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VICTOR JOECKS: Gov. Sisolak could start Phase 2 reopening on Saturday

According to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s own standards, Nevada is on track to begin Phase Two on Saturday. With Nevada’s economy in tatters, it’s imperative he keep the reopening process going.

Eleven days into Phase One, Nevada’s testing continues to look great. The percentage of tests coming back positive has been under 5 percent for more than a week. In April, that number frequently ranged between 13 to 15 percent. All cited coronavirus testing data is from The COVID Tracking Project and is current as of Tuesday.

On Friday, Sisolak said Nevada was “on day 20 of a downward trajectory of our cumulative percentage of people testing positive.” That number has continued to decline. Hospitals have plenty of capacity, too.

Sisolak didn’t provide many details in his “Roadmap to Recovery” plan, but this was one of them. He said the potential duration of Phase One would be “an estimated two to three weeks.” That time would give state officials the ability to see if Phase One led to an increase in hospitalizations and new cases. With just a couple days to go, it hasn’t.

Nevada has met his other criteria too. Sisolak wanted more testing in place. Done. Since May 5, Nevada has averaged more than 2,500 tests a day. In the prior three weeks, it averaged fewer than 1,000 tests a day. This is why recent triple-digit increases in positive tests don’t reflect a surge in infections. They’re a result of more testing.

Another requirement was expanding case contact tracing. The Southern Nevada Health District has increased its staff and rolled out an automated notification system. Also listed was “the ability to care for vulnerable populations.” Like so much of Sisolak’s reopening plan, that’s just a meaningless jumble of words.

Perhaps the most important reason to move Nevada forward is that Phase Two — as described — doesn’t change much.

Phase Two will be a “broader opening of commerce/retail, services and public life under extremely strict social distancing measures, hygiene and occupancy controls,” Sisolak’s plan reads. There are no specifics on what additional businesses that will include. The scant details are all about how long this phase will last. “Phase Two will consist of multiple stages” and “will likely last many weeks.”

Remember: Sisolak has separated casino reopenings from these phases. Most casinos are preparing to reopen before or on June 1. As it stands now, restrictions on public gatherings won’t be eased until Phase Three. This means casinos will likely reopen before Sisolak allows churches to meet. Yes, that’s a First Amendment violation. It’s not constitutional to ban a congregation from gathering inside a church building while also allowing its members to go into a casino.

Sisolak isn’t responsible for coronavirus, but he contributes to Nevada’s economic destruction by needlessly extending lockdown orders. If testing continues to look good, Sisolak should follow his own plan and open up more of Nevada on Saturday.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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