Nevada Gov. Sisolak Trapped in ‘Box’ Given His ‘Devastating’ COVID Restrictions, Critics Claim

Posted on: December 14, 2020, 08:24h. 

Last updated on: December 15, 2020, 03:02h.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) decision on Sunday to continue at least through Jan. 15 the 25 percent capacity restrictions on casino floors, restaurants, and bars has met with disapproval. But he argues the limit will help curb the spread of COVID-19, and balances health and economic needs.

Miller says things will probably not improve by January 15
Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, pictured above. The Nevada economist says Gov. Sisolak has placed himself “in a box” that is “difficult” or “impossible” to exit with his coronavirus restrictions. (Image: UNLV)

Yet, the continuation of restrictions has led Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, to tell that Sisolak has placed himself “in a box” that is “difficult” or perhaps “impossible” to exit.

The governor is in a nearly impossible position,” Miller explained. “He is trading off economic and public health.”

“But they do not trade off. Economic health will only be feasible if we get the coronavirus under control,” Miller argues. “The vaccines should provide the answer if people take the vaccines.”

Three weeks ago, Sisolak tightened capacity from 50 to 25 percent at casinos and some other businesses because of the surge in coronavirus cases.

“He indicated that he would have to impose more restrictions if things got worse,” Miller said. “He did not tighten restrictions this time, but extended them for a month.”

Coronavirus Spikes, Vegas Sees Less Tourism

At the same time, the number of coronavirus cases apparently has gotten worse, Miller said. On Monday, state officials reported 2,579 new COVID-19 cases and nine additional deaths. Also, on Monday, the state’s hospitals saw a new high of 2,025 coronavirus patients, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Since the outbreak began, Nevada has seen 189,412 coronavirus cases. There have been 2,548 fatalities.

Miller noted how several Las Vegas hotels are voluntarily shuttering on weekdays due to lower occupancy associated with the pandemic. They remain open on weekends when more visitors are in Las Vegas.

Earlier this year, Nevada casinos were shuttered for several months because of the pandemic. Sisolak so far has not favored another round of shuttering but warns if the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in January, he may have to take stronger measures.

“And things will probably not improve by Jan. 15, either,” Miller predicted. “What will the governor do then?”

Mayor Goodman Says Restrictions Will Hit Las Vegas Hard

In a statement to the Review-Journal, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she favors lifting the restrictions in Nevada. But she was happy Sisolak did not add new coronavirus restrictions during Sunday’s press conference.

The busiest time of year for businesses is always the holidays, so this 25 percent capacity limit is going to hit hard,” Goodman predicted to the newspaper. “You cannot do anything in life operating at a quarter, whether it’s a quarter effort, a quarter glass of water or a quarter glass of food. It’s devastating.”

Earlier, Goodman called Sisolak a “dictator.” She warned the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions would be “crushing to the city.”

Similarly, Miller cautioned that Sisolak’s “current restrictions and [the] continuation may push the economy in a downward direction in the near future.”

Miller says fundamental improvement to Southern Nevada’s economy will come “if we get the coronavirus under control.”

Much of that depends on whether Nevada residents and tourists follow health precautions and take the COVID-19 vaccines that slowly become available starting this week. “The vaccines should provide the answer if people take the vaccines,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, Miller wants Congress and the president to extend the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. That way, relief will be approved before the start of 2021 to help small businesses, as well as furloughed and laid-off workers.

Miller points out the Southern Nevada economy has recovered, on average, about 50 percent of its initial loss seen in the COVID-19 recession.

“The fall in economic activity generally only lasted from February to April, and quickly recovered in May and June,” Miller recalled. “Since the summer, the recovery has slowed dramatically.”

Casino Dealers Complain Not Enough Work

In this situation, many gaming property workers and casino operators find themselves in a tough predicament.

“Talking to dealers last night and given the tiny number of shifts some of them are being given for next week, might as well be doing a lockdown,” LasVegasSnitch, a local online site, reported over the weekend.