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Homeland Security secretary talks business with Las Vegas leaders

Reopening businesses. Encouraging travel and tourism. Keeping Americans safe.

They’re not mutually exclusive, and it’s that economic and public health balancing act that Chad Wolf, acting Secretary of Homeland Security, discussed with Las Vegas business leaders during a round table discussion Thursday at The Venetian.

Wolf said after the gathering that he heard from Southern Nevadans about the steps they’re taking to reopen casinos and businesses safely, “and my message to them is the administration is here to support you.”

Wolf said he offered business leaders “all the support and all the resources we can. And what we’re hearing from them is they are taking extraordinary steps to make sure the facilities and their casinos are as safe as possible” and comply with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

In traveling around the country, Wolf said the consistent message he hears from business people is that “COVID-19 is a little bit of a game changer, but we have to get on with our lives and just make sure our customers are comfortable with the adjustments we’re making.”

Las Vegas’ economy is dependent on tourism, said Wolf, who oversees the Transportation Security Administration, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which is coordinating the federal government’s coronavirus response effort.

But even against the backrop of the pandemic, “there are still ways that (Americans) could travel. You could come to Las Vegas and any metropolitan city and be safe.”

Wolf said the spikes now being seen in states that have ratcheted back pandemic restrictions are “not necessarily” a function of having reopened too soon. Rather, he said, “are they continuing to adhere to those mitigation and social distancing measures that the (CDC) guidelines lay out? So as we open restaurants and bars, do you do that in a safe environment versus packing hundreds of folks together?

“I don’t think it’s a matter of opening too soon. It’s making sure that as you open that you have the local community (and) the local elected officials all saying the same message, which is ‘We need open up and we need to do that safely.“

Contact John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.

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