Reopening county may be a ways off
Douglas County public officials are planning for the day of the county’s reopening and economic recovery.
But that day may still be a ways off.
On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that Nevada schools will remain closed through the end of the semester.
Saying that lives are more important than profits, Sisolak said the reopening of the economy is dependent on expanded testing for the coronavirus.
“We could flip the switch and turn the lights back on, but our experts predict – and experience elsewhere in the world shows us – if we don’t do this in a controlled and informed manner, we’ll be hit like a tidal wave in two to three weeks,” Sisolak said. “And I won’t do that to our state. I cannot give you a firm date. The re-opening needs to be flexible, because it’s going to rely on data and the virus.”
On Tuesday evening, Carson City Health and Human Services reported a Douglas woman in her 40s tested positive for the coronavirus. There have been 16 total cases and six recoveries, according to the agency which serves as the county’s public health entity.
State Epidemiologist Kyra Morgan said that the original model predicted grim results for Nevada.
She said that the coronavirus appears to have reached a plateau.
Hospitals have not overwhelmed the state’s medical infrastructure, with the number of patients with coronavirus going down. He said ventilator use for patients is decreasing.
“Hospital infrastructure has plenty of capacity to handle anything at this point that comes our way in the next few weeks,” Nevada Hospital Association President Dr. Chris Lake said. “Social distancing has flattened the curve. It did exactly what we’d hoped it would do.”
On Tuesday, Douglas County Manager Patrick Cates pointed out that measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak have devastated the county’s economy with mass layoffs and the closure of some long-time businesses.
“Some will never reopen,” he said. “It’s time to get back to work. Five days ago, I was encouraged to learn of the White House’s framework for reopening the economy.”
Douglas County continues to work closely with the East Fork Fire District acting as emergency manager, Carson City Health and Human Services acting as Douglas County’s health authority, healthcare providers, businesses and our other Quad County partners to keep the community safe from the spread of the coronavirus.
“Our people are doing the right things, following CDC guidelines and emergency directives,” Cates said. “It shows in our numbers with very low rates of infection. Douglas County is preparing for recovery.”
Through the Economic Vitality Program, county leadership has been working with the local chambers of commerce, visitor’s authorities and business associations at both the lake and the valley to help businesses through these difficult times. “Consultation on directives, SBA loan coordination, and promoting plans for business recovery have been foremost in our efforts to help the business community,” said Economic Vitality Coordinator Lisa Granahan.
The economic impacts of the coronavirus emergency measures directly affect county budgets.
“In March, I ordered a hiring freeze and a halt to all nonessential spending,” said Cates.
The county is in the process of re-estimating revenues and developing plans for significant reductions in expenditures for next fiscal year. The County Commission will be reviewing those budget proposals next month.
“This situation is not sustainable economically or fiscally,” said Cates. “We are planning for a Douglas County specific approach to restart the local economy, building resiliency and prosperity as quickly as possible.”
“Before we get to the first phase of our reopening plan, we must make sure we meet criteria set out by the federal government and our team of Nevada experts,” Sisolak said. “We are actively monitoring the criteria now, and once we have cleared this stage, we can begin the the first phase of getting back to business in Nevada.”
The criteria to reopen the economy include:
A consistent and sustainable downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over a 14-day period measured by a decrease in the trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations; and a decline in percentage of people testing positive
Healthcare and Public Health Systems should be able to maintain hospital capacity without crisis standards of care, have a sufficient public health workforce capacity between the local and state health departments to conduct case contact tracing (detect, test, trace, isolate), have the expanded ability for healthcare providers to administer tests for symptomatic patients, and have sufficient laboratory testing capacity to process COVID-19 testing samples
A sustained ability to protect vulnerable populations, meaning that outbreaks are successfully contained and closed in special settings like health facilities and nursing homes
Confirm protective measures are in place before moving to the first phase