Nevada Governor emphatic, “We are not ‘around the corner’” regarding COVID-19

State officials call an emergency meeting with Washoe County stakeholders to address the continued spike in cases

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak at a press conference in Reno on May 31, 2020 - photo: Brian Bahouth/the Ally

On Wednesday October 28, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage, and Julia Peek, leader of the state’s contact tracing efforts, held a press conference in Carson City regarding the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

Governor Sisolak wore a mask during the press conference and once again asked Nevadans to wash their hands and wear a mask nearly eight months after closing nonessential businesses across the state in March of this year.

Since the end of August, during numerous campaign speeches, Donald Trump has said that the nation has “rounded the final turn” regarding COVID-19; yet over the same period the President has been downplaying the virus, the number of cases have been rising in locations across the nation, including Nevada.

Vice President Mike Pence will hold a rally at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport on October 29. If Pence’s gathering is anything like President Trump’s recent rallies in Minden and Carson City, few attendees will wear masks.

To date, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, COVID-19 has killed some 225,000 Americans.

During Wednesday’s press conference, Caleb Cage painted a national portrait.

“We’ve seen the seven-day average of new cases in the United States exceed 70,000 for the first time, and more than half of the states are reporting case numbers at new record levels. In the last month, the number of hospitalizations from COVID-19 in the United States climbed about 45 percent. Hospitals nationwide are beginning to express concerns about being able to provide sufficient care to patients. 

“Nationwide, trends are indicating that new cases are being driven by relatively small gatherings of families and friends, where folks are more likely to let their guards down. That’s the’ COVID fatigue’ that the Governor has been talking about, and it is setting in.”

Cage offered a sobering assessment of COVID-19 cases in Nevada.

“There were 571 new cases identified yesterday,” Cage said. “Of those,  322, or 56.4 percent, were in Clark County. One hundred and eighty-nine, or 33.1 percent, were in Washoe County. And 60 cases, or 10.5 percent were in the remainder of the state. There were 10 new reported deaths, 7,248 reported tests, and the 14-day test positivity rate is at 10.1 percent. For the most recent seven-day period cases are growing at a rate of point 8 percent or 774 new cases per day.

“For some additional context, when the Governor had a press conference last Tuesday, just eight days ago, we were seeing 666 new pay cases a day. We are trending upward.”

The Governor referred to the challenges of the “balancing act” of reopening the economy and maintaining public health. When asked if he agreed with President Trump that the nation had ‘rounded the corner’ regarding COVID-19, Sisolak became louder and animated.

“We are not ‘rounding the corner,’” Sisolak said. “I don’t care who says it, we are not rounding the corner. You can see from the slides (shown during Caleb Cage’s presentation), our cases are going up. Anyone that says the contrary, is just not telling the truth. And anyone who says the contrary is lying. They’re trying to intentionally deceive people and have them let their guard down.

“We cannot let that happen. We need to be more vigilant than ever to step up everything that we did. The choice is ours. As I said, you want to go to your kid’s football game, or you want to go with your buddies and play basketball, we can do those things if everybody would just follow the regulations, the protocols that we’ve put in place. If you don’t want to follow them, we’re not going to be able to do more things.

“But listening to somebody with their hyperbole or their philosophical ideas, or frankly, their lies, isn’t going to change the fact that across this country, the spread of COVID, the cases are increasing. You can look at any show and see that that’s the case. Somebody telling you it’s not so, doesn’t make it not so.”

Emergency Meeting Called with Washoe County

During his presentation, Caleb Cage noted that Washoe County has had an elevated risk of COVID-19 infection for the past five weeks. Cage and other state officials have called an emergency meeting of Washoe County stakeholders on Thursday October 29 to make a plan to lower the number of new cases.

“We’ve asked officials from across the County to come together and provide a comprehensive and coordinated plan to help slow the spread in Washoe. The people we’ve asked include the Washoe County School District Superintendent, a representative from the University of Nevada Reno, Washoe County Health District, Washoe County, the City of Reno and the City of Sparks. I’m confident we’ll be able to have a productive conversation, a productive meeting with all the stakeholders to truly evaluate what we are seeing and to come to a consensus on what steps are next for the county.”

Governor Sisolak was clearly incensed with the President’s public insistence that the COVID-19 pandemic is a thing of the past. Sisolak used the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, home of the Las Vegas Raiders professional football team, to make is point.

“We just built a stadium in southern Nevada that’s going to be home to the Fremont Cannon on Saturday. That stadium seats 65,000 people. More people every day in the United States, every day, than the capacity of that stadium are contracting this disease. Seventy thousand people a day.

“I talked to my fellow governors, my colleagues. They have to look at restricting, rationing care in some states. That’s how overwhelmed hospitals are becoming. They have to look at maybe transporting patients out of state because there’s no more room in their hospitals. 

“If anybody thinks that that means that we’ve got a handle on this or it is going to go away in a few days, they’re dreaming or they’re lying to the American people. It’s that simple. And I’m not gonna allow that in the State of Nevada. We’re gonna do everything we can to protect all of our residents, and at the same time, protect our economy.”