A series of demonstrations were staged last weekend to protest Gov. Steve Sisolak's reluctance to ease restrictions on non-essential businesses. At the same time, about 40,000 people in the U.S., including about 150 in Nevada, have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The protests came a few days after Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called the official response by the state “insanity.”
“It obviously reflects, not only the mayor’s opinion, but it reflects a movement in conservative politics in the country where people know that citizens and business owners especially are very sensitive right now – some are quite desperate – and they’re afraid,” contributor John L. Smith said.
Smith said that while people are afraid, and rightfully so, stoking those fears with the language the mayor used is problematic.
“When in reality, Nevada has followed what almost every state, and certainly every responsible state has done," Smith said, "Non-essential businesses are closed elsewhere, social distancing has been put into place. Some states have handled the messaging better than others. But Nevada is doing nothing different. And for the mayor come out like that, it’s frankly, really troubling. It’s disappointing that’s for sure.”
Smith believes the whole thing might be more "personal than professional." In an interview with KLAS-TV, the mayor said she tried to talk to the governor about the shutdown but he refused.
“Clearly, no one gets elected in local government or statewide without understanding how the economy works," he said, "At least, in a general sense. Obviously, people don’t want businesses to be closed. I think we all kind of get that.”
However, Gov. Sisolak has followed other governors who have taken the difficult steps of closing down businesses to protect lives.
“Looking at Gov. Sisolak, some of his statements, he’s been far more clear about being focused on the medical end of it and on the virus and pandemic story versus the economic story,” Smith said.
It may not just be that Sisolak wouldn't talk to Goodman about the shutdown, Smith said. There has been animosity between the two of them since Sisolak chaired the Clark County Commission.
“You can go a long way in politics in Nevada by being scrappy. That certainly was the way Oscar was – very pugnacious. Carolyn shows that – at least in this case. She’s kind of a pussycat in other areas of leadership but this is obviously something she feels very personal about,” he said.
If it's not personal, Smith wonders why she is really the only local leader to take that stand, aside from some far-right legislators.
Another part of the mayor's argument that is troubling for Smith is the fact that Las Vegas a global city that relies on tourists and conventioneers from around the world.
The entire world is mostly shutdown now, which begs the question will people even come if the doors were to reopen suddenly?
“That’s probably what makes the mayor’s commentary so cheesy. Are you serious? Is anyone thinking about Vegas like that? Are tourists just pining at the border, at the state line raring to go?” Smith asked.
He said there will need to be a lot more testing and tracking before hotels and casinos can reopen. He said in Asian hotels are reopening but with new standards to protect people.
Smith said Las Vegas is not there yet.
“Those cases have to drop, you have to have test and track and trace, you’ve got to have somethings that you don’t have yet," he said, "Fortunately, our hospitals aren’t at capacity because that’s another thing that has to be taken care of.”
He is optimistic that resorts will be able to combine their outstanding security systems with health tracking capabilities to make the resorts safer and healthier - when the doors open again.
John L. Smith, contributor
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.