Nevada’s most powerful local government body has been faced with major challenges this year, including a budget slashed as a result of a pandemic-induced economic downturn and the pressure of helping to reopen the economy in the state’s most populous county.
Ten candidates are entering the final weeks of their campaigns for the Clark County Commission, campaigns begun months before COVID-19 was on their radar. Democrats are dramatically outpacing their challengers in funding for three of these spots while a fourth is host to a high-dollar contest between two high profile politicians.
Of the commission’s seven seats, four are being contested this cycle, including those of the commission’s chair, Marilyn Kirkpatrick, in District B and incumbent Michael Naft, who’s raised more than $1 million since his 2019 appointment to the board, in District A.
Crowded Democratic primaries in Districts C and D have whittled the field to two high profile nominees. In District C, Democrat and former Secretary of State Ross Miller is taking on Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony, a Republican challenger in a district where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, but neither party holds a majority.
District D sees Democratic Party Chair William McCurdy II take on three nonpartisan opponents, with former Las Vegas fire chief David Washington putting up the strongest fight. McCurdy has been heavily endorsed and financially backed by commission members in the only up-for-grabs district with a Democratic majority of registered voters.
Commission members earn $86,000 per year, far more for their positions than state legislators make for their part time work, and whoever wins a seat on this board will oversee three quarters of the state’s population and one of its most famous and lucrative assets — the Las Vegas Strip.
District C, which incorporates the northwest portion of the Las Vegas Valley, is host to a high-spending faceoff between Republican Las Vegas City Councilman Stavros Anthony and the former secretary of state, Democrat Ross Miller.
Democrats make up 38 percent of registered voters in District C while Republicans make up 32 percent and nonpartisans account for 23. Democrat Larry Brown, who currently holds the seat, has reached his term limit after serving on the board since 2009.
Anthony, who was recently appointed mayor pro tem for the City of Las Vegas, is fighting to overcome Democrat’s slight registration lead and take the seat back for his party. The city councilman ran unopposed in June’s primary election while Miller won a six-Democrat race for the nomination with 38 percent of the vote.
“I think there’s two issues that, in my mind, people care about,” Miller said during an interview with The Nevada Independent. “One is how to put the economy back on track and the other is making sure we keep people safe, both in terms of public health and also public safety. In both of those areas, I’ve got a lot of experience.”
When asked about his experience with economic issues and how he’d handle budget shortages in the county, Miller, the son of former Gov. Bob Miller, referenced his time serving on the Board of Economic Development under former Gov. Brian Sandoval as well as his two-term tenure as secretary of state during the last economic recession.
“My agency implemented deeper cuts than perhaps any other… and there weren’t easy answers,” he said. “We had to cut in all areas. I would imagine that the county process will be very similar.”
One department he believes should be prioritized when it comes to funding, Miller says, is the Las Vegas Metro Police Department. The Clark County Commission along with the Las Vegas City Council determines the budget of the LVMPD, and the county contributes 64 percent of its funding.
Miller shares this viewpoint with his opponent. Anthony, a retired police captain who worked with Metro for 29 years.
“My priority is to make sure that Metro is funded appropriately,” Anthony said. “That we have the best paid and the best equipped and the best trained police officers in the country and that we have code enforcement officers that are out there making sure that we have great neighborhoods.”
Although both candidates say public safety funding is vital to helping District C recover from the economic devastation of COVID-19, they have different priorities when it comes to helping the region become more economically resilient moving forward.
Anthony said that his priority, first and foremost, is opening businesses and getting people back to work. He intends to focus on reducing regulations, taxes, and licensing fees in order to help current businesses grow and encourage new businesses to open.
“Once people get back to work then they can start taking care of their families and they can start paying their tax bills,” he said, going on to emphasize that government mandates “have to start opening up” to allow people to get back to work. At the moment in the county, restaurants, stores, and event venues still have capacity limits in place to ensure social distancing.
“I think if businesses want their customers to wear a mask in their business, customers are going to want to wear a mask,” Anthony said.
Miller indicated that his approach may be more cautious, deferring to state guidance that he believes will ensure businesses “reopen safely,” while still acknowledging the need to reopen the economy for workers.
“I think it’s critical both to expand as safely as possible and try to reopen our economy,” he said.
According to Miller, the county needs to set its sights on long-term solutions that will ensure economic diversity and prevent losses in gaming from devastating the region.
“We can potentially move much more aggressively towards the development of many other target sectors,” Miller said. “Beyond gaming, where we’ve suffered so many layoffs.”
Both candidates have reported large contributions and high spending in the second quarter of the year. Anthony’s spending began even earlier: the candidate reported more than $200,000 in spending heading into the primary — even though he was running unopposed.
In the second quarter, Anthony reported $45,700 in contributions including major donations from NV Energy, developer Touchstone Living, which regularly presents development projects to the planning commission, and philanthropist Kris Engelstad McGarry, trustee of the Engelstad Family Foundation. He spent more than $63,000 on consulting and advertising in the same quarter and reported a cash on hand balance of nearly $212,000.
Miller has also seen large donations from developers, including $5,000 from Brass Cap Development, which recently began construction on a new industrial space located near Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, a project approved by the commission. Both candidates also received $5,000 donations from South Point. Miller received financial support from the Southern Nevada Building Trades Union’s PAC. The union also endorsed Miller in the race.
Additionally, Miller received a $5,000 donation from the campaign of the commission’s District F incumbent, Justin Jones.
Miller’s campaign reported $89,741 in spending, more than $74,000 of which went to Consili, Inc., a Democratic campaign management agency based in Las Vegas and run by political consultant Jim Ferrence. At the end of quarter two, Miller’s cash on hand balance was $3,640.
In the heavily Democratic District D, which includes portions of North Las Vegas as well as downtown Las Vegas’ Fremont Street, Assemblyman and Nevada Democratic Party Chairman William McCurdy II is hoping to transition from Legislature to the County Commission.
He faces three nonpartisan challengers on his quest, including a former Las Vegas fire chief with a history of community involvement, David Washington. Henry Thorns and Stanley Washington are also campaigning for the seat without a party affiliation.
McCurdy, who has represented District 6 in the Nevada Assembly since 2017, says that he sees “untapped potential” in Clark County’s District D.
“I’m passionate about my district. I’ve been here my entire life as well in residence, and my family, it’s where my family has been since the early 40s,” McCurdy said. “I believe that we haven’t achieved our truest potential in terms of economic development or economic investment, and I believe that we can do a better job in terms of the social infrastructure.”
McCurdy pointed to long-term economic development focused on highlighting the district’s culture and ethnic diversity, expanding workforce development in order to help the area’s homeless population on their path to self-sufficiency, and improving resources for seniors in the region as some of his major goals if he’s elected.
While the pandemic has not changed those goals for him, he says it has changed his timeline, as his short-term focus is on providing his constituents with resources to help with the health and economic impacts of the virus. He says that his experience in the Legislature during the first several months of this crisis will position him perfectly to do this.
“My legislative experience will help me to be able to perform and be ready to go, day one,” he said. “COVID has greatly altered the way that I would have been going in, but having an ability to deal with that at a legislative level, work really closely with lawmakers who are helping us get the resources that we need from the federal level, will perfectly position me to be the greatest advocate that I can.”
