Gov. Steve Sisolak says he’s working on “the strongest plan possible” to reopen the state’s COVID-clobbered economy, but doesn’t yet have a timeline for ending last month’s statewide shutdown of schools, casinos and other nonessential businesses.
Sisolak, who spoke to the media for the second time in as many days on Thursday, said he wasn’t necessarily waiting to complete a certain number of coronavirus tests before easing travel and social distancing restrictions that have wreaked havoc on the Silver State’s tourism-driven economy in recent weeks.
“I’m looking at statistical analysis that’s coming forward on a regular basis,” Sisolak added. “I’m looking at hospital admissions, the usage of beds, the beds available, the rolling average of positive tests, that sort of thing.
“I haven’t seen enough to give you a specific date, but we analyze this on a daily basis.”
Sisolak has faced intense pressure from partisan political rivals and local leaders to give more specifics on when or whether he might end the statewide shutdown.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, a particularly vocal critic, on Wednesday called the business closures “total insanity.”
A day later, state Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, told the governor, “there is room to improve” his office’s communication about efforts to reopen Nevada’s economy.
Sisolak declined to respond to either officeholder.
“I heard some of the comments,” he said. “I’m not going to respond to those comments or attacks on me.
“I know it’s tough to stay home, but it’s tougher to have Nevadans die on your watch. We’ll open when the time is right.”
At times, Sisolak did appear to inch closer to joining governors around the country who have already started studying approaches to a post-COVID recovery. He told reporters he was working on “the strongest plan possible” to reopen communities, and that he would report back as soon as that effort was finalized.
The first-term Democrat also said he’d had conversations with prominent business and community leaders about getting back to business as usual, though he has not ruled out extending statewide business closures first ordered on March 17.
More testing is coming
Sisolak called on Dr. Mark Pandori of the Nevada State Public Health Lab to explain the testing process and its availability.
More tests are coming, said Sisolak and Pandori.
“We not going to put an exact number, a magic number on how many tests we need to determine whether or not the coast is clear so to speak,” Pandori said.
“We know we need more testing and we are getting more testing,” he said.
Sisolak talked about a faster coronavirus test coming that can be done in clinics and may offer more opportunities for people in rural communities and for populations who have been undertested.
Sisolak said he needs testing to see to determine who has it and that is the kind of testing that is being done today.
He said he also wants random testing, adding that if he could test 1 percent of the population randomly he could extrapolate that data to see how much the virus has spread.
“I need to be able to test a percentage sample of our population that are asymptomatic,” he said.
Gov. Steve Sisolak will talk about COVID-19 testing 5 p.m. Thursday. The lack of widespread availability and a shortage of supplies has been an issue in Nevada. The Reno Gazette Journal will carry the press conference live.
To date about 28,500 people have been tested for the coronavirus in Nevada.
The Director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory Mark Pandori will also join Sisolak.
On Wednesday Pandori talked about Nevada having the ability to run an antibodies test to see if people previously were exposed to the virus.
“From a public health surveillance perspective that is trying to gather intelligence about how much infection is out there or was out there, I would think it is fair to call it a game changer,” he said.
“It is going to provide public health with a very powerful tool to, at some point, determine how much infection was really out there.
“In terms of medical response, it isn’t a game changer,” Pandori said. “It only really says what did happen.”
Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of Northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read her journalism right here. Consider supporting her work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.
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