Tonight, we watched and listened in as Governor Steve Sisolak provided an update for Nevadans on how the state is coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. We also watched as Rep. Susie Lee (D-Las Vegas) held a virtual town hall to discuss how Nevada schools and the larger community are coping with this crisis. Here’s what went down a little earlier.
“We are at war with an invisible invader, and we don’t know how it will play out. We are working as feverishly fast as we can.”
– Rep. Susie Lee
Earlier in the afternoon, Rep. Susie Lee held another virtual town hall, this time with Nevada PTA President Rebecca Garcia to discuss the transition to virtual learning and federal efforts to assist students and local school districts. During the Facebook Live session(s), Lee acknowledged that “we still don’t have enough [COVID-19] testing,” but promised that the Families First Act (Congress’ second COVID-19 relief package) will ultimately deliver expanded access for testing.
Lee also addressed the third relief package, the CARES Act. On the $6 trillion “Phase Three” legislation, Lee noted, “What’s most important is that it provides $31 billion [in K-12 public school aid], $3.5 billion for early child development grants, $750 million for Head Start, and $15.8 billion for SNAP.”
Perhaps in response to criticism that the three relief bills do not provide enough relief to the people who need the most help, Lee responded, “We are literally putting the airplane together as we’re flying it. […] We are at war with an invisible invader, and we don’t know how it will play out. We are working as feverishly fast as we can.” She then added, “There will be another package: CARES 2.0,” which she said will extend small business aid and unemployment insurance expansion along with providing more aid to students and schools.
“We need to diversify our economy. We are at such risk because we’re so dependent on tourism.”
– Rep. Susie Lee
Bringing it closer to home, Lee praised Governor Steve Sisolak (D) for taking action quickly: “The Governor took bold action on March 17 by shutting down non-essential businesses. He took critical action to flatten the curve, to ensure that our medical system won’t be overburdened.”
She then pointed to a new Moody’s Analytics forecast that projects Nevada to be hardest hit by the “coronavirus recession” as she again promised more aid in a fourth relief package. In response to a question over whether Congress will send CCSD and other school districts funding to provide internet access and internet enabled devices to bridge the “digital divide” hitting working poor students, Lee promised, “We’re getting the funding in there. It’s just a matter of getting it from Washington to here.”
On questions of small business aid and unemployment insurance, Lee stressed, “The incentive in these packages is to keep people on their payrolls. We want these businesses to get that aid and put people back to work.” On complaints that Nevada can’t process all the new unemployment claims, Lee called for patience as state and federal officials work to smooth out the process and begin providing the additional $600 weekly assistance (on top of previously set benefits).
Later in the program, Lee called on Nevada to think beyond just this crisis and focus on building a more sustainable future. Hearkening back to that Moody’s Analytics forecast, Lee stressed, “We need to diversify our economy. We are at such risk because we’re so dependent on tourism.” She continued, “We need to prioritize education. We can only diversify our economy with an educated workforce.”
“This isn’t the time to hold an Easter dinner with 23 relatives you rarely ever see. This is not the time to do Easter dinner, with this heightened risk of transmission.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Soon after Lee’s presentation, Sisolak held a virtual press conference and public briefing. He went through a detailed presentation that included an updated count of 1,953 positively tested COVID-19 patients and 58 COVID-19 related deaths. Sisolak also noted that Nevada currently has 838 ventilators statewide, 332 ventilators are currently in use, federal officials promise 450 more ventilators at least 72 hours before Nevada’s expected “surge” in need, and that 44% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients are currently using ventilators.
Sisolak then stated that over 1 million PPE (or personal protective equipment) items have been distributed to hospitals, but he also admitted that Nevada’s PPE supply is still at the “yellow” cautionary level. And while Sisolak noted progress in securing promises of additional federal assistance, he tacitly admitted that Nevada continues to suffer alongside most other states as President Donald Trump and his administration continue to refuse to acknowledge the severity of this crisis. Case in point: The federal government has only given the state components that state medical workers have had to assemble into functioning test kits.
On questions of when Nevada will hit its peak of COVID-19 positively tested patients and necessary hospitalizations, Sisolak pointed to various models suggesting any time from next week to mid-June. He then reiterated that in order for Nevada to “flatten the curve” sooner, “The biggest way to make this happen is to ‘Stay Home for Nevada’. That doesn’t mean holding an Easter dinner with ten guests or having eight kids play a basketball game [at the park].”
Towards the end, Sisolak shared a personal story to better illustrate that despite the overall progress in “flattening the curve”, just enough stubborn holdouts can further exacerbate this crisis. “My wife and I have been invited to several Easter dinner [parties], and I’m wondering what they’re thinking,” Sisolak vented. He continued, “This isn’t the time to hold an Easter dinner with 23 relatives you rarely ever see. This is not the time to do Easter dinner, with this heightened risk of transmission.”
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 District, Washoe County Health District, Carson 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.
This story was updated at 8:00 PM to include the State of Nevada’s updated COVID-19 patient statistics.