McCurdy reported more than $88,000 in contributions in the second quarter of the year, including a $10,000 donation from the campaign of District A incumbent Naft.
Naft isn’t the only commission incumbent to show financial support for the assemblyman, who also received a $5,000 donation from District F incumbent Jones. McCurdy also received a $10,000 donation from the Southern Nevada Stronger PAC, which lists Jones as its main contact. The campaign also reported donations in the second quarter from Eva Segerblom and Carl Segerblom, two children of District E incumbent Tick Segerblom.
McCurdy’s campaign has spent $80,714 during this same period on office expenses, consulting and advertising fees, and special event costs. More than $10,000 in expenses were reported by the campaign for Consili, Inc., the same agency utilized by both Miller and Naft.
While Thorns and Stanley Washington have reported no contributions, spending, or cash on hand in either of the year’s first two quarters, David Washington has had a more financially active campaign.
Washington reported $6,915 in donations to the campaign last quarter and spent $6,751 in the same period. The majority of his spending went towards advertising expenses and a special event held in June at Chili’s Grill and Bar in Las Vegas. The candidate’s campaign reported a cash on hand balance of $11,841 at the end of June.
David Washington is a member of the Clark County Economic Opportunity Board, which administers Economic Opportunity Act funding to create programs and provide resources with the goal of helping low-income families achieve self-sufficiency. In an email to The Nevada Independent, David Washington said he is running for the position because of his experience in public safety as a fire chief.
“I have 29 years experience in a leadership role where I was responsible for budgets and staff supervision. Eight years, I served at the senior staff level. My last six years, I served as fire chief for the City of Las Vegas with a $100 million dollar budget,” Washington said.
He also cited his time on the Governor’s Commission on Homeland Security. The fire chief of each county in the state with a population above 100,000 has a seat on the commission, and Washington fulfilled that role during his time with the department.
If elected to the commission, Washington says, he would attempt to help the county recover economically by continuing policies such as the county’s decision to suspend labor contracts in April, a decision that Washington praised. When asked about his budget priorities, he referred to public safety as a “big expense to any government agency” but said he would need to review all department’s budgets before deciding what to preserve and what to cut.
While McCurdy said he didn’t feel comfortable citing specific budget priorities, his views on how to better position the county to be more resilient in the future focus less on economics and more on social services. The candidate referenced better equipping food distribution sites as well as expanding programs to help those in danger of and struggling with homelessness as essential to creating a more resilient region.
“There were some people who were already one paycheck shy of losing it all,” the Democratic candidate said. “So, what kind of services can we provide him and what kind of emergency funds do we have put up that we can work with our community stakeholders and partners to capture those folks before they lose their home?”
The District D seat is held by the commission’s vice chairman, Lawrence Weekly, who has reached his term limit this year. It is the only district with a contested seat this cycle with a Democratic majority, with Democrats making up 50 percent of active registered voters while nonpartisans come in second with 25 percent and Republicans trail at 13 percent.
Neither Henry Thorns nor Stanley Washington responded to attempts to reach them for interviews for this story.
In District A in the south of the county, incumbent Michael Naft is defending his seat against Republican challenger Michael Thomas, spending more than any other candidate for the board in an effort to preserve what he calls his role as his “neighbor’s representative.”
“I believe it is my responsibility to help make Clark County more accessible and user-friendly, and have been devoted to providing the services people need,” Naft said in an email to The Nevada Independent.
Naft, who was appointed to his seat in 2019 by Gov. Steve Sisolak, faced one opponent in the Democratic primary whom he defeated, garnering 74 percent of the vote. Democrats make up 39 percent of active registered voters in his district while Republicans make up 31 percent and nonpartisans account for 25 percent.
Naft has been spending heavily throughout his campaign, reporting more than $343,000 in expenses since January, including more than $194,000 in quarter two alone. His spending has been on a variety of things such as events at local businesses, consulting fees with multiple campaign strategy agencies both local and national, and contributions to other Democratic campaigns, including District D candidate William McCurdy.
Naft also saw many large donations during the second quarter, reporting $107,000 in contributions, the most of any commission candidate. He’s received major donations from NV Energy, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Henderson Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Service Employees Union.
The incumbent has also been endorsed by the Culinary Union, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association and the Nevada Conservation League, among others. His reported cash on hand balance is $754,279.
Naft says that serving on the commission during the COVID-19 pandemic has changed “everything” about his priorities for the county.
“I have responded to this health crisis with a two-pronged approach … We have focused on managing health and wellness as a means to mitigate the economic impact,” he said. “I have advocated for utilizing a portion of our federal allocation of CARES Act dollars to help our local small business community. By awarding grants to local businesses we have been able to support the people they employ and the businesses they work with.”
Naft’s opponent, Michael Thomas, a retired police officer, has reported no contributions, spending, or cash on hand in either quarter this year. Thomas ran for the District A seat against then-incumbent Sisolak in 2016 as well, receiving 43 percent of the vote.
Thomas did not respond to requests for an interview for this story.
Democratic Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick is running a re-election campaign in northern Clark County’s District B against two opponents, Independent Warren Markowitz and Republican Kevin Williams.
Kirkpatrick has served on the commission since 2015 and was voted in as chair in 2019. Although the short-term needs of the county have changed in the past several months, Kirkpatrick says the pandemic has not changed her long-term priorities for the region.
“We have to continue to move forward … There [are] some things that I might have to push aside for a little bit,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that it has impacted our priorities. More so, probably, highlighted the need for the priority.”
Kirkpatrick was the only candidate for the seat to report contributions and spending during the first two quarters of the year. She has held the seat since 2015 and previously served as a Nevada assemblywoman. She has received major endorsements from Nevada state AFL-CIO, the Culinary Union, and the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, among others.
The chair listed public safety and the police department as one of her top two priorities when it comes to funding in the county. Her second major priority, she says, is social services, including programs addressing homelessness and truancy that she has spearheaded during her time on the board. The county provides social services throughout the region, for every city in the county in addition to unincorporated areas.
“We also have a huge responsibility to ensure social services needs are met,” she said. “And we are really the safety net for many, many constituents out there, regardless of what entity they live in.”
During quarter two, Kirkpatrick reported $31,850 in contributions including a $1,500 donation from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce.
The candidate also received $30,000 in the first two quarters from six companies that are all registered with the same Republic Services address in Las Vegas. The waste management company has a franchise agreement with the county and with the City of Las Vegas and operates the region’s landfill.
Kirkpatrick said that she does not think any companies have “tried” to give over the contribution limit and that the Republic Services contract with the county was in place “long before” she started on the commission. The company’s current agreement with the county was put in place in 1999 and extends through 2035.
“I don’t look at my campaign contributions, and, in that respect, it doesn’t get anybody any more than my constituents,” she said.
The chair has spent more than $78,000 this quarter on a variety of expenses related to special events, office supplies and consulting. She reported nearly $16,000 in expenses paid to Accretive Consulting, a firm based in Las Vegas and owned by Kami Dempsey-Goudie. Her cash on hand balance at the end of June was $289,520.
