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Las Vegas, Clark County say they’re ready for coronavirus

Updated March 4, 2020 - 2:27 pm

As local governments impacted by the coronavirus are declaring states of emergency, Las Vegas and Clark County officials say they are prepared to deal with an outbreak if one occurs here.

“Just wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said during Wednesday’s City Council meeting. “But don’t panic.”

City Manager Scott Adams told the council that Las Vegas had pulled together a team of senior city officials to evaluate the city’s emergency management plans and revise them to react to a health crisis that has already roiled cities in Los Angeles County, Washington and Florida.

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“Our whole goal is simply to plan ahead and make sure the city’s in a position to be responsive should we need to be,” Adams said.

The team of senior city officials will meet weekly and be led by Tim Hacker, the city’s chief of public safety services.

“Nothing to be alarmed about yet,” Adams said. “Certainly we’ve not experienced anything yet.”

Governments in Los Angeles County and states of Washington and Florida have declared public health emergencies as cases have been confirmed. No cases have been yet announced in Nevada, although the state’s top medical official said Monday it was only a matter of time.

While the prospect has stirred public anxiety, leading people to hoard food and water and boosting business for grocery delivery and housing cleaning services, local government officials are stressing the basics of prevention.

The World Health Organization advises to keep hands clean, avoid touching your face and stay at least three feet from anyone coughing or sneezing.

On Tuesday, University Medical Center CEO Mason VanHouweling told the Clark County Commission that the hospital was “not tracking anybody at this point.” But UMC is prepared, he said, with 56 isolation rooms as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assessment and treatment facility.

VanHouweling said that testing for coronavirus is now able to occur in the state, allowing health officials to turn tests around within 3½ hours and diagnose, screen and isolate patients more quickly than was the case when it had to send specimens to CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

The hospital is “very confident in our readiness plan,” he said, and has been working closely with partners throughout the state, including the Southern Nevada Health District, McCarran International Airport and Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office.

“I want people to feel super comfortable that we are well-ready,” said Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who is also the vice chair of the health district board.

While the coronavirus has commandeered attention in recent months, killing 11 in the U.S. as of Wednesday afternoon, VanHouweling warned not to forget about another deadly virus: the flu.

There have been about 1,250 patients hospitalized in Southern Nevada since the flu season began in December, he said. On Monday, the health district reported 35 flu deaths in the county over the same period.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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