Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Thursday plans to begin gradually lifting stay-at-home orders and business closures.
Sisolak says according to recent testing data, the measures appear to have been successful.
“We reached what appears to be a peak on April 24 and that rate has been declining since that time,” he said.
With that in mind, Sisolak introduced the Nevada United: Roadmap To Recovery, which will chart a gradual course to restoring normalcy in the Silver State. The plan will include relaxed social distancing orders and also allow county officials to tailor some restrictions to suit their jurisdictions. But he doesn’t expect to begin the first phase of reopening until after stay at home orders are scheduled to be lifted on May 15.
Those orders have been met with backlash by conservative protesters and public officials, including Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, she begged for casinos to be reopened and her city to be used as a test case for economic recovery from the novel coronavirus.
Sisolak expressed sympathy with residents who are feeling frustrated by the disruptions to business and their everyday lives, but cautioned that if the state were to reopen all at once, cases of COVID-19 could easily spike.
“Because we’ve done such a good job, the threat of COVID-19 feels distant and abstract,” he said. “But I have the unfortunate responsibility to remind all of us that the threat remains real.”
Before the recovery plan can begin, Sisolak says the state needs to meet a series of benchmarks. Those include a decrease in the trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations over a 14-day period, as well as building “sufficient public health workforce capacity” for contact tracing.
But a recent NPR investigation found Nevada has just 2.5 contact tracers per 100,000 residents — far fewer than the ratio of 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents recommended to respond to a pandemic.
Contact tracing, which involves identifying every person a COVID-19 patient came in contact with, can help limit a pandemic’s spread by allowing health officials to isolate people who are at high risk of spreading the disease. It also helps them predict where spikes might happen.
When asked about the gap, Sisolak told CapRadio the state is working to retrain private employees so they can step into the role and identify people who might have been exposed to COVID-19.
“We are working with some of our business [and] industry partners, who have offered up some of their employees that are currently being paid but these properties are not open," Sisolak said. Call center type employees, to train and help them get onto the contact tracing.”
Once the conditions for phase one of the recovery plan have been met, Sisolak also plans to include county elected officials in planning and implementation.
“Responsible county governments, with their knowledge of unique communities and their existing local licensing and regulatory structures, are in the best position to execute the gradual reopening of the businesses and public life of their local residents,” he said.
Sisolak announced the formation of a Local Empowerment Advisory Panel, which will coordinate recovery efforts between state and local officials. The panel will be led by Clark County Commission chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrck, who will represent urban counties, and Eureka County Commission chair J.J. Goicoechea, who will advocate for rural parts of the state.
“It would be a disservice to the residents and businesses in our state to pretend like Esmeralda County is the same as Nye County, or that Clark is the same as Elko,” Sisolak said. “They’re not! And that’s okay.”
But the process of reopening the state is not likely to end quickly, Sisolak cautioned. Each phase will last at least two weeks, to allow officials time to monitor their progress. For now, the governor doesn’t have an estimate of how many phases there will be.
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