Similar to District A, Democrats make up a plurality but not a majority of voters in District B. Active registered voters in the region are 40 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican and 23 percent nonpartisan. Additionally, 4 percent of voters in the district are registered with the Independent American Party.
Markowitz, a member of the Independent American Party, is a Las Vegas attorney and founder of the Markowitz Law Firm. The candidate says that he’s running to “return the county and it’s government back to the electorate without playing favorites.”
One of the candidate’s major priorities is reopening the county, both by allowing businesses to resume operations at full capacity and opening schools in the Clark County School District, which are currently employing an online learning model.
“I would advance the concept of reversing the quarantine of the healthy, to that of the sick by moving to open businesses to their full capacity, removing feel good ideas that have little or no benefit, and getting schools back open,” he said in an email to The Nevada Independent.
The commission has oversight of business operations and can set stricter standards than the state but has to abide by minimum statewide standards that set capacity limits. The board also does not make decisions about school policies in the region; those decisions are made by the board of trustees.
Markowitz has run for a variety of seats in the past, including unsuccessful campaigns for state Senate, state controller, Clark County School Board trustee and the District B seat on the commission in 2012.
Republican candidate Williams, the facility director for Boyd Gaming, also ran for the seat against Kirkpatrick in 2016, receiving 42 percent of the vote. While he didn’t report any contributions or spending during the first two quarters of the year, his quarter three report shows $250 in contributions and $34 in expenses, leaving the candidate with a cash on hand balance of $148 at the end of September.
Williams did not respond to requests for interviews for this story.
This story was updated on October 14, 2020, at 12:05 p.m. to include comments from District B candidate Warren Ross Markowitz.
With the number of coronavirus cases in the Silver State on the rise, The Nevada Independent will be keeping you up to date on the latest here, both through regular live blog updates and updates to our infographic tracking cases around Nevada. The most recent updates will be posted at the top.
To see previous developments, you can visit our week one live blog here, our week two live blog here and our week three live blog (3/23-3/29) here. You can also see our live blog tracking economic developments from the first week here.
Note: The default view of the above spreadsheet shows positive cases as reported by the counties and the cumulative county-by-county total, which may differ from the total the state is reporting. Check the above infographic for the latest statewide case total.
Sunday state and county update: Positive COVID-19 cases now more than 1,830
Nevada health officials reported Sunday morning that the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the state is now at 1,836, with the confirmed cases count rising by 94 as compared to Saturday.
The Department of Health and Human Services’ dashboard of positive cases also showed a slight uptick in the percentage of positive cases from people tested — 10.9 percent — compared to Saturday, when the percentage was 10.8 percent.
The Southern Nevada Health District reported on Sunday morning that the number of cases in the county is now at 1,519, a growth of 101 confirmed cases as compared to Saturday.
Washoe County health officials reported on Sunday afternoon that the county was reporting 19 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the county’s number of cases up to 264. 18 individuals in the county are currently hospitalized with the virus, and 29 cases have recovered.
— Last updated 4/5/20 at 1:35 p.m.
Officials: Temporary shelter for homeless who have COVID-19 or were exposed is behind schedule
Officials say they’re slightly behind schedule on a temporary facility with the capacity to shelter 350 homeless individuals who need to be isolated or quarantined because they have or were exposed to COVID-19.
Authorities with Clark County and the City of Las Vegas issued a statement Sunday evening saying the Cashman Isolation-Quarantine Complex (Cashman ISO-Q) will not be ready to accept guests Monday evening as originally planned. They said they expect it to open this week, however.
“We were overly optimistic with our original timeline for the opening,” officials said. “While we have seen tremendous progress during the past seven days, it took slightly longer than expected to find staff, train them and get them all the protective and other equipment they need.”
The facility is geared toward people who don’t require hospitalization and would be directed to isolate at home, but do not have homes. It will include separate areas for people exposed to coronavirus, those who test positive, and those who test positive but are asymptomatic.
Officials have said homeless individuals “in need of quarantine will need a referral from a local shelter partner.” The complex will consist of tents, each one with staff and security, as well as water and sewer connections.
It’s expected to be a multimillion-dollar project staffed by more than 100 people.
“Without this facility those homeless individuals would be on the streets or in homeless shelters, both of which would put our community at risk for increased transmission of the coronavirus,” local government officials said.
Plans for the ISO-Q complex were unveiled just as the city and county were drawing widespread criticism for having homeless individuals sleep on an uncovered parking lot outside a large expo hall. The lot was used after a client at Catholic Charities’ men’s shelter tested positive for COVID-19, prompting the temporary closure of the shelter and overcrowding and the open-air Courtyard homeless services complex.
The parking lot has been retired as a sleeping area for the homeless now that the regular shelter has reopened.
The ISO-Q facility is geared toward people with some interface with COVID-19 rather than for Southern Nevada’s homeless population as a whole.
— Michelle Rindels, 4/5/20, 8:25 p.m.
Saturday state and county updates: State reports nearly 1,750 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus; statewide death total now at 46
The Department of Health and Human Services is reporting a total of 1,742 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Nevada, an increase of 191 from Friday night's number and 228 more than the state's last reported total Friday morning.
Positive cases represent 10.8 percent of the number of people tested, up slightly from 10.4 percent on Friday.
The Southern Nevada Health District announced Saturday morning two new deaths associated with COVID-19 in Clark County, bringing the countywide death total to 41 and the statewide death total to 46. Four people have died in Washoe County and one person has died in Elko County.
The health district also announced 139 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Clark County Saturday morning, for a total of 1,418 countywide. Clark County continues to have the most cases per capita in Nevada, with 63.5 cases per 100,000 residents.
Hospitalizations in Clark County were up to 362 Saturday morning, up 31 from the prior day.
Carson City Health and Human Services also announced two new cases, a female Carson City resident in her 70s and another in a Lyon County resident in her 30s. Both women are self-isolating at home in stable condition. Carson City is now up to 10 cases and Lyon County has three.
The Washoe County Health District announced on Saturday afternoon 16 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the countywide total to 245. There are no additional deaths or recoveries in the county and 215 cases remain active.
— Last updated 4/4/20 at 1:50 p.m.
Nevada urges people with medical backgrounds to join the state's coronavirus response
The Nevada Health Response Center and the Department of Health and Human Services are urging people with health care backgrounds to join the Battle Born Medical Corps, which will expand the state’s workforce during the coronavirus crisis.
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced the creation of the group Wednesday in an emergency directive that allows Nevada’s professional licensing boards to temporarily waive certain licensing requirements. The waiver will expire after the declared emergency is lifted.
The state is looking for a wide cross-section of professionals — such as registered nurses, respiratory care practitioners, paramedics, medical laboratory technicians, pharmacists and medical and nursing students — to join the corps.
The waiver will allow retirees or workers not licensed in Nevada to help during the crisis, along with those who received medical training but never obtained a license and students who have completed a significant amount of training but have not yet graduated. But it does not apply to medical providers who have had their license revoked or those who voluntarily surrendered it because of disciplinary action.
People interested in joining the Battle Born Medical Corp can do so at ServNV.org.
— Jackie Valley, 4/4/2020 at 7:07 p.m.
Five residents of veterans home test positive for COVID-19
Five of 161 residents at the Southern Nevada State Veterans Home in Boulder City have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said Saturday.
