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VICTOR JOECKS: Sisolak hints coronavirus lockdown could last through June

Gov. Steve Sisolak doesn’t have a plan to open Nevada. But he’s rhetorically committed to extending the lockdown through June — and potentially much longer.

At his press conference on Tuesday, Sisolak warned that the coronavirus will spread if he reopens Nevada too soon. He’s waiting until the percentage of people testing positive for each day has decreased over 14 days.

This is going beyond “flattening the curve.” The initial goal of the unprecedented lockdowns was to keep the hospital system from being overwhelmed. Good news. Nevada did it. Hospitals have plenty of room.

“COVID ICU occupancy rates have also been decreasing over the last two weeks,” Dr. Christopher Lake, executive director of the Nevada Hospital Association, said Tuesday. Hospitalizations and ventilator use by coronavirus patients are down, too. The hospital infrastructure “has plenty of capacity to handle anything at this point that comes our way.”

Sisolak isn’t laying out a plan to gradually reopen Nevada because doing so will increase the number of infections. This is unacceptable to Sisolak because “the lives of Nevadans are more important than profit.”

“Even though the models look good for Nevada right now, we are not out of the woods yet,” the governor said. “The models change based on our behavior.”

Earlier in the press conference, state biostatistician Kyra Morgan shared a slide of projected cases. If mitigation ends on May 1, she predicts an increase in daily cases detected, peaking in late May. If mitigation efforts are extended through June 30, she anticipates that cases will drop through June 30.

“The ‘mitigation extended’ scenario depicted (on the graph) assumes all current restrictions remain in place,” Morgan emailed in response to questions about the graph. “We would anticipate an increase in new cases if mitigation efforts are lifted.”

Leaving “all current restrictions” in place through June would further crush Nevada’s economy. According to Morgan, it won’t even prevent a second wave of cases unless the lockdown measures are extended until there’s a vaccine.

Sisolak hinted that may be necessary. “So once the curve is flattened, our goal is to keep it that way until we have validated, approved treatments and a vaccine,” he said. If a vaccine is even possible, it’s unlikely to come until 2021.

Public health is an extremely important concern. But more than 340,000 Nevadans and counting are out of work. Families are lining up for food banks. People don’t know how they’re going to pay the rent once the rent moratoriums are lifted. The economy and hence the lives of hundreds of thousands of Nevadans are in tatters. That’s worthy of consideration, too.

What’s ironic is that Sisolak is already making this trade-off by — correctly — allowing construction projects to continue. But by Sisolak’s own standard, he’s saying the interests of his campaign contributors are more important than the lives of Nevadans.

Nevadans have flattened the curve. Sisolak should celebrate that instead of changing the standard in a way that will exacerbate the coming tsunami of economic devastation

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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