LAS VEGAS >> Nevada’s governor declared a state of emergency today and suggested he may ban mass gatherings to combat the spread of the new coronavirus outbreak.
Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak held a news conference this evening in Las Vegas where he announced the emergency order he had signed, saying the move was not a reason for people to panic but allows the state more flexibility to respond faster and coordinate more effectively.
The governor said he’s considering a ban on mass gatherings, as many of his counterparts have done in other states. California has banned events of more than 250 people, and New York banned those with 500 people or more to stop the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory illness.
Sisolak said he has formed a team of medical experts who will come up with a recommendation on social distances.
“I have no doubt that this is something we need to act on. But I am not going to arbitrarily pick an umber out of a hat,” he said.
In lieu of any official order, large events were being postponed and canceled anyway in tourism-dependent Nevada. More casino buffets were closed, and events were canceled, all expected to hurt the state’s economy.
“We are aware that we rely on gaming and sales taxes as a predominant source of revenue and hopefully we will be able to weather the storm,” Sisolak said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate fever and cough. It can cause more severe illness including pneumonia for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
In mainland China, where the virus first emerged, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 60,000 have so far recovered.
Health officials in Carson City reported a first positive test for COVID-9, bringing to 11 the number of reported cases in the state.
Carson City Health and Human Services officials called the case travel-related, saying the woman, in her 70s, became ill after a flight from San Jose, California, to Reno on March 2. They said the woman and her husband were being monitored in isolation at home.
The Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas reported three new cases but did not immediately provide information about the patients. Names have not been disclosed.
To prepare a medical response, hospitals in Reno and Las Vegas were pitching tents in parking lots. A Veterans Administration hospital in North Las Vegas told people to expect delays while everyone who enters is screened for wellness at the gate.
Tents were raised outside Sunrise Hospital and Sunrise Children’s Hospital in Las Vegas, but weren’t immediately put to use, and Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno planned to open a tent outside its emergency room, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
Jeffrey Murawsky, chief medical officer at Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, told the Gazette Journal that outdoor tents provide a well-ventilated environment for initial screenings with space to keep patients far enough apart to avoid spreading the virus.
On the Las Vegas Strip, Wynn Resorts announced Thursday afternoon it was joining MGM Resorts International in temporarily closing this weekend its all-you-can-eat buffets, where guests typically serve themselves unlimited portions at food stations. Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox said the company also would close large entertainment gatherings like nightclubs and theaters at its resorts in Las Vegas and Boston.
Maddox said the company would also use thermal cameras at the entrances for its buildings to screen for temperature and create “appropriate distancing” between guests at gambling tables and dining tables.
Legal proceedings were affected as well. U.S. immigration officials canceled a citizenship swearing-in ceremony for 100 people at a scenic canyon outside Las Vegas for the upcoming weekend.
A federal appeals court today cited the new coronavirus outbreak in calling off a rare trip to Nevada for hearings in a high-profile case. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it will reschedule oral arguments in the case involving rancher Cliven Bundy and other men charged after a 2014 armed standoff with agents trying to round up cattle from federal land near Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch.
Bundy, 73, maintains the federal government has no authority over state lands and refused for decades to pay government grazing fees for his cows. The case was dismissed in 2017, but federal prosecutors have appealed.