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Governor Says Resorts Worried Mayor's Comments Will Hurt Vegas

(AP Photo/John Locher)

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

In a wide-ranging interview with State of Nevada, Governor Steve Sisolak said Friday that resort operators called him almost immediately after Mayor Carolyn Goodman's interview on CNN aired last week.

The governor said resort operators were worried her comments would affect or hurt the tourism industry.

“Every resort property and the organizations and whatnot were calling and saying, ‘you gotta make a statement.’ ‘you gotta get out in front on this,’“ the governor said.

He said he went on national and local TV shows to try to set the record straight. Sisolak said the mayor has a right to speak her mind but she doesn't understand the implications of what she's saying.

“Regardless of what she says, I will not allow the people working in the hotels, our visitors or any Nevadan to be used as a control group, a placebo, a guinea pig, a lab rat for some science experiment that she wants to conduct that is simply not going to happen,” he said.

Sisolak added that she has no jurisdiction over the Las Vegas Strip, and little to no influence over casinos within the city limits. He is concerned that people might take her seriously because of the office she holds.

“I certainly hope they do not pay any attention to these comments that she’s making,” he said.

While he disagrees strongly with the mayor's comments, Sisolak does understand that everyone wants to get back to work. However, to go from stage zero to the first phase some important numbers need to be in place.

“I’m looking at the test positives that we get are going to go up because we’re increasing our testing capacity," he said, "What I look at is not that so much, it’s the percentage of positives that I get versus tests that we’ve given.”

He said right now the state is in the 12 to 13 percent range of positive tests, which he says is too high. It means a lot of tests are coming back positive because the people who are being tested are already at high risk for exposure or have symptoms of the virus.

Sisolak believes as state testing ramps up those numbers will come down. 

He is also following the number of hospitalizations and intensive care unit beds. The majority of people who get coronavirus have mild symptoms and can stay home to recover.

But because people who get more serious symptoms can get very sick, he looks at the number of ICU beds available in the state.

“Those are specific numbers that are presented to me and that’s what I need to see a downward turn on," he said, "I need to know the capacity of rooms that are left if there is a surge.”

While Mayor Goodman wants the city reopened now, some health experts don't want anything reopened until June or later. 

Sisolak said it is a balancing act.

“People can only stay isolated and out of work for so long. I am concerned about the economy. I’m very concerned about the economy, but at some point, we have to start phasing in back to normal,” he said.

The governor said when the data is where it needs to be and the medical experts agree the state will slowly start to reopen. He suggested recreation facilities like parks and golf courses might come first. Then, other businesses could open with distancing measures still in place.

“But it’s not going to be flip the light on, and all of a sudden, it’s light. It’s going to be a little bit come back and then see how that goes and how everybody reacts and then a little bit more and that’s how we’re going to progress forward,” he said.

The closure has caused major revenue shortages for the state, but Sisolak said no one knows for sure how much and for how long those revenue streams are going to be down.

“We can say, 'open up the Strip when the chair and I decide you’re going to do that.' You don’t know what those room rates are going to be. What they think they have to charge in order to entice them to come here," he said, "It’s all an unknown at this point and we’re going to have to work our way through that.”

The governor said he has regular conversations with members of the gaming industry about how to reopen and what it would look like.

While concerns about the economic lifeblood of Southern Nevada hang heavy on his shoulders, Sisolak said the toughest part of the outbreak and the shutdown is talking to people who have lost someone to the virus. 

“Yes, people are antsy. They want to get back to work," he said, "They’ve lost money in their businesses but I talk to people who have lost loved ones' lives and those are really tough conversations”

Gov. Steve Sisolak, D-NV.

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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.