All residents have been tested, but testing of team members continues. The VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System and Nevada State Public Health Labs are helping with the testing.
“We are extremely grateful these residents are all doing well,” Nevada Department of Veterans Services Director Kat Miller said in a statement. “They all remain in isolation and are being cared for by our team members who are following established local, state, and federal guidelines to stop the spread of the virus.”
Officials noted that this was the first chance the home had to test all residents and team members because of the nationwide testing kit backlog.
A phone line (702-332-6705) has been set up to provide updates on or before noon each day to community members, residents and relatives.
— Jackie Valley, 4/4/20 at 5:30 p.m.
Friday state and county updates: Positive cases statewide surpass 1,550; death total rises to 44
The Department of Health and Human Services reported a total of 1,514 confirmed coronavirus cases Friday morning. By the end of the day, the statewide case total had risen to 1,551 and the death total was 44.
Although the number of cases reported by the state grew by fewer than 100, the number of patients who tested positive grew by 3.8 percent while the total number of people tested grew at a slower rate of 3.5 percent.
Southern Nevada Health District officials announced a total of 1,279 cases of the novel coronavirus Friday morning — up 154 from the previous day's total — and five new deaths.
The health district reported that roughly a fourth of coronavirus cases have led to hospitalizations. And of those hospitalizations, 15 percent of patients have ended up in the intensive care unit and 11 percent have been intubated. About 16 percent of all patients hospitalized have an underlying medical condition, such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease or diabetes.
Ninety-two percent of the people who died in Southern Nevada were hospitalized, and 56 percent of those people had an underlying medical condition, according to the health district.
Elko County officials reported two more cases on Thursday, bringing the county total to seven. The two new cases are a man and a woman in their 30s, and both are isolating at their homes, authorities said. The man is a close contact of a previously reported case.
Western Nevada officials reported a new case in Douglas County Friday morning. The resident is a woman in her 60s who is self-isolating at home. Douglas County also reported one recovery Friday. The county has reported seven total cases.
On Friday afternoon, Washoe County reported another 45 positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of reported cases in the county up to 229. County officials say 26 people have recovered from the virus, with the number of deaths still at four.
An eighth person has tested positive for coronavirus in Elko County, officials announced Friday afternoon. The patient, a man in his 40s, is isolating at home and is a close contact of a previously reported case.
Humboldt County officials also announced two new cases of the novel coronavirus Friday afternoon. The two cases are a man in his 50s and a woman in her 40s, both known close contacts of previously reported cases. Of the nine cases in Humboldt, four have been hospitalized and five are isolating at home.
Nye County also reported another positive COVID-19 case in Pahrump on Friday evening, driving the number of cases in the county up to seven total.
West Wendover Mayor Daniel Corona confirmed on Friday evening that an individual who tested positive for the virus earlier this week has died. It's the first COVID-19 related death reported outside of Clark and Washoe counties, and brings the statewide death total to 44. Elko County officials confirmed the death Saturday morning, a woman in her late 50s with underlying medical conditions who was not hospitalized at the time of her death.
— Updated 4/4/20 at 8:26 a.m.
Reno behavioral health hospital under investigation after dozens test positive for COVID-19
Nevada health authorities are actively investigating the Willow Springs behavioral health center in Reno after 24 youth and 11 staff tested positive for COVID-19.
A spokeswoman for the state’s Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance said in a press release on Friday evening that the state is actively investigating the behavioral health hospital, and that “measures are in place” to prevent further exposure to the virus.
“The health and wellness of our patients and staff is of utmost importance and we are taking this matter seriously and cooperating with the State during their review of our facility,” Willow Springs Center CEO Andrew Herod said in a statement.
A staff member at the hospital, a woman in her 30s, was one of Washoe County’s four reported deaths from the virus. The Reno Gazette-Journalpreviously reported the state’s investigation into the treatment center.
— Riley Snyder, 4/3/20 at 6:01 p.m.
Gaming trade association CEO: ‘Deeply concerned’ over small business loan exclusions
The head of the American Gaming Association said he was “deeply concerned” Friday morning by interim guidelines from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that do not allow small gaming companies to apply for a federal loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program.
The loan program is aimed at helping small businesses stay afloat and keep employees on their payrolls during an economic downturn. But the American Gaming Association is concerned that their members will be precluded from using the small business relief program, an exclusion that the trade group says would affect about one-third of the casino industry.
“In SBA’s efforts to quickly issue guidance on the [program], they relied on antiquated, discriminatory regulations that ignore today’s economic reality and the congressional intent behind the CARES Act, which states that any business concern shall be eligible to receive an SBA loan if they meet specific qualifications regarding their number of employees,” American Gaming Association president and CEO Bill Miller said in a statement Friday.
The SBA does not typically extend economic disaster loans to businesses “deriving more than one-third of gross annual revenue from legal gambling activities.”
“Unless amended, these initial guidelines will irreparably harm one-third of the U.S. casino industry and the hundreds of thousands of Americans that rely on gaming businesses for their livelihood,” Miller wrote. “This decision will affect hard-working Americans from Pennsylvania to Nevada, Ohio to Colorado, and everywhere in between who need and deserve the same level of support as anyone across the country during these unprecedented times.”
On March 31, the trade group wrote a letter to the Department of Treasury, arguing that Congress intended to expand SBA eligibility under the CARES Act.
— Daniel Rothberg, 4/3/20 at 9:32 a.m.
Fundraising for coronavirus task force passes $10 million
A new coronavirus task force, led by former MGM CEO Jim Murren, announced Friday that it had raised more than $10 million since it was formed last weekend.
The private sector task force is working to ensure that medical providers have access to personal protective equipment (PPE), such as N95 masks, gloves, gowns and sanitizer. Murren said the task force continues to explore “global leads” for protective equipment.
The $10 million in fundraising does not include PPEs that have been donated directly to medical professionals and first responders.
The task force reported donations from several contributors, including Nevada Gold Mines, the Elaine P. Wynn and Family Foundation, the Fertitta Family Foundation, Stephen J. Cloobeck, the Murren Family Foundation, the Engelstad Foundation, Las Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis, the Marnell Family Foundation, Phil and Jennifer Satre, UFC, the Peppermill Resort, Scott and Mary Alice Nielson, the Menzies Family Trust and the Binion Family Foundation.
“The members of the task force and I are in awe of the generosity we’ve encountered from so many of our peers, friends and fellow Nevadans,” Murren said in a statement. “In today’s hyper-competitive market of medical supplies, it is critical that we have readily available funds to seize opportunities to purchase necessary supplies every time appropriate sourcing is secured."
— Daniel Rothberg, 4/3/20 at 9:00 a.m.
Thursday county and state updates: Death count rises to 38, more than 1,400 individuals test positive for COVID-19
Nevada’s statewide death total from COVID-19 has risen to 38, with the total number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the state now more than 1,400.
Updated totals published by the state and Clark County on Thursday morning show the death total has risen by six since Wednesday, all coming from new cases reported in Clark County, and statewide reported positive COVID-19 cases have increased by 179 compared to Wednesday.
