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Sisolak to Nevada: “No Mask, No Service”

Earlier tonight, Governor Steve Sisolak and other state officials unveiled a new sign: “No Shirt. No Shoes. No Mask. No Service.” It’s official now: Masks are required beginning tomorrow morning. 

Here’s what else you need to know about Sisolak’s big announcement.

Yes, COVID-19 is on the rise again. No, Donald Trump’s “jokes” are no laughing matter.

In Tulsa last Saturday, then again at the White House on Tuesday, President Donald Trump endorsed “slowing down” COVID-19 testing. As Trump put it himself, “By having more tests, we find more cases. […] Testing is a double-edged sword.” 

As Maya Angelou once advised Oprah Winfrey, “When people show you who they are, believe them.” Long before Donald Trump began running for president in 2015, his rap sheet had already grown long. None of us should have been surprised that Trump used the pandemic to boost his own public image, and none of us should be surprised that Trump would rather convince us to buy into his masterful illusion of success than notice the harsh reality of failure, hardship, and death

As we’ve been warning since March, the White House’s continuing refusal to implement a (fully funded) national testing program, the state’s and overall nation’s ongoing shortage of proper contact tracing, the many shortcomings of America’s health care system, and the refusal by far too many governmental and business “leaders” to admit to the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic have all converged to form this horrifying American tragedy. And now, the White House is officially implementing Trump’s goal to “slow down” testing, just as current testing indicates a frightening resurgence in COVID-19 infections across the nation.

According to the state’s official COVID-19 database and The Nevada Independent’s running tally, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate has rebounded to 5.69% after falling to a new low of 5.22% earlier this month, and the seven-day test positivity average has just surpassed the 10% maximum benchmark that the World Health Organization set for safe reopening. While the death toll remains fairly steady at 494 (for now?), hospitalizations, ICU occupancy, and ventilator use are on the rise again.

“Everyone is mandated to wear a mask.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, coronavirus
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

Shortly after his press conference began, Governor Steve Sisolak didn’t hold back: “Unfortunately, we’ve taken steps backwards.” He continued, “We’ve seen a spike in positive cases, and we have to ask everyone to do what they can to keep everyone safe.”

Sisolak then faulted everyone, including himself (it’s a long story on what he did at a Henderson restaurant earlier this month), for not taking enough necessary precautions. So going forward, when going outside and when frequenting any and all businesses, “Everyone is mandated to wear a mask,” Sisolak stated.

When asked by reporters how this will work, Sisolak stressed, “I am hoping they understand the severity of the situation and voluntarily wear masks. We will use educational methods and utilize state agencies if they don’t comply.” Earlier in the program, Sisolak said, “This is a mandate, so enforcement language is necessary. […] The last thing I want is monetary or criminal penalties to be imposed upon Nevadans, so I ask everyone to follow these directives.”

“It’s really discouraging that this is becoming a partisan issue. This is not about the president. This is about our health and well being.” 
– Governor Steve Sisolak
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

And yet, since this is a new mandate, enforcement actions may soon be needed, especially if we see even more of the refusal to social distance that has defined the last three weeks of the Las Vegas Strip’s “grand reopening”. And as long as Donald Trump continues to declare mask-wearing to be some sort of Antifa/“Never Trump” act of defiance, such simple precautionary measures will continue to be heralded by cable and internet pundits as America’s latest and greatest culture war battlefront.

While Sisolak wasn’t quite as blunt as Bruce Springsteen was on his SiriusXM show last week, he did declare, “I want to get to 95% of people understanding that this is in their best interest.” He continued, “Other people wear masks for you. You should wear a mask for them.”

Sisolak then lamented, “It’s really discouraging that this is becoming a partisan issue. This is not about the president. This is about our health and well being.”

“Any discussion of moving into Phase Three will be tabled.” 
– 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

So what other news did Sisolak just make tonight? For one, “Any discussion of moving into Phase Three will be tabled.” Or in other words, after Nevada moving quickly to reopen a number of businesses in May and early June, Sisolak made clear that not only should Trump avoid scheduling any campaign rallies here any time soon, but that the Strip casino resorts should also hold off on plans to reopen nightclubs and relaunch theater shows.

On that note, Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International were quick to praise Sisolak’s new mask mandate, and Caesars Entertainment already moved to mandate masks at all their reopened properties. Yet for the last three weeks, Nevada’s tourism sector has experienced the worst in both worlds: severe drops in consumer spending, yet just enough consumers returning to cause the current spike in COVID-19 infections… Including that one restaurant in Summerlin featuring a Real Housewives of Orange County star, O.J. Simpson, and three workers testing positive for COVID-19.

So when can we expect more and better contact tracing? When asked about Covid Act Now’s description of the state’s contact tracing program as “insufficient to stop the spread of COVID-19”, Sisolak and state health officials stressed that they’re working around the clock to maintain and grow Nevada’s contact tracing efforts. The state currently has 400 contact tracers, but Covid Act Now says the state needs 1,670 to trace and isolate new infections within 48 hours.

“This is not a normal recession. This state went from its economic peak to its economic trough in a matter of weeks.” 
– Governor Steve Sisolak
U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen Join Governor Steve Sisolak to Discuss the Affordable Care Act and Health Care in Nevada at First Person Care Clinic in Las Vegas: Photo by Andrew Davey

So when can we expect further action on pressing matters like the state’s eviction moratorium that’s set to expire next Tuesday, and the state budget that’s now approaching a $1.27 billion deficit for the fiscal year beginning next Wednesday? While he didn’t officially announce an extension of the eviction moratorium or a date for the Nevada Legislature’s special session to begin, Sisolak again promised imminent announcements on both items.

During the program, Sisolak noted, “This is not a normal recession. This state went from its economic peak to its economic trough in a matter of weeks. We had to cease activity in order to save lives.” And after calling this COVID-19-induced recession “unprecedented” and “uncharted”, he called for a united front to wear masks, practice social distancing, and trust science rather than political fan fiction.

Photo by Andrew Davey

As Sisolak put it, “I am asking Nevadans to unify to move forward. Let’s do what’s necessary, not just to keep our economy open, but to go full throttle into our future safely.”

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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