Murren: Nevada can ‘punch above its weight’ in fight for COVID-19 supplies

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Jim Murren on Zoom Monday.
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Jim Murren on Zoom Monday.

Whether it comes to getting a job, a room, or a free buffet, Nevada is about juice. Now, the biggest names in the state are using their juice to save lives and eventually salvage their investments in multibillion-dollar enterprises. 

Gov. Steve Sisolak’s pick to lead the effort, former MGM Resorts chairman and CEO Jim Murren, laid out the mission of the Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force for the media Monday. 

“Simply put, the mission of the task force is to mobilize the private sector to secure much-needed supplies, equipment, and to support funding of the state’s efforts,” Murren said via videoconference. 

The effort has raised $4 million in 48 hours, Murren said. 

NV Energy has donated $1 million to nine different organizations across Nevada, according to Murren. Wynn Resorts has “supported handsomely” Three Square, and MGM Resorts International has given hundreds of thousands of pounds of food to Nevadans in need, he says. 

Wynn Resorts has also donated 290,000 N95 respirator masks, 600,000 surgical masks, 500,000 pairs of surgical gloves and 2,000 medical gowns. 

MGM has donated “over 100,000 surgical masks, thousands of N95 masks, goggles and hundreds of thousands of other medical equipment,” Murren said. 

Sheldon Adelson has “flown in” an unknown number of test kits. 

“We have to be honest here,” Murren said. “Nevada is a very small state and this is very, very competitive. We’re up against bigger states, better-financed states.  We’re also up against the federal government to secure some of these supplies, test equipment.” 

“We feel that we’ll be able to punch above our weight because we have this unique network of the private sector, procurement companies in the state and very philanthropic families in the state,” he said. 

Members of the task force include State Senator Yvanna Cancela; NV Energy President and CEO Doug Cannon; PureStar West Region President Alex Dixon; Dr. Rob McBeath, president of OptumCare Mountain West Region; Steve Menzies, President of Focus Companies; Scott Nielson, President of Nielson Consulting; and Phil Satre, Chairman of the Board of Wynn Resorts.

“This is not the time for resume building,” Murren said, adding he wanted task force members with specific skill sets who would work collaboratively and around the clock.

“This is an Apollo 13 type of environment,” Murren said.  “We have major, major challenges. The state has brought them to us. Our job is to knock off the barriers to those challenges and get stuff done.” 

The task force’s immediate priority is procuring personal protective equipment (PPE), which will be given to the state for distribution. 

Testing is also a priority. 

“We need to figure out what happens next,” Murren said. “How are we going to care for the sick? How are we going to test more comprehensively than we’ve been able to do with the limited testing that has occurred to date? Without that testing we will not be able to scientifically project when this curve will flatten and when we can come out on the other side.” 

“One thing I learned in the many crises that we’ve dealt with in Nevada — I learned in 9/11, I learned in the Great Recession, of course, I learned when we had an act of unspeakable evil a couple Octobers ago — one is we have to buy ourselves some time to understand, to handle the crisis in a thoughtful, intelligent way,” Murren said. “We need to buy the people time to get treated, time to get tested and to understand the trajectory of this disease.” 

Murren said Nevada has been among a small group of states — Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland — exemplifying what to do right in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Nevada and the governor tackled this issue with as much information as we had and did so decisively. Casinos such as Wynn and MGM shut down as soon as they could.  We knew as a community we needed to put people first and business second.” 

The task force has set up a fund for donations from individuals and businesses at www.nvc19.org.

“The state will determine where the money goes. The state will determine where the medical supplies go,” Murren said. 

“We know the lifeblood of Nevada is to create a warm, safe, comforting environment not only for Nevadans but for the 40-odd million people that visit us each year.  Part of this task force’s mission is to make sure we come out stronger on the other side of this crisis,” Murren said.

Dana Gentry
Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.