Gov. Steve Sisolak said he cannot begin to estimate how long it will take Nevada to fully recover from the economic devastation wrought by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but he knows recovery hinges upon people feeling safe enough to travel again.
“It’s important that when visitors come here, they know this is the safest place in the world,” said the governor during a 45-minute webinar with the Vegas Chamber on Friday.
That means Nevada must be known for having widespread COVID-19 testing and accurate contact tracing, two things the governor said the state is “going out of our way” to establish.
It also means a vaccine.
“I don’t think there’s any hope of getting back to where we were (pre-pandemic) until we’ve got a vaccine,” said Sisolak.
He shared that his wife, Kathy Sisolak, canceled her in-state travel after her flight’s seating capacity was increased by the airline from 25 percent to almost 100 percent after multiple underbooked flights were combined.
“I don’t blame her,” said the governor, adding that he also understands if medically vulnerable people don’t feel comfortable sitting in a restaurant just yet even with the social distancing requirements currently in place. Sisolak is 66 years old himself.
Sisolak said Vice President Mike Pence, who has been coordinating with governors across the country, hopes a vaccine will be developed by “late this year, early next year.” But Sisolak noted that after development comes the monumental task of scaling and distributing it to 400 million people across the United States.
Nevada casinos shut down in mid-March and remain closed. Several casino companies have released reopening plans, which for companies with multiple properties includes reopening gradually as customer demand grows. Nevada currently has the highest unemployment rate ever recorded by any state ever — nearly 30 percent. Hours after the Vegas Chamber webinar, Sisolak announced via social media that he’s set a target date of June 4 for reopening the casino industry. Further details are expected on Tuesday.
Beyond economic recovery, Sisolak fielded several curated questions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Moratorium on evictions
Sisolak confirmed the state’s existing moratorium on residential and commercial evictions expires at the end of the month. He said the state has received “lots of comments” on the issue, including ones from landlords who say tenants are taking advantage of the moratorium in ways the state hadn’t intended.
“Some landlords have spoken up,” said Sisolak. “We’re listening. We have to make a decision on the program in the next 10 days.”
He encouraged additional input on the issue.
When asked if K-12 education budgets would be subject to reductions as a result of state revenue shortfalls, Sisolak stopped short of saying yes outright but said he and his administration “don’t know how we’ll get out” without everyone chipping in.
Sisolak in April asked public agencies to identify possible savings and budget reductions for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and for the next fiscal year. Sisolak has said budget cuts “won’t be across the board” and will be determined on a “case-by-case basis,” something he emphasized again with the Vegas Chamber on Friday. Sisolak also said the state was looking at additional funding — possibly from additional federal relief money — to assist in education.
He added, “This is not a time to be raising taxes, obviously.”
People don’t have a problem with face masks. They have a problem with being forced to wear a face mask.
Sisolak said that is the reasoning behind the state’s decision not to mandate the use of face masks in public. He referenced Ohio, where he says the governor mandated the use of face masks only to roll the decision back two days later after public backlash.
Nevada is requiring employees to wear face masks at work and is “encouraging businesses to encourage their customers” to wear them. Some businesses, including major retailers like Costco, are requiring customers wear them. Many are not.
“It’s a tough call that businesses have to make,” added Sisolak.