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EDITORIAL: Sisolak hints at more lockdowns to come

Gov. Steve Sisolak did Nevada businesses no favor on Tuesday when he threatened to mandate more economic constraints if the state doesn’t slow the advance of the coronavirus. He urged Nevadans to stay at home for the near future.

“Nevadans need to accept and understand this reality now and change their behaviors immediately,” the governor said. “In the next two weeks, we must see a significant reversal of the current trends, which are deeply concerning now.” He later added, “I don’t want to take stronger action. I do not want to implement more restrictions. I want this to improve, and we can make it improve if everyone helps.”

Gov. Sisolak has had the misfortune to be leading the state during perhaps its most challenging time. The pandemic has forced him to make difficult choices. But creating massive uncertainty is detrimental to business owners and workers. And the implication that Nevadans are responsible for the fact that the pandemic still rages is unfortunate.

“My employees are wearing masks when they come in,” Kevin Mills, senior partner of the Omelet House on West Charleston, told the Review-Journal. “They get their temperatures taken before they put down their purses. There are sanitizing stations all over the restaurant. We’ve practiced 6-foot social distancing. We’ve reduced the capacity. If that’s not effective, then what the heck is? What more does he want us to do?”

Other business owners were similarly dispirited. “What’s the plan?” asked restaurateur Marc Marrone. “I’m, candidly, a little frustrated. You know, the first time, fine. No one saw that coming. But we all knew winter was coming.”

Certainty has been but one casualty of the pandemic, yet bouncing between lockdowns and re-openings is a recipe for disaster. Nor is there any evidence that more shutdowns would be worth the increased economic carnage. As cold weather approaches, virus numbers have increased throughout the country, regardless of the various containment tactics that have been tried for the past nine months.

Contrary to the governor’s assertion, Nevadans have been doing their part. Social distancing is common in most public spaces. Masks are ubiquitous in virtually every business. The vast majority of proprietors have been responsible citizens, demanding that customers adhere to necessary protocols.

Gov. Sisolak admitted this summer that his one-size-fits-all second lockdown was probably a mistake. Businesses particularly in the hospitality and gaming industries have spent millions in good-faith efforts to comply with previous edicts. Rather than threaten to repeat the error at the expense of thousands of businesses and workers, regulators should take a more targeted approach intended to identify establishments not complying with common-sense precautions.

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