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Mayor Reece Keener: Maskerading on Independence Day
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Mayor Reece Keener: Maskerading on Independence Day

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An unconventional, cotton-filtered and socially distanced Happy Independence Day Elko! This July 4th will no doubt be remembered for what didn’t happen: no parade, no National Basque Festival and no packed grandstands at the Elko County Fairgrounds for the spectacular fireworks show which has become an endeared tradition.

Much to the dismay of the Emergency Operations team, the latter half of June yielded a gigantic spike in local Covid-19 cases. The only surprise to me, based on our nonchalant behavior, is that it took so long for the virus to take up residence in all quarters of our community. If it is of any assurance, we are not alone, everyone is seeing spikes in new cases. However, our explosion of cases ranks Elko County in the top quartile of per capita new cases. The bottom line is that the public is weary of the restrictions and craving social interaction, the fuel which propels the spread of the virus.

A review of the latest statistics on our infection rates indicate that the age groups that are at highest risk are exercising caution. Of the approximately 100 new cases reported since 6/16, there’s just 1 case each for the statistically fragile 70s and 80s age bracket, followed by six cases in the 60s age category. The preponderance of new cases involve younger patients. In fact, those in the 20s age bracket are leading the way in the number of new cases. So it comes as no surprise that the contact tracers have correlated bar visitations with many new cases (not an indictment or judgement, just a fact).

If there is any good news to be had since our infection breakout, the numbers seem to indicate that those that are most vulnerable (age-wise), are following the CDC guidelines. However, the younger set have let their guard down, and the numbers bear this out.

Officials are concerned with the pace of the new infection rates; it needs to be slowed. For each case, the estimate is that it is being spread to five or six others in Elko County. Without the community’s buy-in in adopting aggressive containment efforts (which now include masks), we risk going backwards with our phased reopening which would be a catastrophic blow to our State’s already reeling economy. However, the bigger risk lies in the shock to our healthcare system that could be overwhelmed with a sudden influx of patients.

We rural Nevadans are a stubborn people, and not particularly welcoming to the visitation of new governmental mandates. I hate wearing a mask too, but I am doing it in a spirit of good citizenship to help curb the spread. If I were to be an asymptomatic carrier I would be putting others at risk, and a mask will minimize that risk.

In our hyper-political society, masks have become a controversial and divisive topic. By many, it has been perceived as an affront to our freedoms, but for now it is among the most effective means that we have in the toolbox for slowing things down.

Epidemics can’t be indefinitely contained by government. The virus doesn’t yield to the will of elected bodies, even if they are operating under the best of intentions. If that were the case, there would be no such medical phenomenon as a pandemic. But, smart public health measures embraced by the public can and will slow the spread to manageable levels.

I am confident that we will navigate through this scourge. If history is an indication, we prevailed over the Spanish Flu a century ago in an era devoid of modern medicines. Our financial markets are one of the best indicators of future outcomes. The markets have regained, and in some cases, exceeded their robust, pre-pandemic levels. This is a very heartening development given the fact that we are seeing phasing rollbacks in many states.

For the population at-large, we will all be exposed to the virus unless we are willing to indefinitely exist in a hermetic bubble. Our destiny is a rendezvous with infection. For significantly more than 99% who are in a category that doesn’t include co-morbidities and advanced age, that means that we will at some point contract the virus and … recover.

Along with monitoring the number of new and active cases, we need to be more concerned with our rate of hospitalizations for Covid, which to date has been very minimal (subject to change) at NNRH. It is important to note that there are a few very sick individuals that are quarantining at home. If with the latest wave of infections there are indicators that our medical resources face a stress threat, then as a community, we will need to voluntarily dial back on our interactions even more, before we are forced to by the Governor.

Reece Keener

Elko Mayor

P.S. In the ensuing months since the onset of the pandemic, the understanding of the disease has increased exponentially along with improved treatment protocols. The net effect has been a drastic reduction in morbidity, and improved outcomes to those afflicted. May the trend long continue.

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