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Gov. Sisolak says state preparing for coronavirus, not panicking

Updated February 28, 2020 - 5:58 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak and state and local officials presented a united front Friday in Las Vegas to reassure a jittery public that necessary steps are being taken in Nevada to guard against the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We’re going to prepare, not panic,” Sisolak said of plans underway to prepare for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus that emerged in China.

“We’re going to choose collaboration over chaos,” the governor said at a news conference at the Sawyer Building, where he was flanked by two dozen state and local health officials, elected officials and tribal representatives.

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Public health officials at the news conference stressed that Nevada has no confirmed cases of the disease, while three people have been tested through a state laboratory for the coronavirus and all were negative. Following the briefing, state epidemiologist Melissa Peek-Bullock said an additional four people in Nevada had been tested at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laboratory, and they, too, were negative for the virus.

“Our capacity to test right now is in the order of several hundred specimens, with the ability to obtain more chemicals to perform more testing from CDC in the next couple of weeks,” said Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada State Public Health Lab.

“We have trained several staff members in the public health laboratory to run this test so that we can minimize what is called the turnaround time,” he said.

Peek-Bullock estimated following the briefing that more than 200 people statewide are being monitored for the virus after traveling in China and have been asked to self-quarantine.

California officials on Thursday announced the state has 33 confirmed cases and that some 8,400 individuals are being monitored for symptoms.

In response to a reporter’s question whether Nevada would consider restricting travel from California, the governor said,”We’re not anticipating ever banning tourists coming in from California. We’re not building a wall.”

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Sisolak and other officials emphasized that state and local agencies are coordinating their planning and response efforts, but provided few details.

“Today, I’ve brought together state, local, and tribal partners who are working incredibly hard to monitor and prepare for the situation,” the governor said.

He urged the public to take commonsense steps to guard against the disease, including frequently washing their hands.

“Washing your hands regularly and thoroughly is still the single most effective way to prevent the spread of all communicable diseases,” he said.

Nevada health officials briefed lawmakers last week on the status of state preparations, telling members of a legislative committee that the virus could be contained.

Public health officials in Southern Nevada also have stressed there is no need to panic, noting that the risk in the U.S. of contracting COVID-19 remains low. And plans already in place for addressing public health emergencies are being refined to respond to the threat, they said.

There have been at least 63 cases of COVID19 in the U.S., including 44 in passengers from the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise ship.

There have been more than 84,000 COVID-19 cases worldwide, most of them in China, and the virus has spread to more than 64 other countries, with cases rapidly increasing in South Korea, Italy and Iran.

About 80 percent of documented cases have been mild so far, but the virus has led to more than 2,800 deaths.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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