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Jim Murren Outlines Virus Task Force Priorities

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

James Murren, former President & CEO of MGM, speaks during a meeting with President Donald Trump and tourism industry executives about the coronavirus, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Washington.

Largely left to fend for itself, Nevada finds itself competing with other states for medical supplies in the fight against coronavirus. 

Masks, gowns, face shields, ventilators are all needed by every state. 

When it comes to that kind of fight, a relatively small state like Nevada might find itself outweighed by bigger states with more clout. 

But Governor Steve Sisolak set up a COVID-19 response task force weeks ago, headed by former MGM CEO Jim Murren. 

Murren told KNPR's State of Nevada that one of the most difficult parts of the outbreak is not knowing when it will end.

"I think the most unsettling part is not having a clearly defined end date or a potential control or a vaccination," he said, "I've seen all around the world and especially in Nevada that people are capable of rising to immense challenges given the right set of facts and information, but right now, we just don't have enough of that information and that is very unsettling to everyone."

The task force has been successful in finding some of the materials needed in the state. As of April 2, it has delivered 241,000 N95 or N95-equivalent masks, 1 million pairs of gloves, 2,000 surgical gowns, 700,000 surgical masks and 100 gallons of hand sanitizer.

In the next days, the task force plans to deliver: 

  • 750,000 N95 or N95-equivalent masks
  • 400,000 pairs of gloves
  • 261,000 surgical gowns
  • additional disinfectant

Murren said the task force has used the goodwill created by the Las Vegas brand to get those supplies.
"Nevada and Las Vegas have really helped us here," he said, "We, as you know, have never closed our doors in Las Vegas. We've welcomed the world for decades, and fundamentally, people feel very affectionate towards Las Vegas."

Leveraging that affection and buying relationships already established by casino companies and other international companies in the state have made it easier for the task force to buy needed supplies.

"Because of that, we've been able to outperform, not only states of our size, but I could say we're outperforming most states and I feel confident that we'll be able to meet what the state believes is their PPE needs are," he said.

While he is confident, Murren said the state is not fully prepared for the peak, which some models have predicted could hit in Nevada on April 20, but he said the state is "preparing."

Murren said many hospitals and other medical services have the money to buy more PPE but they just can't get it, which what the task force is working on.

The next step for the task force is getting more testing kits. The state has been unable to get test kits from the federal government. State employees are taking pieces of the kits sourced from other places and putting them together themselves.

Murren said acquiring more test kits is essential to stopping the spread of the disease. He said he was working with his contacts overseas to bring high-put-through labs to Nevada that can test thousands of people a day. 

"There is really no way of properly attacking this disease unless we can have full-scale, wide-spread testing statewide and that can only occur if you have the high-put-through lab capabilities, which Nevada currently does not have," he said.

Beyond just stopping the disease from spreading, Murren believes testing for the virus is extremely important to helping the state's economy recover.

"It is my view that we will not recover as an economy in Las Vegas or Nevada unless we can create the very strong feeling that we are a healthy environment... to conduct your pleasure or business," he said. 

Murren believes that high-put-through testing for employees and guests is vital to bringing back the economic lifeblood of the valley. He is hopeful that a lab to do that kind of testing will start setting up in Nevada by the end of the month.

Murren has seen the city weather difficult times. He was CFO of the MGM Resorts during the 9/11 terrorist attacks and he was CEO when the Great Recession hit and when the October 1 shooting happened.

He said the best way for the city to get through this difficult period is to listen to the medical experts.

"I think it is going to be completely dependant on our ability as a community to follow the science, to adhere to medical advice, segregate the population by proper comprehensive testing and social distancing," he said, "And if we do everything that we can as individual citizens of Las Vegas and Nevada, we will do what they want us to do, which is flatten this curve and we will be able to have V-shaped recovery."

He said if we don't follow all the directives it will be many months of tragedy in Las Vegas because there will be more outbreaks and a longer recovery.

For those interested in donating or wishing to receive updates from the Task Force, please visit

The successful fundraising efforts to date were made possible through several major donations, including:


  • Nevada Gold Mines
  • Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation
  • The Fertitta Family Foundation
  • Stephen J. Cloobeck
  • The Murren Family Foundation
  • The Engelstad Foundation
  • Bill Foley, owner of the Vegas Golden Knights and The Vegas Golden Knights Foundation
  • Mark Davis, and the Las Vegas Raiders
  • The Marnell Family Foundation
  • Phil & Jennifer Satre
  • UFC
  • Monarch Casino
  • Peppermill Resort
  • Scott & Mary Alice Nielson
  • Menzies Family Trust
  • Binion Family Foundation
  • Several other individual contributions totaling $235,000 to date

Jim Murren, director, Coronavirus Task Force

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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.