Nevada isn’t closing too much. It’s closing too little.

strip covid
The Strip on March 16, 2020. (Photo: Bridget Bennett)

Whatever you think of Wallet Hub, Nevada’s poor showing in its ranking of the “Most Aggressive States Against the Coronavirus” released Tuesday makes sense. The more a state’s workforce is employed in accommodations, food service, entertainment & recreation, the lower the state ranks. Nevada ranked 50th in that category, in a two-way tie with Hawaii.

In another of several factors the analysis examined, public health care spending per capita, Nevada ranked 51st.

Along with the specific factors noted above, the report ranked states in three “key dimensions” – “prevention & containment,” “risk factors & infrastructure,” and “economic impact.” Nevada’s rank in the first two was, well, pretty below average, at 34th and 37th, respectively.

In the “economic impact” category, Nevada ranked 51st. In a report purporting “to identify the states that have taken the most aggressive measures in limiting virus exposure,” evidently failure to diversify the economy is weighed as a failure to defend against a crisis, especially this one.

The service sector concentration of Nevada’s economy makes the decision to shut things down all the more difficult.

It also makes it all the more necessary.

The city of Reno is shutting down all “non-essential” businesses. Yes, the manner of announcing it was an utter farce, with Mayor Hillary Schieve having to issue a follow-up statement to clarify several things, including that casinos are, well, essential evidently. Unlike bars, restaurants and gyms, they won’t have to close.

They should.

Gov. Steve Sisolak has said he supports the decisions of resort operators to shut down, but as of Tuesday morning, the state was leaving those decisions to the operators. Many of them are shutting down.

All of them should. Including and especially the neighborhood casinos.

The White House, after its occupant has spent weeks minimizing the danger of the virus with all the responsibility and foresight of a school board candidate dining  at Red Robin, issued new guidance Monday urging everyone to avoid gatherings of more than ten people and stay out of restaurants.

Also Monday, Southern Nevada officials reiterated yet again what everyone knows — or what everyone doesn’t know: Testing in Nevada, as in the nation, has been so inadequate there is no way of discerning how widespread the virus is now. That reiteration, coupled with the customary promises that tests are on the way, was made a few hours after it was announced that Nevada had suffered it’s first death from COVID-19.

And then, later in the day, when asked about Reno shutting down businesses, a spokesman for the city of Las Vegas assured everyone that Mayor Carolyn Goodman “is not currently planning to ask local businesses to close.”

We shouldn’t be asking restaurants and bars and gyms and other non-essential but people-heavy businesses to close.

The state should be mandating it.

Just like we did with the schools. That was the right thing to do.

If we don’t slow the spread of the virus — flatten the curve — we’ll overwhelm a hospital and provider system in Nevada that, like health infrastructure everywhere, lacks the capacity to address a surge of sick people. There won’t be enough hospital beds and equipment. There won’t be enough healthcare workers. There won’t be enough treatment.

What we’re doing — shutting down schools and industries and casinos and the economy, self-isolating, and struggling to handle the chaos and anxiety — all that sucks. But what we’re doing will also spare people you know, and maybe you, from a lot of misery ahead. And what we’re doing will save lives.

We should be doing more of it.

Nevada isn’t closing too much. It’s closing too little.

Hugh Jackson
Editor | Hugh Jackson was editor of the Las Vegas Business Press, senior editor at the Las Vegas CityLife weekly newspaper, daily political commentator on the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, and author of the Las Vegas Gleaner political blog. Prior to moving to Las Vegas, he was a reporter and editor at the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune.