By his own standard, Gov. Steve Sisolak is prioritizing profit over the lives of Nevadans.
On Thursday, Sisolak held a press conference to announce that he’s beginning Phase 1 of Nevada’s reopening on Saturday, instead of on May 15 as he announced last week.
There are a number of good reasons to loosen restrictions. Most importantly, Nevada flattened the curve weeks ago. Hospitals have plenty of beds. There was never a shortage of ventilators. Remember: Flattening the curve wasn’t originally about eliminating the transmission of the virus. It was about stretching cases over a longer period in order to ensure hospital capacity.
Sisolak’s extended shutdown order and the changing behavior people have exhibited in response to the virus have decimated Nevada’s economy. Since Sisolak’s order closing nonessential businesses, Nevadans have filed more than 400,000 initial unemployment claims. It’s likely Nevada’s unemployment rate is near or above 25 percent.
Nevada will probably burn through most of its reserve funds by June 30 and face a budget deficit of more than $1 billion next fiscal year. Hundreds of thousands of children will start next year with two fewer months of supervised instruction, despite the best efforts by teachers and district staff.
These are crises, too.
The job of the governor and other elected officials is to balance these competing priorities. That means reopening could be the right course even when it will increase virus cases.
Make no mistake: Sisolak’s decision to move Nevada into Phase 1 will increase the number of coronavirus infections. “We would anticipate an increase in new cases if mitigation efforts are lifted,” state biostatistician Kyra Morgan said in an April email.
According to no less an authority than Sisolak himself, this is unacceptable.
“I am not going to allow our workers to be put in a position that they have to decide between their job, their paycheck and their life,” Sisolak said last month on CNN. “That’s not a fair position to put them in, and I will not allow that to happen.”
But that’s what he’s allowing to happen on Saturday. That’s what he did by allowing construction to continue on the Raiders Stadium — despite workers testing positive.
Sisolak isn’t the only one who’s promulgated this standard. “Georgia’s experiment in human sacrifice” was the headline of a piece in The Atlantic on the decision to reopen by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: No one is expendable. No life is worth losing to add one more points to the Dow,” presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden tweeted Wednesday.
Sisolak’s actions on Thursday show how bogus this rhetoric is — and his own hypocrisy. Even he couldn’t live up to his own standard.
Here’s a better idea. Sisolak and his fellow Democrats should apologize for exploiting the coronavirus to score cheap political points. Nevada needs a governor who will acknowledge that the road ahead is going to involve difficult tradeoffs and lots of uncertainty.
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 email@example.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.