Nevada is seeing an “alarming trend” of increasing cases of COVID-19, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Wednesday at his second news conference on the topic in three days.
The state reported 571 new cases Tuesday and ten additional deaths. The fourteen-day positivity rate is at 10.1 percent. The goal set by the World Health Organization is five percent. New cases are growing at a rate of 774 per day.
Eight of the state’s 17 counties have an elevated risk of transmission, according to criteria developed by health officials. Clark County has been on the elevated list for two weeks in a row while Washoe has been on the list for five weeks in a row. Washoe County officials are expected to present a mitigation plan to the state Thursday.
Sisolak said he’ll “have their back” should officials impose restrictions.
Sisolak called the challenge of keeping Nevadans safe while restarting its economy “the Great Balancing Act of 2020,” adding it’s a tougher feat here than in any other state.
“We don’t want to scare anyone with the data trends we are presenting,” he said, adding he has an obligation to “have an honest conversation.”
Sisolak noted that the U.S. is reporting more infections per day than the seating capacity of Allegiant Stadium.
“If anybody thinks that we’ve got a handle on this or it’s going away in a few days, they’re dreaming, or they’re lying to the American people and I’m not going to allow that in the state of Nevada. We’re going to protect our residents, and at the same time, protect our economy,” he said.
The governor said “hard decisions and trade offs lie ahead” if infection levels remain high. He took exception with those who suggest the economic options are to “shut it all down or do nothing. That’s not the case. We can’t afford it.”
Sisolak denied the “Great Balancing Act” is a departure from his previous philosophy of vanquishing the virus, even at the expense of the economy.
“I’m learning as we go through this,” he said. “Eight or nine months ago we never thought we’d still be here today.”
Nevada, which is highly dependent on tourists, is vulnerable not only to infection among its residents but also its guests. More than half of the states in America are reporting record levels of COVID infection, state officials say.
“We don’t want to end up like other states across the nation that are on the brink of a crisis care standard,” COVID-19 Task Force director Caleb Cage told reporters, referring to a hospital scenario of “gurneys in the hallways, no visitors” and medical professionals searching for personal protective equipment.
The state has identified about one-quarter of its COVID-19 cases via contact tracing, according to Julia Peek of the Department of Health and Human Services. She urged Nevadans to download and use the state’s contact tracing application.
“We’re incorporating COVID into our forever response. There won’t be an end to COVID,” she said, describing the potentially deadly infection as a “slow burn in our community. At the point cases grow too quickly it becomes a wildfire. We are doing our best to make sure it stays a controlled burn.”
Nevada’s COVID infection growth rate is above 1, meaning new cases will increase without intervention, Cage said.
Sisolak said he was unaware of verbal shots taken at him by President Donald Trump, who travelled to the Arizona and Nevada border Wednesday for a political rally.
“Sometimes he talks about things and I can’t follow where he’s going,” he said, adding Trump’s criticism “rolls off my back.”
Sisolak said he hears about the Trump administration’s snipes at him from his daughters and his mother.
He said he hopes the president discussed another stimulus plan, adding the administration’s promises to the states to provide resources to fight COVID have not materialized.
“To this day it hasn’t come,” he said.
“We must remain vigilant in the fight against COVID-19,” Sisolak said, once again urging Nevadans to properly wear masks, keep their distance, wash their hands, avoid large crowds, get a flu shot, and get a COVID test when needed.
He also reminded residents that emotional and mental health services are available through the Nevada Resilience Project.
“We know that people are feeling more anxiety and depression, but in Nevada we’ve built a plan,” he said.