Standing in front of an empty storefront along Main Street, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, I, was beaming with hopeful optimism, believing that businesses would make it through the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re all together in this and we are going to come out with a bang,” she said earlier this month.
On Tuesday, it became apparent what the independent mayor might have had in mind. She said she wants to open up the casinos, assuming that 100% of the population are carriers of the novel coronavirus. Let them, and visitors, gather and gamble, smoke in confined spaces, touch slot machines all day — and let the chips. and apparently the infections, fall where they may.
“Assume everybody is a carrier,” the mayor said to MSNBC on Tuesday. “And then you start from an even slate. And tell the people what to do. And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down. It’s that simple.”
The perspective left MSNBC host Katy Tur visibly dumbfounded. While Goodman said she took direction from Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, the mayor’s plan, described by Tur as “a modern-day survival of the fittest,” was in fact the exact opposite of what he advises.
Goodman, who has criticized Nevada’s lockdown as “total insanity,” cited lesser outbreaks of infectious diseases to prove that Las Vegas, which faces a deficit of nearly $150 million in the next 18 months, had shown the kind of resiliency necessary for it to reopen.
“We’ve survived the West Nile and SARS, bird flu, E. coli, swine flu, the Zika virus,” the governor told MSNBC.
She was cut off by Tur, who reminded the mayor that those viruses did not come close to the level of the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 800,000 confirmed cases and 45,000 deaths in the United States as of early Wednesday.
“Those were not as contagious,” Tur said of the diseases the mayor rattled off. “They were not as contagious and they did not spread as far as this disease has already done.”
“Well, we’ll find out the facts afterward,” Goodman replied. “Unfortunately, we all do better in hindsight.”
“But those are the facts,” Tur replied, looking baffled. “We have a death toll that proves it. We have cases around the country that prove that,” Tur said. “Those are the facts.”
As The Washington Post reported, several states, including South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Tennessee and Florida, have announced limited easing of business and recreational closures, starting between this week and the end of the month. This has gone on while small groups of protesters throughout the U.S., encouraged by President Trump, have gathered to demand their governors reopen the American economy.
Nevada ranks 22nd among the states and the District of Columbia in cases per 100,000 people, with about 4,000 cases and 163 deaths from the virus. It has been under a mandatory state-imposed lockdown of all nonessential businesses. Goodman has voiced disdain for the lockdown order from Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D).
Though Trump noted over the weekend how Sisolak’s order resulted in “a big hotel” of his being shut down, he said he was “okay” with the governor’s lockdown “But you could call that one either way,” he said at his Sunday coronavirus press briefing. Las Vegas is projected to receive as much as $160 million in stimulus funding, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Goodman’s perspective was not shared by Stephen Cloobeck, the former chairman and CEO of Diamond Resorts International.
“She has nothing to do with the strip, and we’re sick and tired of hearing this,” Cloobeck told MSNBC.
Goodman’s office did not return a request for comment late Tuesday.
In the MSNBC interview, Goodman said that “assuming” Tur was correct on the severity of the coronavirus data, the city’s ability to handle large crowds was reason enough for it to reopen.
“We do deal in crowds and we have lived through all of these viruses, highly contagious diseases, and yet we have managed to continue to have wonderful conventions come up here,” she said.
Again, Tur had to interject.
“Mayor Goodman, there is no assuming that I’m correct,” she said. “Those are the numbers that are released by the federal government.”
Nevada ranks When Goodman cited Nevada’s relatively moderate case and death numbers compared to some parts of the country, Tur asked whether that was due to social distancing and no one being in the casinos and restaurants along the Las Vegas Strip. The mayor answered the question with another question.
“Do we keep absolutely everyone out of work and destroy the lives of people and our children and the next generation because we have a fight on our hands with the virus?” she asked. “I’m making the assumption that everybody is a carrier, so let’s go forward, open up the city, open up whoever wants to open up, but do it in a very responsible, cautious way.”