Of the 1,125 positive cases reported in Clark County, 277 (or about 24.6 percent of cases) have required hospitalization, including 42 cases requiring an intensive care unit — figures that don’t include the 34 deaths reported in the county.
Of the reported deaths, 25 required an intensive care unit, and 22 of the cases (64 percent) had some form of an underlying medical condition, including 12 with hypertension and nine with diabetes.
Carson City health officials also reported another positive case on Thursday, a man in his 80s who is self-isolating at home and in stable condition. Carson City also reported one recovery, and has nine reported cases.
In Washoe County, health district officials reported 21 additional cases on Thursday, bringing the county's total number of cases up to 184. Health officials also reported eight more individuals have recovered from the virus, for a total of 26 recoveries.
— Updated 4/2/20 at 3:27 p.m.
MGM CEO Hornbuckle says 60,000 employees outside of Macau are furloughed
MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle said the company has furloughed about 60,000 employees — the vast majority of its workforce outside of Macau.
“It’s been devastating,” Hornbuckle said about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
While casinos in Macau have opened after COVID-19 swept through Asia, Hornbuckle said they continue to leak cash aside from a few days with an operating profit. He said he expects the market to suffer until a visa system opens up the borders.
Hornbuckle said decisions to sell off assets in recent months have put the company in a stronger position to weather the economic crisis.
“We feel secure in knowing we have the opportunity to play safe, play the long game, and ultimately protect all of these jobs not only here but throughout the other states,” he said.
Asked when the resorts would open in the U.S., Hornbuckle said “when it’s safe.” He noted that business travel that makes up a large portion of MGM’s business is at a virtual standstill, with many events being postponed until the latter half of the year.
“We won’t necessarily want to be the first to open,” he said. “We’ll open this intelligently and hopefully with some forethought.”
— Michelle Rindels, 4/2/20 at 7:45 p.m.
Caesars Entertainment says it will furlough 90 percent of employees, says move is ‘critical to the future of our company’
Caesars Entertainment said Thursday that it is reducing its workforce to the lowest levels needed to keep up basic operations and expects 90 percent of its employees will be furloughed.
The company had previously announced that employees would be provided pay for the first two weeks of the closure but maintain health benefits through June 30 or when they return to work — whichever comes sooner. Furloughed staff will remain employees of the company.
“We are taking difficult but necessary steps to protect the company’s financial position and its ability to recover when circumstances allow us to reopen,” Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio said in a statement. “The Company entered this crisis with strong operating performance, which, combined with the steps we are taking now, are critical to the future of our company.”
Caesars is moving forward with a merger with Eldorado Resorts, although CNBC reports the deal is expected to close later than the originally planned April date.
The company has about 65,000 employees. In Nevada, the company includes Caesars Palace, Bally’s, the Paris, the Flamingo, the Rio and other resorts in Las Vegas, as well as Harrah’s and Harvey’s in Lake Tahoe.
By contrast, employees of Wynn Resorts and the Las Vegas Sands will be paid into May, executives at those two casino companies announced on Thursday.
Gov. Steve Sisolak has extended the closure of non-essential businesses, including casinos, until the end of April. It began in mid-March.
— Michelle Rindels, 4/2/20 at 6:15 p.m.
Asylum seeker with underlying health conditions released from ICE detention in Henderson after ACLU sues
One of the ICE detainees who is a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Nevada has been released after the group raised concerns that his underlying health conditions could make him susceptible if there were an outbreak of COVID-19.
Christopher Njingu, a 51-year-old citizen of Cameroon who is seeking asylum after a civil war in his home country, was released on his own recognizance Thursday from the Henderson Detention Center, according to his lawyer, Enedina Kassamanian.
“He is elated. Just in tears, over the moon to be released,” Kassamanian said in an interview. “I do think [his release] was probably from pressure of the ACLU lawsuit.”
The lawsuit filed on Tuesday in federal court said that Njingu has hypertension and high cholesterol. Of the 34 deaths COVID-19 reported in Southern Nevada so far, more than one-third had hypertension as an underlying condition.
The other plaintiff, 45-year-old Mexican citizen Daniel Ramirez, remains detained.
ACLU attorneys argued that spread of the virus within the detention facility could be more than medical staff could handle, and that detainees held on civil immigration matters were entitled to conditions superior to those detained on criminal matters.
Kassamanian said Njingu would likely transfer his case to the Washington, D.C. area, where his family is living. She said he’s better off than when he was in detention and in close proximity to other inmates.
“He remains at risk, but at least now he’ll have proper ability to stay six feet away,” she said. “Health wise, at least he’ll be able to protect himself.”
— Michelle Rindels, 4/2/20 at 5:40 p.m.
Hundreds of thousands of masks, gloves being delivered to Nevada through national stockpile, state task force
Rep. Mark Amodei and a private-sector Nevada task force have announced they have secured hundreds of thousands of items of personal protective equipment.
Amodei on Thursday said the state was receiving a shipment from the Strategic National Stockpile that includes more than 60,000 N95 masks, 144,000 surgical masks and more than 31,000 face shields. He said delivery started a few days ago and that the supplies will be distributed to Nevada health care facilities in accordance with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directions.
“While we can never say mission accomplished, these additional PPE supplies will help alleviate some of the frontline challenges our doctors, nurses, and health care professionals have been facing here in Nevada,” the congressman said in a statement, thanking federal agencies including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for facilitating the donation.
He also said he expected a shipment within the next week of 15 Abbott ID NOW testing devices, which provide a COVID-19 test result within minutes.
Beyond the federal shipment, the Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force led by former MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren announced that to date, it has helped secure the delivery of 241,000 N95 or equivalent masks, 700,000 surgical masks and 100 gallons of hand sanitizer.
Murren said in a statement that the task force “continues to pursue other global leads on PPE” and expects another 750,000 N95 masks in the next 10 days.
“We could not have made this incredible progress without the necessary funds to purchase these supplies,” Murren said. “The generosity of our donors has made this possible.”
A task force spokeswoman said the shipment did not include previously announced donations of millions of items of PPE by the Las Vegas Sands, or the shipment from the national stockpile.
— Michelle Rindels, 4/2/20 at 3:54 p.m. (updated at 5:30 p.m. to reflect task force figures include Wynn donation)
Absent national push, Reno Mayor Schieve calls for city residents to start wearing masks
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve is now asking for every city resident to start wearing a cloth mask, scarf, bandana or other face coverings should they choose to leave their homes, a move that comes as state and local leaders continue to grapple with the possible long-term health effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
During a virtual press conference Thursday, Schieve said in part that “this is not the time to be vain,” and that now is the time “to really stress how severe this situation is, especially over the next month.”
“I know that people might say, ‘Hey, that mayor is crazy,’ but I would much rather be crazy and protect our citizens the best that we can,” Schieve said.
Schieve said the request is just that, a request, but absent recommendations from federal health authorities such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said she wanted to “take every precaution we possibly can.”
“A lot of people have said, ‘well it’s just the flu,’ — it’s not the flu,” Schieve said. “It’s 10 times more contagious than the flu, and not only that, we have a vaccine for the flu.”
She added that the use of N95 masks, which have been shown to be able to effectively filter the airborne particles that carry the coronavirus, should be reserved for health workers and first responders and, if available, donated to those workers instead.
