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Outgoing MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren to lead coronavirus task force

Updated March 22, 2020 - 9:41 pm

Outgoing MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren has been named leader of a new public-private partnership meant to help distribute resources to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Murren’s new role on a Facebook Live stream Sunday afternoon.

“It is inevitable that we will need to rely on both government and businesses to see us through this crisis in the best way possible,” Sisolak said. “It’s on us as Nevadans to tackle this, and that requires some out-of-the-box and proactive approaches.”

One hour before Sisolak’s announcement, MGM released a statement saying COO and President Bill Hornbuckle would replace Murren as acting CEO.

Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force

The COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force will be overseen by Sisolak’s office and the Nevada Health Response Center.

The group will assess resources available in the private sector — including physical assets and human capital — and organize their deployment to support the state and its health response center’s efforts to tackle COVID-19.

Sisolak said the effort will help expand the capacity of Nevada’s health care system, enhance and provide additional access to resources, support the state’s medical professionals and first responders, and give Nevada the additional help it needs to “flatten the curve” by keeping the spread of the disease at a manageable level.

Those efforts could be essential for some Nevadans. For every 17 people likely to be hospitalized by the virus, the state has only one staffed bed at its short-term acute care and critical access hospitals, according to a Review-Journal data analysis. The majority of these beds already are occupied, making availability even more scarce.

As of Sunday, Nevada’s count of positive COVID-19 cases jumped to 190.

Murren’s new role

Sisolak said Murren approached him with the idea to create a public-private partnership.

“There’s nothing more important right now than helping our state and each other through this crisis,” Murren said in a statement from the Nevada Health Response Center. “When we defeat this pandemic, I am confident that our state will come roaring back as we have from the great hardships of the past.”

Murren will serve as chair of the task force in an unpaid, voluntary position and already has started to put together its leadership.

The group’s work will begin immediately and focus on “a plethora of issues” the state faces amid the coronavirus outbreak, including layoffs and a shortage of medical supplies such as face masks.

The task force “can open doors that otherwise I as a governor cannot open up,” Sisolak said. “We cannot get enough equipment and resources from the federal government, that is clear. … We’re on our own as well to try to acquire as many of these assets and resources as we can.”

Sisolak said Murren is fit to lead such a group, pointing to his contacts in Asia, his relationship with Vice President Mike Pence — who is helping lead the country’s efforts to combat the virus — and “extensive and deep” relationships with a variety of industries, including the casino and hospitality industry.

“It’s going to take all of us working together to battle COVID-19 in our state and around the country, and I’m thankful we have an ally in Jim Murren who can enhance and expand our response and recovery efforts,” Sisolak said. “This public-private partnership represents the best of Nevada, the belief that when we all work together we can tackle anything.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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