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VICTOR JOECKS: Gov. Sisolak could start Phase 3 reopening on Friday

According to the standard he laid out last month, Gov. Steve Sisolak could start Phase Three on Friday. Given his hypocritical support of protesters who violate the limits he placed on group gatherings, it’s the least he could do.

Sisolak started Phase Two of Nevada’s coronavirus reopening on May 29. That included reopening gyms, bars, water parks and movie theaters with capcity caps. The governor increased the limit on group sizes at various locations, including churches, to 50 people. As it turned out, the group-size limit didn’t apply to his favored political causes. Sisolak thanked the hundreds — and on some days thousands — of people who came together to protest George Floyd’s killing.

“Phase Two will last two to three weeks as we monitor the data and evaluate trends and progress,” Sisolak wrote in a statement announcing his plan.

The data continues to look great. For the past month, fewer than 6 percent of tests have yielded positive results. In April, the percentage of positive tests was around 13 percent. Nevada’s daily number of cases has gone up, but that’s the result of expanded testing. In April, the daily average of coronavirus tests was 1,000. In June, the state has averaged more than 4,500 tests a day.

Sisolak references the cumulative test positivity rate. On the day Phase Two began, May 29, it was 6.1 percent. On Tuesday, it was 5.5 percent.

These numbers are especially encouraging because Nevadans have been going out much more than they did two months ago. Restaurants now offer indoor dining. Casinos reopened Thursday. Black Lives Matter rallies of more than 50 people have occurred throughout Phase Two.

Things are going so well that DMV offices are reopening on Monday. This is Sisolak’s Nevada: Throw open the DMV and casinos, but keep cracking down on churches.

If the data continues to look positive, starting Phase Three on Friday is a no-brainer. Sisolak, however, slow-walked the beginning of Phases One and Two. It’s doubtful he’ll move quickly to help Nevadans devastated by his lockdown order. The unemployment rate in metro Las Vegas hit 33.5 percent in April, the highest in the country among large population centers. Detroit was next at 24.4 percent.

That’s not all the result of a tourism-driven economy. Comparing Las Vegas to Orlando, another tourist destination, shows what a difference leadership can make.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wasn’t as heavy-handed as Sisolak when it came to government-imposed shutdowns, but he achieved similar coronavirus outcomes. Adjusted for population, Florida and Nevada have almost identical statistics on tests performed and percentage of positive tests. There’s a big difference in unemployment, however. In April, the jobless rate of the Orlando metro area was 16.2 percent — less than half of Las Vegas.

Sisolak has done enough damage by needlessly delaying reopenings. The governor should follow his own road map and start Phase Three on Friday.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 3 p.m. with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ Right Talk. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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