Updated March 17, 2021 - 6:17 pm
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman on Wednesday ratcheted up her longstanding criticisms of public health restrictions enacted by Gov. Steve Sisolak, saying that gubernatorial emergency power left open-ended “smacks of tyranny” and that personal liberties should be restored.
“Nevadans and Americans are smart enough to understand what is at stake and make appropriate choices for themselves and their families,” Goodman said, reading from prepared remarks and speaking from the public lectern during the City Council meeting.
Sisolak has issued emergency directives throughout the pandemic to slow the spread of the virus, regulating crowd size, businesses, schools, activities and more. His authority to do so is found in state law.
But one year to the date since Sisolak ordered all nonessential businesses to close, Goodman chose to deliver a rebuke of a reopening in Nevada that has come more gradually than she would like.
Sisolak largely avoided responding directly to her criticisms Wednesday evening, acknowledging that moves made over the past year “have not been easy decisions,” but he said they were guided by scientific data available at the time.
Sisolak predicted the economy will rebound and stores will reopen but said public health has been his priority.
“That kitchen chair — when you have Easter dinner or Thanksgiving dinner — that’s empty because you lost a loved one to COVID, that person’s not coming back,” he said.
Goodman still stews
The mayor, who has faced considerable scrutiny for underplaying the seriousness of the pandemic, appeared to reference CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, with whom she had a viral interview last year, during her remarks in the morning. She also lamented the effects of school closures on students and questioned the connection between shutting down the state and saving lives.
“One must also ask, if masks and social distancing are sufficient now to slowing the spread of this virus, would that not have been sufficient a full year ago?” she said.
Goodman noted that the COVID-19 death rate per capita was lower in Texas and Florida — two states that imposed relatively moderate safety precautions during the pandemic — than in more strongly regulated states such as Nevada, Michigan and New York.
But stay-at-home orders with public mask mandates, case investigations and contact tracing are effective in reducing cases, hospitalizations and deaths, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study in November.
Land of the free?
As vaccines roll out to more and more people in Nevada, soon to include those 16 years and older, all major disease metrics have been steadily declining in the state even as Sisolak continues to loosen restrictions.
When Nevada started to undo regulations in the fall, cases and hospitalizations surged, leading Sisolak to enact a “statewide pause” that prompted Goodman to call him a “dictator” in an interview with the Review-Journal.
Goodman on Wednesday echoed her previous calls to open businesses without restrictions to protect workers and the local economy.
“America is the land of the free, but Americans in some states, not all, have been forced to subjugate their freedoms to the will of a single individual, seemingly in perpetuity,” she said. “There is apparently no sunset on emergency powers bestowed to some governors, which smacks of tyranny.”
Some Republicans have called for limiting or reviewing the governor’s emergency powers, and have introduced bills in the Legislature to do so.
Review-Journal staff writer Colton Lochhead contributed to this report.