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Sisolak says experts will guide decision to lift COVID-19 shutdown order

Updated April 17, 2020 - 9:31 am

CARSON CITY — Gov. Steve Sisolak said Thursday it’s still too early to know when the state’s COVID-19 shutdown orders could be lifted or when businesses could start to reopen their doors.

“I cannot end the shutdown until I feel confident that we’re in a good position as it relates to the spread of the virus,” Sisolak said at a news conference.

As the mandated closure of nonessential businesses in Nevada nears the one-month mark, some elected officials have started to pressure Sisolak to reopen the economy or provide more details about when he plans to do that.

On Wednesday, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman once again called for Sisolak to open the state for economic purposes, calling his decision last month to close nonessential businesses order “total insanity.” And state Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, sent Sisolak a letter Thursday asking for clarity on a variety of questions about the governor’s plans for reopening businesses.

Responding to Goodman’s criticism, Sisolak questioned where the mayor was getting the information amid the current coronavirus pandemic “because none of my experts have given me anywhere near that information,” he said.

“Some people are more concerned with the business side of this than the human toll that this virus is taking,” the governor said. “The human toll is the most important to me. I am listening, and I will repeat this as many times as you’d like me to, to medical experts, to my scientific experts, and determining what is in the best interest of this community.”

As of Thursday evening, the Nevada Health Response reported that 142 Nevadans had died from the virus.

The governor’s current shutdown and stay-at-home orders are set to expire April 30. States such as New York have extended their shutdowns into mid-May. Groups of states in the Northeast, Midwest and along the West Coast have formed compacts to reopen their respective economies together only when all of the states included are ready. Nevada has not yet joined any such compact.

President Donald Trump on Thursday told governors that they could start reopening businesses and loosening other COVID-19 related restrictions by May 1 or earlier but that the decision would ultimately be up to the individual states. Earlier in the week Trump had said that “the President of the United States calls the shots” when it comes to easing those restrictions.

Asked about possibly extending his orders to shut down schools and nonessential businesses and keep Nevadans at home as much as possible, Sisolak said he and his staff would provide more information next week.

“As soon as we finalize our state-specific plan to reopen, I will be right here, telling you exactly how we are going to do it,” the governor said.

He commended Nevadans for staying home during the current shutdown, citing Nevada’s COVID-19 Community Mobility Report from Google that uses location data to show the changes in traffic to stores, parks and more.

But he cautioned that reopening the economy too early would undo any progress made in combating the virus.

“If we reopen, and we’re not ready with the best plan possible, all the incredible work that you’ve done, all the hard work that you’ve done to this point will be wasted. We will run the risk of hurting the economy even more,” Sisolak said.

When it comes time to lift restrictions, Sisolak said not to expect a drastic jump back into normal life, but rather a slow shift that allows the state to track potential hiccups.

“How the plan would be orchestrated, as I’ve said all along, would be in a very gradual manner, that restrictions would slowly be released or relieved a little bit,” Sisolak said. “It’s not going to be just flip on a light switch and everything goes back to normal because that’s not how we’re doing things here.”

Testing inequality

Sisolak said data shows that the minorities facing socioeconomic disadvantages, namely the Hispanic, black and Native American populations, in the state are not being tested for COVID-19 at the same rate as others.

“For me, that is a big problem, and we will have to work to correct that problem,” Sisolak said.

Sisolak said he deployed the rapid-testing machines that were sent by the federal government to the local health authorities in Clark and Washoe counties, Carson City, Winnemucca and Elko.

“These rapid tests can go into populations previously that may not have had access to testing,” Sisolak said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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