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Mayor Says State's 'One Size Fits All' Pandemic Policies Chafed Rural Elko


Elko and surrounding Elko County generally fared well during the coronavirus pandemic.

The rural northeast Nevada county of 50,000 suffered one COVID-19 death among fewer than 30 overall cases. Also, work continued in the gold mines that support the area’s economy.

Elko Mayor Reece Keener told State of Nevada that led to “restlessness” among some Elko residents as stay-at-home orders dragged on.

“We’ve been in an unofficial reopening for about a month now,” Keener said.

The mayor said the Elko area's low population density made it a less-risky environment than the big cities of Las Vegas and Reno, but that was not reflected in state policy.

“We felt very strongly that the one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for rural (areas). There was a lot of dissension just because there wasn’t any kind of accommodation,” he said. “Our community has been so diligent, and the numbers show it. People have been responsible, and yet we were afforded no leeway.”

One area where Elko felt the pandemic with the rest of the state was the closure of local schools, which meant no graduation ceremonies for high school seniors. For Keener, that required posting his commencement address online instead of delivering it in person.

In his remarks, he reminds seniors, “Few of us have predictable lives; there are many potholes on the unmarked road of life.”

One of the biggest impacts from the pandemic and the shutdown to stop the virus spread has been economic. Keener said most of the city's general fund comes from sales tax. 

He said the sales tax for March dropped only slightly.

“We were really excited about that and obviously very relieved; however, the big question will be what does April and May’s numbers what will those look like when we see them in the next 30 to 60 days,” he said.

While the city waits for those important numbers to come in, Keener said thinks are getting back to normal in the city, but he doesn't believe the virus is completely finished.

“I think it is inevitable that we’ll see an ebb and flow of coronavirus cases not only here but throughout the state and through the entire country,” he said.

Reese Keener, mayor, Elko

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.