By Thomas Mitchell
Many people are aghast that Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has had the audacity to suggest the coronavirus shutdown might not have been necessary in the first place and reopening should begin soon — even suggesting Las Vegas could be used as a placebo or control group to compare the impact of reopening to staying shutdown.
People have called on her to resign, have called her suggestions reckless and deranged. A television interviewer called her ignorant for saying Las Vegas is not like China.
But what I found disturbing was a quote in the morning paper from Gov. Steve Sisolak, “I mean, there is no way I would even permit the discussion about using the city of Las Vegas as a control group in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. That’s beyond the pale. I can’t even imagine someone even contemplating that.” He would not “permit” the discussion? He would silence debate? You know what they call people who do that.
He further declared, “You cannot allow our citizens, our folks, to be used as a ‘control group’ in this unscientific experiment that she’s talking about, relating to the spread of the virus. That’s just simply not allowable.”
Unscientific? What are control groups? They are the ones who do not get the experimental treatment, but perhaps a placebo, so the effectiveness of the experimental treatment can to compared to doing nothing.
Goodman may well be wrong. Granted, she is probably wrong. But somewhere someone needs to contemplate a gradual return to normalcy. Whether some businesses reopen tomorrow or six months from now there is likely to be an uptick in contagion. At which the doomsayers will declare, “I told you so.”
In a separate story in the morning paper Sisolak was quoted as being dismissive of suggestions by the Elko mayor in a letter in the Elko Daily Free Press that said the sparsely populated and less affected rural counties should not be treated in the same manner as the more densely populated areas.
Elko Mayor Reece Keener wrote in an open letter to Sisolak: It is a given that we will see outbreaks and “hotspots” into the foreseeable future. This virus is tenacious and will continue to be a threat until we have either better medicines or a vaccine. However, we cannot and must not continue to put our lives and civil liberties on hold until it is deemed “safe” to resume a semi-normal state. If, and when we experience an increase in new infection rates, we will be prepared to dial things back accordingly in a measured response. We accept the responsibility, and with this, we need the flexibility to have local decision-making authority for our reopening timetables and planning.
Please consider that a “one size fits all” approach does not work for a largely rural and sparsely populated Nevada. A statewide extension mandate will further deepen the economic damage that we have already incurred, plus it will be a huge psychological blow to the citizens that have diligently complied with the orders. Crucially, a statewide extension will invite civil disobedience and unrest.
As mayor, I do not want to place our police officers in the untenable position of having to enforce state directives that are unpopular and impractical for our community.
Keener also pointed out, “Despite the best of intentions, the models and projections have been grossly overstated.”
But the governor reacted by saying, “If you open up Elko County, and you don’t open up Clark County or Washoe County, and in Elko all the stores are open, the restaurants and bars, all the entertainment’s open, well, then the people from the other counties are going to go to Elko County because they’re tired of being locked up in their houses, and they want to experience that, and they’re all going to go back to their counties and then the virus is going to continue to spread. So that wouldn’t work.”
He added, “It’s not just that we don’t want them to open. It’s just that it has to be done in a way that it doesn’t negatively impact that county or the surrounding counties.” And what way is that, pray tell, and when, if ever? Las Vegas can’t reopen, Elko can’t reopen. Who can? When? How long must everyone cower in the corner?
Who will “permit” at least a discussion?
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Thomas Mitchell is a former newspaper editor who now writes conservative/libertarian columns for weekly papers in Nevada. You may email Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org. He blogs at http://4thst8.wordpress.com/.