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Governor Considering Tighter Restrictions

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak speaks during a news conference on the state's preparations for the coronavirus Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Las Vegas.

Governor Steve Sisolak fully admits this is not what he expected when he was elected more than a year ago.

Coronavirus has changed everything.

In a broad-ranging interview with State of Nevada, the governor said he's been asking for more test kits for weeks but he's unable to get any. 

The shortage of test kits means only the sickest people are being tested and health care workers are not.

“In an ideal situation that would be terrific," Sisolak said of being able to test all health care workers, "Unfortunately, right now, what we’re dealing with we haven't gotten any test kits from the federal government. The kits we’ve got is what some groups are buying on the open market and what we’re assembling at the state level.”

Sisolak said they're only testing the "sickest of the sick," which is why the state's positive rate is so high.

In addition to struggling to have enough test kits, the state is lacking enough personal protective equipment like gloves, gowns and masks. 

Sisolak said the private task force is helping.

“We’re having to put together this private task force to raise money so we can go out and buy PPE’s on the open market. That’s the only way we could do this. And thank goodness they’ve raised over $10 million at this point,” he said.

But the prices have skyrocketed. As an example, Sisolak said the price of masks has gone from a few cents to several dollars.

Several casino companies have already donated their stockpile of PPEs. 

While casinos are shut down, non-essential businesses are also closed, schools are shuttered and people have been asked to stay home, Sisolak is concerned that people are not taking the order seriously.

He said on his way to work he saw kids playing in a playground and skateboarders using a skateboard park.

“If they don’t do it for themselves, do it for parents or their grandparents or next-door neighbor. Some people are following this religiously, they really are,” he said.

But he thinks there are too many people who aren't following the guidelines at all. So, he is considering stronger measures.

“If it doesn’t improve, we’re going to have to implement more drastic measures,” he said.

The governor did not say what those drastic measures are but he said the state government is discussing options.

“The only thing that the everyday person can do to help us here is to stay and home and limit the spread of this virus,” he said.

While the governor is concerned about job losses and economic harm, he said his main job now is “to save lives.”

“These are really hard decisions. To think that I had to make a call to turn off the lights on Las Vegas Boulevard and put 200,000 people out of work, believe me, I spent a long time contemplating what I had to do… but we do what we think is in the best to save lives and protect all the Nevadans and that’s what we’re doing.”

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.