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John L. Smith: Las Vegas Doing The Right Thing With Quarantine Unit

jls_mask.jpg
John L. Smith
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Contributor John L. Smith wearing his homemade mask while outside.

Governor Steve Sisolak last week asked state agencies to prepare for approximately $700 million in budget cuts because tax revenues are falling every day.

For more than two weeks and at least until the end of this month, non-essential businesses have been ordered closed.

Sisolak’s announcement comes at a time of rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and skyrocketing unemployment.

It may be little solace for suffering Nevadans, but other states are feeling the same pinch. 

Help is coming from the federal government from the recently passed CARES Act. 

John L. Smith looked at where the money will be going.

“It is supposed to be used, the dollars, the block grant money is supposed to be used for expenses incurred during the period that begins March 1, 2020, and ends December 30, 2020,” he said. 

So, if a state wanted to use it to fix some other problem that proceeded the outbreak, they may not be able to.

The other big question is where exactly will the money go when it arrives.

“A lot of people are going to be fighting over that money because they’ve got a lot of personal interest in this whether its education or getting the economy back up and running or what have you,” Smith said.

Idaho is already looking trimming millions from its budget. Originally, it was believed that states with smaller populations, like Idaho, wouldn't get hit as hard as places like New York City.

However, in the ski resort town of Sun Valley, there was a large outbreak.

Smith said the governor is looking at the state budgeting process differently than Nevada.

“What they’re doing there unlike in Nevada where they’re calling for such potential cuts he’s talking about holdbacks," he said, "In other words, programs that were expanding were going to be put on hold. Hires that were going to be made are going to be put on hold.”

As for Nevada, it is expecting to get $1.2 billion, Smith said. But it won't come in one large lump sum. Instead, the state has to work at getting all it's entitled to.

“The governor’s got a ton his plate, clearly. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed and the unemployment office is overwhelmed, there is no question,” he said.

While the state is doing what it can to stop the spread and get disaster aid from the federal government, the City of Las Vegas and Clark County are coming together to construct a quarantine center, to be used for up to 350 homeless people in various stages of coronavirus exposure.

Smith praised the plan saying it was a good idea for the county and the city to work together on the multi-million dollar project.

It came after the city's disastrous effort to find a place for the homeless to stay when an important shelter closed. The Catholic Charities shelter closed after someone who had stayed there was diagnosed with the virus. 

The city painted white squares on the parking lot at Cashman Center and asked the homeless to sleep there. 

Associated Press

“The optics of the little squares on the parking lot were really bad. It’s an international story for a reason and it looked really bad. However, you really have to give the city and county credit for coming up with this idea and trying to develop it quickly,” Smith said.

Smith said the new quarantine facility has been delayed but the effort is underway to finish it by the end of the week.

And, Smith said, he's wearing a homemade protective mask because medical experts say it's probably a good thing to do at the store. But he's surprised to see so many in Las Vegas going out bare-faced.

“I look at that and I think to myself, ‘well maybe the CDC guidelines don’t matter to a lot of folks,’” he said.

Smith notes the mask is not for himself but for the grocery store worker who has to see hundreds of people every day.

Smith's mother-in-law has sown several masks for the family but the longtime journalist also notes he's become quite handy with rubber bands and handy wipes.

 

John L. Smith, contributor, State of Nevada

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