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As Nevada coronavirus cases fall, King Sisolak readies new restrictions

The daily growth in Nevada’s coronavirus cases appears to have peaked. Steve Sisolak, our governor-turned-king, is preparing to put new restrictions into effect anyway.

Over the past two months, Nevada has seen a surge in coronavirus cases. This wasn’t just a function of increased testing. In late May, around 3 percent of the state’s coronavirus tests came back positive. As of this week, the positivity rate is more than 10 percent. That’s not great, but it is a noticeable decline from the mid-July rate of almost 16 percent.

Nevada calculates these numbers using a seven-day rolling average.

The raw number of people testing positive each day is going down as well. In mid-July, Nevada frequently saw more than 1,100 new cases a day. On Tuesday, that figure fell to 548, the smallest increase in a month. The bad news is that deaths are a lagging indicator. Expect an increase in deaths even as the number of cases declines.

What’s encouraging is that Nevada isn’t alone in experiencing a decrease. Every neighboring state has seen a decrease in daily cases from a peak that hit sometime during July.

This should be cause for cautious optimism. The worst appears to be over, and Nevada still has plenty of hospital capacity. Five months ago, this was the universal goal. Remember, “flatten the curve” never meant an elimination of all infections.

Nevada is on the verge of success. Bizarrely, His Royal Highness Sisolak wants to place new restrictions on Clark County residents — starting Friday. You probably don’t realize this is coming because the governor is forcing counties to do his dirty work.

Last week, he announced that if counties fall short in certain areas, they must prepare new restrictions. Clark County was one of the eight Nevada counties identified as being at elevated risk. Now it looks inevitable that the state will flag Clark County again.

Here are the options Sisolak gave county officials. They can either restrict specific activities that contact tracing has identified as high-risk. Or they can reduce the capacity of restaurants, gyms and pools to 25 percent. Regardless, the limit for public gatherings must go from 50 to 25. That’s the least restrictive option.

If government bureaucrats think a higher level of lockdown is necessary, county officials can take licenses from non-complying businesses. Sisolak even threatened to return Nevada to Phase 1 restrictions. That includes a 10-person limit on gathering size and the forced closure of “non-essential businesses.”

Don’t be fooled, though. Casinos and larger construction projects won’t be shut down no matter how many positive cases can be traced to them. Every king requires tribute … er, campaign contributions.

Another lockdown would be devastating to Nevadans. As of June, Nevada had the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the country. Further restricting businesses would exacerbate the damage.

Perhaps there’s a chance that Sisolak will — once again — change his mind. He should. Nevada’s improving coronavirus numbers don’t justify another shut down.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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