Schieve also called on those Nevadans who can stitch their own cloth masks to do so and joked that anyone who has gone to the Burning Man festival should already be readily equipped with a suitable bandana.
Schieve also briefly addressed several transparency issues from the Washoe County Health District, which refused to brief officials on worst-case scenarios Wednesday after a news report regarding those scenarios appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal.
The mayor said she didn’t know why the information was withheld, but added, “This is the time to be incredibly honest with the public.”
“I don’t want to make anyone panic, and maybe that’s their reasoning,” Schieve said. “But I think that people right now should be very vigilant and take this seriously. I think if we are not getting that kind of information from the health department, then it’s really hard for us to make the best decisions possible.”
— Jacob Solis, 4/2/20 at 3:49 p.m.
Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts to continue paying employees amid shutdown
Two of the major casino operators in Southern Nevada — Las Vegas Sands and Wynn Resorts — will continue paying their employees into May despite a nationwide shutdown of the legal gambling industry.
Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson wrote in an op-ed for the New York Post on Wednesday that he will continue to pay “every one of our nearly 10,000 employees as though they were still working,” including making up for lost tips. He called on fellow business executives to continue paying their employees for as long as they can to lessen the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To my fellow corporate executives who are looking at spreadsheets and trying to determine the impact this crisis will have on sales and share prices, let me say: Our job as business leaders is now as simple as it is challenging,” he wrote in the op-ed. “It is to maximize the number of employees and their families that we can help — and help them for as long as possible.”
On Thursday, Wynn Resorts announced it would continue paying all salaried, hourly and part-time employees through May 15, including an estimated tip amount for tipped employees. The company said the decision would affect more than 15,000 employees.
"It is our shared responsibility to follow the direction of health and safety professionals to stay home, and limit social contact," Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox said in a statement. "We owe it to each other, our families and to our community."
— Riley Snyder, 4/2/20 at 12:33 p.m.
Horsford, House Democrats publish schedule for federal government’s COVID-19 assistance checks
The Internal Revenue Service will begin making direct COVID-19 assistance payments to Americans beginning April 13, with plans to begin mailing paper checks in May to low-income individuals who do not have direct deposit information on file with the federal tax agency.
The schedule and details for the payments — $1,200 for every adult, $500 per child with diminishing payments for individuals with incomes over $75,000 or $150,000 for joint filers — was reported Thursday by Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford’s office, which said he and his colleagues on the House Ways and Means Committee had requested more details on the payments from the IRS and Department of Treasury.
The first payments will begin on the week of April 13 to the roughly 60 million Americans with direct deposit information on file with the IRS from the previous two tax years.
Then, the IRS will begin sending paper checks to individuals in May, with about 5 million checks sent out per week and directed to low-income individuals first. The agency expects it could take up to 20 weeks to get all of the checks sent out, but said individuals will be able to fill out a future “simple tax return” with the IRS to receive their payment through a direct deposit.
Individuals who receive Social Security payments and do not file tax returns will not need to file any additional return. Any individuals who do not file returns will be able to fill out the forthcoming “simple tax return” that contains baseline information such as name, Social Security number, dependents and deposit information to receive their payment.
Horsford’s office also said that the IRS plans to create a web portal by late April or early May that will allow taxpayers to check the status of their rebate payment, or change their direct deposit information.
— Riley Snyder, 4/2/20 at 9:42 a.m.
Nevada unemployment claims increase by more than 71,400
More than 71,400 Nevada workers filed initial unemployment claims with the state last week, as unemployment rates skyrocketed around the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The data, which was reported in a Thursday release by the federal Department of Labor, reported the initial claims filed during the week ending on March 28 had decreased slightly from the previous week, but combined show more than 163,700 new unemployment claims being filed in the state over the last two weeks.
Nationally, more than 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment for the week ending March 28, which marked the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.
Nevada felt initial economic pain when Gov. Steve Sisolak on March 20 ordered the closure of the state’s casino industry and later a “nonessential” business shutdown to mitigate spread of the virus.
Per the initial federal data, Nevada was one of only four states that saw its number of weekly claims decrease last week, joining Minnesota, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
— Riley Snyder, 4/2/20 at 8:30 a.m.
Humboldt County reports two more coronavirus cases
Humboldt County officials announced two more cases of the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the countywide total to seven. According to county officials, 70 people have been tested for the virus and results are pending for 10 patients.
With the additional cases, Humboldt County has now exceeded Washoe County in cases per capita but is behind Clark County.
— Megan Messerly, 4/1/20 at 7:32 p.m.
Washoe County up to 163 cases of coronavirus, up by 20
Washoe County officials reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday evening, bringing the countywide total to 163.
There are 141 active cases of coronavirus in the county, 18 recoveries and four deaths.
— Megan Messerly, 4/1/20 at 6:09 p.m.
Washoe County officials describe 'alternative housing' options for people who can't safely isolate at home
Washoe County leaders on Wednesday described their plans to provide alternative housing to people affected by COVID-19 who cannot safely self-isolate at home.
State Sen. Julia Ratti, who is a Washoe County Health District employee, said the county is setting up trailers for general housing, where each unit comes equipped with a bed and bathroom. At full build out, the general housing could accommodate 300 people, she said. The county’s incident management team is working on plans for food service, security and staffing at the general housing site.
County officials are also working on supportive housing with about 43 beds for people who need more assistance, she said. The supportive housing units will come with three meals a day, a case manager and an advanced practice registered nurse
These housing options will be for people with symptoms of COVID-19 or those who have received a positive diagnosis and need a safe place to isolate. That includes everyone from a person experiencing homelessness to a college student living in a house with a grandparent who’s part of a high-risk demographic, Ratti said. Referrals will be made by the health district, hospitals, nonprofits and through the COVID-19 call center.
“We anticipate an increasing need for this type of housing,” Ratti said. “Our goal is to reduce the number of individuals who are exposed to COVID-19 by rapidly helping individuals who cannot safely isolate.”
Last month, the City of Reno opened the Reno Events Center for people experiencing homelessness. Portable restrooms with hand sanitizer have been placed around Washoe County as well.
Ratti said the county also plans to deploy hand-washing stations as soon as outdoor temperatures allow.
— Jackie Valley, 4/1/20 at 4:25 p.m.
Outdoor parking lot shelter for homeless to close after Catholic Charities shelter reopens
A cement outdoor parking lot that was characterized as a temporary homeless shelter will close on Thursday, officials from the City of Las Vegas and Clark County announced.
Sleeping spaces in a parking lot at Cashman Center, which were opened after a Catholic Charities shelter closed last week when a man tested positive for the novel coronavirus, were used by 591 homeless individuals over four nights. The Catholic Charities shelter has now reopened, local government officials said.
Construction is still ongoing on an isolation and quarantine complex inside Cashman Center, which will have the capacity to care for at least 350 homeless individuals amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The complex, which is slated to begin receiving patients on Monday at 6 p.m., will have separate areas for people who are quarantined because they have been exposed to the virus and those who are in isolation because they have tested positive but no symptoms.
