Last weekend, we were all jolted by the Governor’s call forcing the Elko County School District to close for three weeks, effective the following day. This sent a shock wave through the area as parents were left with little notice to plan for the unexpected task of lining up child care and stocking for provisions. Such is the nature of a pandemic, it arrives with no fanfare and knows no schedule, or boundaries.
For many, including myself, the school closure made the pandemic crisis real for us in Elko. For a couple of days, it seemed like unwarranted government overreach. After all, we had no cases in our area, and our remote location would give us plenty of warning. And then on Thursday, we received the dreaded news that the first COVID-19 positive test was confirmed in Elko County. Friday morning brought yet a second confirmation, and by the time this article makes its way to readers, the count is destined to be higher.
I sympathize for Governor Sisolak right now, as he has the weight of Nevada’s public health resting on his shoulders in its entirety. No matter what decision he makes with respect to the virus response, he will be criticized. On the heels of the mandatory shutdown announcement of all Nevada K-12 schools on Sunday, the Governor followed through with a sweeping initiative in a hastily scheduled Tuesday evening speech to close all “non-essential” businesses in Nevada.
The detail-poor initiative specifying noontime Wednesday compliance sent local government boards across the State scrambling to convene emergency meetings to put actions in place to declare an emergency, and authorize senior administrators to make staffing and operational decisions to pare back to “essential services” only. Local boards, including Elko’s own city council, are making the best decisions that we can, based on the available information that we have in a very rapidly changing environment.
The whole point of this plan is to drastically reduce the number of interpersonal contacts in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It can’t be stopped, but it can certainly be slowed. By slowing the infection rate, it will allow our healthcare system to handle the influx of patients without being overwhelmed by a sudden spike (which would be the logical result of no action).
In order for the “Stay Home for Nevada” plan to be effective, we will all need to make drastic changes in our daily lives for at least the next two weeks. Unfortunately, for many that will mean staying home from your job because your workplace is closed. We can replenish our accounts after the storm, but if our health is gone, money just doesn’t matter. Health is of infinitely greater value than money.
In order to safeguard the survival of our most vulnerable citizens, we all need to pitch in and make some short-term sacrifices for the betterment of our community, state and nation. Sacrifice means that we are all going to have to give a lot in the short-term to help friends, family and neighbors. Our healthcare professionals are the ones making the real sacrifices by stepping in harm’s way, and we all need to be thankful to them for the way that they will be called to step up to serve this community in the imminent future.
I urge everyone to consider what is being asked of us as Americans and Nevadans, and to participate for the sake of our senior citizens, and the many hundreds in our midst that have complicating health issues that put their survival at risk. Please stay home, stay in, and stay safe because the life that you save might be your own.
Reece Keener is mayor of Elko.
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