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Las Vegas mayor says bar, restaurant closures ‘would be devastating’

As fears rise about close contact amid the coronavirus pandemic sweeping through the U.S., Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Monday pointed to another concern: service industry workers.

In major cities across the corners of America, mayors have ordered nonessential businesses such as bars and restaurants closed in efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. And on Monday, they were joined by the city of Reno.

But Goodman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that she hoped Gov. Steve Sisolak would not institute such a mandate, fearful of what it would do to small businesses and, in turn, the ability of housekeepers, restaurant staff and others to pay their bills.

“I hope that does not happen here. It would be devastating,” she said. “My hope is that the private industry rises to the top, that they’re allowed to stay open and take care of these families that are paycheck to paycheck.”

Goodman, who as recently as last week criticized the media for overplaying the coronavirus outbreak, has worried about the consequences of being overly cautious even as she acknowledged that the situation was “very volatile.”

“We really here in Las Vegas don’t compare ourselves to L.A. or New York because we are totally tourist-industry dependent,” she said.

And while Sisolak ordered schools statewide shut down Sunday, she said she had suggested that sites have thermometers at each entry point and send only “compromised” students home, concerned about the effect of school closures on families.

Unity behind city leadership

“I think the mayor is dancing a fine line between protecting the future economy of Las Vegas and being respectful of the governor and his authority,” Councilman Brian Knudsen said.

But Knudsen, who said it was “worth a discussion” to enact a local government guideline by the governor to restrict public gathering places to no more than 50 percent capacity, added it was “irrelevant” whether he agreed with the mayor’s position or not.

The underlying problem right now, he said, is that it is unclear which entities have power to enact certain recommendations — whether it be the city, Clark County, the Nevada Gaming Commission or another body.

“We all overlap significantly,” he said, adding that, regardless, it was time to unify behind leadership and not place blame during an evolving situation.

Goodman pointed to steps the city has taken thus far to mitigate issues by closing all senior centers and shutting down events for the Corporate Challenge, the largest amateur sporting event in the state.

She said there would be briefings Tuesday and more restrictions were possible.

It was believed that the city declared a state of emergency on Sunday, but Goodman said she had not officially signed the document, which she expects to do Tuesday after meeting individually with council members. Officials say they are following mandates of the federal and state government and working closely with health authorities, the county and other jurisdictions to monitor the outbreak.

“I want to commend the mayor for her leadership in thoroughly examining all the information when it comes to our attention and making the right decisions,” Councilwoman Victoria Seaman said in a statement, adding that the city has been promoting COVID-19 prevention and awareness.

More could be done?

But Councilman Cedric Crear signaled that city officials were leaving efforts on the table: He said he advised staff Monday to work remotely, a move to follow social distancing guidelines, as he pledged that his office would remain responsive to city business.

Crear said he also suspended meetings in his Ward 5 office to keep people out of City Hall and instead will confer by teleconference.

“I think it would be prudent if we all did that, but it’s not my call,” he said.

He noted that he realized the city was trying to avoid instilling fear in its constituents but said, “I think we’re past the phase of that … and I think we just have to be realistic and be responsible and batten down the hatches.”

On Wednesday, the city is expected to be the only valley jurisdiction not to cancel public meetings when it holds a regular council meeting inside council chambers.

Councilman Stavros Anthony said he nixed a public recognition for 350 kids in the mayor’s soccer tournament and will instead only announce their names. He added that he believed the city could hold meetings without risking public health, including by setting up a system for call-ins.

“I don’t want to be in a position where we are holding up projects and holding up jobs,” Anthony said about continuing with city business.

When asked why the city was bucking the trend and moving forward with a public meeting, Goodman replied with a short answer: “There’s no reason for it not to be on.”

She said plenty of hand sanitizers and public restrooms would be available, and she hoped people would carry out normal hygiene precautions.

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

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