Local government officials say homeless patients will be given resources and a case plan to help them transition from homelessness while at the isolation and quarantine complex. Clark County is overseeing the funding and construction of the facility, while the City of Las Vegas is overseeing operations and security. The facility is being jointly funded by both entities.
— Megan Messerly, 4/1/20 at 4:08 p.m.
Fourth person dies of COVID-19 in Washoe County
Washoe County health authorities on Wednesday announced a fourth death linked to coronavirus — a male in his 40s who had an underlying health condition.
Washoe County Health Officer Kevin Dick said the region extends its condolences to the man’s family and loved ones. His death brings the statewide fatality toll to 32.
Washoe County has reported 143 cases and 13 recoveries. Of the county’s active cases, 20 patients have required hospitalizations, Dick said. Washoe County officials expect to release updated case numbers later Wednesday.
— Jackie Valley, 4/1/20 at 2:43 p.m.
Board of Examiners recommends sending more than $6.2 million to state’s emergency management division for coronavirus response
The state Board of Examiners — comprised of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state — recommended that the state’s Interim Finance Committee move more than $6.2 million from the state’s Disaster Relief Account to the Division of Emergency Management Wednesday, the latest step by state leaders to fund the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Part of that money, $1.25 million, will be a contribution toward federal emergency management funds, while the remaining $5 million will go to the emergency management division for the acquisition of emergency supplies and the “immediate assistance” of state, local, county and tribal governments.
The recommended allocation amounts to roughly half of the more than $12 million already in the state’s Disaster Relief Account.
The Interim Finance Committee is scheduled to meet next on April 16.
— Jacob Solis, 4/1/20 at 2:25 p.m.
Gov. Sisolak requests ‘Major Disaster Declaration’ from Trump Administration
Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a request for a Major Disaster Declaration from the White House Tuesday, a request that would open up additional avenues for federal assistance under the existing national emergency proclamation.
In a release, the governor’s office said the request would include additional public assistance funding, including disaster-related unemployment assistance, legal services, crisis counseling and training programs and mass care and emergency assistance.
Issued through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Major Disaster Declarations require state governors to take certain steps, including declaring their own states of emergency, before receiving access to federal resources.
The Trump Administration has not yet approved Nevada’s request, though other states reported waiting two days for their own approvals.
More than two dozen states across the U.S. have already had their own requests for such a declaration approved, while several others have also filed pending requests over the last week.
SEIU Local 1107 condemns county decision to suspend collective bargaining agreements
The Service Employees International Union Local 1107 released a statement Wednesday blasting Clark County Manager Yolanda King for suspending collective bargaining agreements.
The union, which represents health care and public service employees, said the decision affects nearly 9,000 workers and their families, including some at University Medical Center.
“Ms. King’s decision to strip away collective bargaining agreements for thousands of workers is dangerous and reactive,” union officials said in a statement. “With Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages in Nevada and across the country, our frontline heroes now must contend with doing their jobs safely, while also fearing for their livelihood.”
The union went on to demand that the Clark County Commission reverse the decision.
“It is clear that Ms. King is out of touch with the workforce and the needs of Clark County and UMC,” officials wrote. “This decision is unacceptable - a betrayal and blatant attack against frontline healthcare and public workers.”
Clark County’s emergency declaration on March 15 included a line noting that “certain administrative functions require flexibility in staffing levels and assignments normally addressed in collective bargaining agreements and merit personnel systems.”
County officials say the action Is designed to make the government more nimble during this period.
“We are thankful for our employees’ selfless dedication to public service and appreciate all that they do,” County spokesman Erik Pappa said in a statement. “But current emergency conditions require that we suspend all collective bargaining agreements to allow us to more quickly change employees’ schedules and take other steps to make us all safer while providing critical services to our community. This was one of many necessary measures that we have used to make the County more responsive during this extraordinary time.”
Metro Police has also given employees notice that their collective bargaining agreements will be suspended.
— Jackie Valley, 4/1/20 at 12:30 p.m. and updated at 7:15 p.m.
Clark County secures up to 1,000 beds across hotels, motels, warehouses for coronavirus patients
Officials in Clark County announced Wednesday they had secured space for up to 1,000 beds for coronavirus patients across a dozen private facilities. Those facilities include local hotels, motels, warehouses, convention spaces and surgical centers.
Officials say the new space will supplement planned expansion of Southern Nevada Health District facilities, which is expected to serve up to 40 patients at a time.
The move comes ahead of a likely shortage of medical supplies and facilities should the coronavirus outbreak rapidly worsen. Medical experts say a widespread shortage of hospital beds could hamper efforts at treating the worst cases — an outcome already playing out across the world’s worst-hit coronavirus hotspots.
— Jacob Solis, 4/1/20 at 11:31 a.m.
Board of Regents delay searches for chancellor, UNR, UNLV presidents
The Board of Regents announced Wednesday that it will delay ongoing searches for permanent presidents at the state’s two flagship universities, as well as a new chancellor to replace Thom Reilly.
The announcement comes as the spread of the novel coronavirus has ground many of the normal operations of the state’s colleges and universities to a halt.
In an email sent to the search committees Wednesday, Board Chair Jason Geddes and Vice Chair Jason Doubrava confirmed the presidential searches would be pushed to September, while the search for a new chancellor would be moved to June.
In the interim, the regents will mull short-term solutions at an emergency meeting next week to keep acting UNLV President Marta Meana and Reilly on board and extend their contracts through the end of 2020. They will also consider appointing an acting president to succeed UNR’s Marc Johnson, who told regents that he cannot remain in his post past the summer.
The news comes on the heels of an announcement by former Gov. Brian Sandoval that he would leave his post at MGM Resorts International in order to apply for the job at UNR.
UNLV has long been without a permanent president following the sudden ouster of former President Len Jessup in 2018. Johnson and Reilly, meanwhile, had given plenty of advance notice; both had announced their respective retirements several months ago, and regents had originally planned to appoint replacements by the summer.
— Jacob Solis, 4/1/20 at 10:54 a.m.
Five more cases confirmed in rural Nevada
Northern Nevada health officials confirmed four new cases of the novel coronavirus Wednesday, including three in Carson City and one in Lyon County, while another new case was reported in Nye County.
The new numbers bring the case total in the Carson City-Lyon-Douglas-Storey County region to 16, and the total in Nye County to six.
The new cases in Carson City include a man in his 50s, an 18-year-old with close contact to another confirmed case and a woman in her 40s. The new Lyon County case is a woman in her 70s, and the case in Nye County was identified in Pahrump.
All four Northern Nevada cases are self isolating at home and are in stable condition. No additional information was available for the case in Nye County.
— Jacob Solis, 4/1/20 at 10:35 a.m.
Number of confirmed coronavirus cases surges to 1,279, total dead rises to 31
The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus statewide rose by 166 Wednesday morning, pushing the caseload to 1,279.
Five more deaths also were reported in Clark County, increasing the number killed by the virus to 31. It raises the mortality rate slightly to 2.4 percent statewide and 2.9 percent in Clark County, which has recorded 28 deaths. With testing remaining limited and the true scope of infections unknown, however, the mortality rate is likely unrepresentative.
The increase in confirmed cases — at least 100 new cases have been reported each day over the last week — comes both as testing capacity ramps up and as the virus continues to spread. Increases remain most concentrated in populous Clark County, which has seen confirmed cases surge by 25 percent in two days, and deaths double in three days.
