he continually undermines our system of checks and balances while also undermining the nation’s COVID-19 response and relief efforts.

I will put the safety of our folks ahead of any profit. People that think you can just say, ‘We’re gonna open back up,’ and suddenly these hotels are going to be filled, they don’t understand how the hotel industry works.” 
– 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

In what we can best describe as a subtle rebuttal of Donald Trump and Carolyn Goodman, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) justified the state’s business shutdown as such: “Guided by the medical experts, these were necessary steps to save lives.” Sisolak then congratulated Nevadans on “doing a great job” in “staying home for Nevada”: “It is helping. It is saving lives. We are on the map as one of the best states for social distancing.”

From there, Sisolak responded to the question on so many constituents’ minds: “When can Nevada open back up for business? No one wants to open for business more than I do.” He then stressed, “We’re working on the strongest plan to reopen Nevada, one that focuses on putting the health and safety of Nevadans first.” 

As of tonight, Sisolak is not concurring with Trump’s May 1 reopening goal or offering any other specific date. And when asked by reporters about Goodman’s ongoing complaints and the new White Pine County request for exemption, Sisolak retorted, “I will put the safety of our folks ahead of any profit. People that think you can just say, ‘We’re gonna open back up,’ and suddenly these hotels are going to be filled, they don’t understand how the hotel industry works.”

On the Trump administration’s failure to provide Nevada and most other states with sufficient COVID-19 testing resources, Sisolak simply demurred, “We’ve had issues getting testing kits. […] Those swabs have been very hard to find.” Then, he turned the floor over to Dr. Mark Pandori, Director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, to explain how the state is working to circumvent federal roadblocks.

“The University of Nevada, Reno [UNR], where the Nevada State Public Health Lab is stationed, is 3-D printing parts.” 
– Dr. Mark Pandori, Nevada State Public Health Laboratory
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, coronavirus
Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis next to State Treasurer Zach Conine, from left, and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, right, 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

Pandori then explained, “Testing, along with social distancing, may be the most important weapon we have to combat this pandemic. […] It’s valuable intelligence we need in this war.” Or in other words, more testing is absolutely necessary for scientists to determine how prevalent the novel coronavirus still is. And once we have more data from more testing, we can better understand who needs to stay home, who’s safe to go out and about, and where more medical resources need to go to finally contain this pandemic.

Pandori went on to confirm that Nevada is not receiving adequate testing resources from the Trump administration (albeit using more polite language than we’re using here), but he added, “We’ve been able to secure extraction kits from private sources.” In addition, Pandori reported, “The University of Nevada, Reno [UNR], where the Nevada State Public Health Lab is stationed, is 3-D printing parts.”

Along with UNR, the Carson City Library and the Innevation Center in Reno are helping the state 3-D print test parts along with PPE for health care providers. On this 3-D printing breakthrough, Pandori declared, “You’re going to hear more about other labs doing this. We were the first to get this going.”

“How many people were infected and are infected? We still don’t know. […] As a country, we still don’t know how many are truly infected.” 
– Dr. Mark Pandori
COVID-19, coronavirus, Steve Sisolak
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae

Later in his presentation, Pandori stressed, “We have to address the public health function of testing. We have to perform intelligence.” He continued, “How many people were infected and are infected? We still don’t know. […] As a country, we still don’t know how many are truly infected.”

And if Trump and his network of political operatives get their way, we may never truly know how many were truly infected. This is why we’ve been warning all along that Nevada and America as a whole must rely on actual science instead of “what feels good” or “what my favorite politician says” or “what my favorite ‘Instagram influencer’ recommends”.

If we continue to lack sufficient testing, we won’t know the truth. We won’t know the full truth of Trump’s refusal to protect Americans from COVID-19, and we won’t know the truth on when and where it’s safe to begin reopening for business and ensuring a sustainable recovery.

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.

Cover Photo Credit: 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

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