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Las Vegas mayor ‘cautiously pleased’ as casinos reopen

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said Monday that she was “cautiously pleased” about the recent reopening of Nevada casinos following nearly three months of closure.

But she warned that a broken unemployment system and the threat of a spike in COVID-19 cases rolling back progress are reasons to remain concerned.

“While I’m pleased that we’re reopening gradually … it’s going to be a slow crawl back here,” Goodman said by phone, referring to the economic rebound after a statewide shutdown to slow the spread of the virus.

She said job losses had been her “biggest concern” from the beginning, and she lamented that many workers still cannot get through to the state unemployment system. She also is worried that a second wave of the virus could prompt Gov. Steve Sisolak to pull back on Phase Two of reopening plans.

“I just think you have to assess everyday” and try to remain positive and realistic, Goodman said.

Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said in an interview Monday that a sharp uptick in cases, similar to the one seen when testing capabilities grow, is expected following casino reopenings Thursday.

“There’ll be a spike like you’ve seen around the world, but we’re prepared for it,” she said.

Stay the course

Kirkpatrick, who represents urban counties on the state-created Local Empowerment Advisory Panel, which conducts research and makes recommendations to the governor’s office, added that the whole point of the “slow and methodical” approach to reopening is to not have to reverse course.

“The statewide thought is as long as our (COVID-19 case) growth rate isn’t rising too fast and we have the capacity within the (hospital) beds, that’s huge,” she said, adding that efforts to create bed space and expand testing have been key in addressing a surge that began to roil America in the spring.

The county hospitalization rate continued to decline, and the number of new cases was below last week’s average, according to data posted Monday by the Southern Nevada Health District.

“I mean, it’s going to be a long time before we get back to normal,” Kirkpatrick said, pointing out that an economic recovery could take anywhere from 18 to 36 months.

Going to lunch

Meanwhile, Goodman said she was not surprised to see an eventful past weekend in Las Vegas as casinos reopened their doors.

“I knew on the roads we were going to be packed,” she said.

On Friday, she met friends for lunch at a city restaurant, and she said that beyond the social distancing requirements and the people donning face masks, it felt no different than usual.

Goodman, who has been perhaps the most visible critic of statewide shutdown plans and who drew swift rebuke from fellow elected officials and others for controversial statements made on national television interviews, declined to say whether she would support state measures to roll back openings if necessary.

She said she cannot judge how Sisolak responds because she is not involved in his decision-making and does not know what information he is receiving, so she “couldn’t even speak to that.”

But as Las Vegas begins the return to normalcy, she said she was “thrilled” for those who have gotten back to work and for those small-business owners who have sustained themselves through the crunch.

Still, without a coronavirus vaccine available, she will remain cautious yet optimistic about how it all plays out.

“If you never leave home for the rest of your life, you’ll never have germs … but I don’t think that’s realistic for anybody,” she said.

Goodman said she is urging business owners to assume a similar approach, suggesting that they save money, “move ahead cautiously” and not “run straight into the fire.”

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

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