Mayor: In Elko, impatience is a virtue
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Mayor: In Elko, impatience is a virtue

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Dear Neighbors,

Just as we crossed the first finish line established by the “Stay Home for Nevada” initiative, we entered the second phase that was set to expire on April 30th. Stunningly, the goal posts were moved for a third time, to a vague and nebulous point somewhere on the distant horizon: “14 consecutive days of declining infection rates.”

The original stated objective was to “flatten the curve” in new infection rates, so that our healthcare system would not be overwhelmed with a sudden influx of patients. The “Stay Home for Nevada” program was a success, as evidenced by Nevada Hospital Association director’s recent statement that (Nevada’s healthcare system) “has plenty of capacity to handle anything at this point that comes our way.”

Elkoans have been patient, prudent, disciplined and respectful. We have followed the CDC Guidelines and our efforts have been rewarded with declining “active cases.” In fact, we currently have more “recovered” cases (6), than we have “active” cases (5) in a sparsely populated county of 54,000 residents.

This is not a time to let our guard down. We cannot succumb to complacency due to our extremely fortunate circumstances in the midst of a pandemic. We need to follow the CDC Guidelines in order to keep our community, healthcare infrastructure and families safe. It is key to consider that at the current usage rate, locally we have only about 30 day’s supply of the new “precious necessary:” PPE.

Last week I wrote a letter to Governor Sisolak with an appeal for our community to be granted the flexibility to begin opening our economy in a responsible way. I am disappointed to report that there has been zero response from his office. Perhaps it reinforces the perception that the Governor doesn’t care about rural folk living in the high desert?

In the letter, I indicated that patience was running thin, and that a statewide mandated extension past 4/30 would encourage civil disobedience and unrest in our peaceful community. Well, we are there now with a demonstration march planned in downtown Elko this weekend. This latest extension places elected officials and law‐abiding citizens in a very precarious position. Do we follow the will of the people (and our collective consciences), or do we obey an oppressive edict that if followed, will result in irreparable economic devastation?

Although I cannot advise non‐essential businesses to reopen during the Governor’s mandated shutdown, it is unrealistic to expect businesses to endure an extended and undefined closure. Our community’s law enforcement resources are limited, but the State of Nevada’s are not. Therefore, local nonessential businesses who choose to reopen prematurely may find themselves on the receiving end of the Attorney General, Secretary of State, Department of Taxation, Department of Health, OSHA, and other regulatory apparatus. Additionally, any infectious outbreaks associated with these businesses are likely to suffer the wrath of an angry public.

On Wednesday, April 29th, the Elko County Board of Commissioners are taking the lead in offering support for businesses wanting to reopen by discussing a declaration entitled “Elko County is in compliance with the requirements of a Phase 1 reopening as outlined by the White House and State.” Passage of this declaration at the county level may provide additional support for a regional reopening plan.

For what it’s worth, I’ve been told by industry insiders that the state’s megaresorts are the ones calling the shots, and they don’t want rural Nevada to “jump the gun” by opening up before them. Wynn Resorts just announced that they intend to resume operations on May 15th. There are thousands of casino workers in Clark County that are still on the payroll until that date, so there will be tremendous pressure to begin reopening at that time to preserve jobs.

As a state, and as a community, we need to understand and come to grips that we are now living in unprecedented times where hugs and handshakes with nonfamily members not living in the same household are taboo. We cannot eliminate the coronavirus, we can only help mitigate its spread through personal responsibility and social distancing. Covid‐19 is alive and well, and our vulnerable citizens will need to self‐isolate indefinitely.

Critics will miss the point and opine that I only care about money and not lives. However, this is not about greed, this is about survival. Earlier this week we witnessed a complete collapse of our energy sector, and now nearly 350,000 Nevadans find themselves unemployed (and unable to access benefits) and food banks statewide are overwhelmed by demand. Without a functional economy, critical supply chains will be disrupted for months to come. There must be a sense of urgency to reactivate our statewide economy!

I am confident that Elko will rise and rally back from this crippling health crisis stronger than ever before. With the tailwinds from rising gold prices, we have the opportunity for a coveted “V‐shaped” economic recovery, IF we reopen soon.

Our gold mining sector has set the standard for safe operation during this pandemic. I would be remiss if I did not thank Nevada Gold Mines’ continued leadership, as they have been especially engaged on a regional level as we all work towards a successful recovery.

So yes, in Elko, impatience is a virtue because patience will only result in further economic damage to our beloved community and State. Please contact Governor Sisolak and our elected State Representatives and tell them that a “one size fits all” solution is unacceptable!

Reece Keener

Elko Mayor

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