The state has so-far tested 12,798 people for coronavirus, with roughly 10 percent of those tests coming back positive.
— Jacob Solis, 4/1/20 at 8:52 a.m.
New Sisolak directive extends grace periods for expiring licenses and permits issued by state, locals
A new emergency directive by Gov. Steve Sisolak will grant extensions and longer grace periods for any set-to-expire license or permit issued by state or local authorities.
The order, issued late Tuesday night, allows for any license or permit issued by state authorities that is due to expire after the initial state of emergency declaration on March 12 to receive a 90-day extension from its current expiration date or 90 days after the state of emergency is lifted, whichever is later.
“Due to the COVID-19 public health crisis, Nevada residents are facing restricted travel and should not be penalized for doing the right thing and staying home,” Sisolak said in a statement. “With this order, Nevadans don’t have to worry about losing legal rights while they focus on staying healthy.”
The order also applies to any expiring business license that was scheduled be renewed after March 12, and allows the payment of any business license fee owed to the state to be paid within 60 days after the state of emergency is lifted. It also extends the statute of limitations on any filing of legal action or notice to 30 days after the state of emergency is lifted.
The order comes a day after the Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs' Association announced a joint agreement between the 17 county sheriffs that any and all concealed carry firearm permits that expire on or after March 12 will be extended until July 15, because of police agencies rolling back operations to mitigate spread of the virus.
State asks tow operators to limit operations amid “overzealous” complaints from HOAs
At least two Nevada state agencies are asking tow truck operators to limit operations to “essential” functions amid multiple complaints of “overzealous” homeowner associations.
Both the state’s HOA ombudsman and Nevada Transportation Authority Chair Dawn Gibbons issued advisory statements on Tuesday warning tow operators — declared an “essential” business and allowed to operate during the COVID-19 business shutdown — that they should limit operations to “essential services.”
“The governor’s office advises that it has received complaints of overzealous enforcement of parking regulations at residential complexes leading to burdensome costs for citizens attempting to live under the virus mandates,” Gibbons wrote in a notice. “I remind all tow car carriers that their designation as essential services during this period of the virus comes with certain responsibilities. As an essential service, you should make every attempt during these times to limit your services to those that are in fact essential.”
Gibbons wrote that essential services should be limited to things like a vehicle blocking a fire hydrant, fire lane, parked in a handicap reserved space or parked in a space “clearly marked” for a specific resident or unit in a residential complex.
Charvez Foger, the ombudsman for the Real Estate Division’s HOA agency, also sent out a notice to all homeowner association boards urging them to dial down enforcement of parking or other violations given the larger number of families “hunkering down together in an effort to comply with guidance from the governor’s office.
“During this unprecedented time, many Nevadans are currently and/or will be struggling to make ends meet,” he wrote in the letter. “The added cost and inconvenience of having their vehicle towed could be especially detrimental.”
Foger specifically asked HOAs to pause any towing or fines caused by a household’s attempt to follow social distancing guidelines, such as parking too many cars on a street or in a driveway.
Nevada has nearly 3,000 homeowner associations statewide.
— Riley Snyder, 3/31/20 at 7:29 p.m.
DETR expects unemployment expansion guidelines from Labor Department in coming days
The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation announced Tuesday that it had entered into an agreement with the Department of Labor this weekend to begin expanding unemployment insurance benefits to workers not typically covered by the program.
Last week, Congress extended unemployment insurance to cover independent contractors, gig workers, part-time workers and self-employed workers as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The federal bill could also increase weekly unemployment benefit coverage, regardless of worker classification, by $600 and extend coverage by 13 weeks.
But the state agencies are awaiting guidelines on how to implement the expanded program, even as independent contractors are eager to apply. In a press release Tuesday, DETR said that the programs are not yet available but encouraged contractors to monitor a web link.
“I am pleased to see that we are one step closer to being able to address the needs of independent contractors and others who historically have not been covered under our traditional unemployment system,” Tiffany Tyler-Garner, DETR’s director, said in a statement.
Although she called the agreement “the first essential step in getting the required funding and administering the programs,” Tyler-Garner said that the agency expected “to face new complexities that come with launching a new program.”
The press release said DETR expects to receive guidance on implementation from the Department of Labor “in the coming days.”
— Daniel Rothberg, 3/31/20 at 6:34 p.m.
Two Pahrump residents test positive for COVID-19; Nye County up to four cases
Two women in Pahrump have tested positive for COVID-19, Nye County officials reported Tuesday evening, driving the number of positive cases in the county up to four.
The cases included a woman in her 60s and another woman in her 70s, both residents of Pahrump who are in quarantine. Earlier on Tuesday, the county reported another positive COVID-19 case, a man in his 40s in Amargosa Valley.
“Emergency Services is continuing to investigate the source of the infection for all three patients and retracing their movements for the past few weeks,” county spokesman Arnold Knightly said in a press release. “The public is urged to follow the governor’s guidance and Stay Home For Nevada.”
The county’s first case was reported last week in Beatty. The patient has recovered after a period of self-isolation.
— Riley Snyder, 3/31/20 at 6:27 p.m.
Rural Humboldt County up to five confirmed COVID-19 cases, high-risk people asked to shelter in place
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in rural Humboldt County has risen to five, county officials announced on Tuesday.
The county reported that two cases were confirmed Tuesday, another two were confirmed on Saturday and the county’s first case was confirmed last Thursday. The county has tested 60 people for the virus, with nine cases pending.
“Humboldt County residents should limit movement outside the home to essential activities only,” Humboldt County Health Officer Charles Stringham said in a press release. “People at high risk, including people over 60, people with underlying health conditions, people with compromised immune systems, and pregnant women, should shelter in place now.”
Humboldt General Hospital is asking any available retired or otherwise available health care providers to reach out if they’re able to join hospital staff on a temporary basis. Humboldt County has a population of about 16,500.
— Riley Snyder, 3/31/20 at 6:01 p.m.
Washoe County up to 143 COVID-19 cases, 20 individuals hospitalized
Washoe County reported an additional 22 cases of COVID-19 in the county on Tuesday afternoon, bringing the county’s total number of reported cases up to 143 with 20 individuals requiring hospitalization.
The county also reported through its interagency Regional Information Center that three individuals have reported recovering fully from the novel coronavirus, bringing the number of recoveries up to 13. It also reported that two additional Reno Police Department officers and a Truckee Meadows firefighter have tested positive for the virus.
The county has also established temporary housing on the corner of Mill Street and Edison Way to “serve the needs of individuals/families who have tested positive for COVID-19 and need alternative housing for isolation purposes.” Seven units, each with five rooms, are expected to be ready by as early as the end of this week.
— Riley Snyder, 3/31/20 at 4:48 p.m.
City of Las Vegas, Clark County announce construction of tents for homeless in need of quarantine, isolation at Cashman Center
Amid an outcry that Las Vegas was using a cement outdoor parking lot as a temporary homeless shelter, the city of Las Vegas and Clark County said in a press release on Tuesday that construction was beginning on an isolation and quarantine complex (ISO-Q Complex) that would include tents.
The complex is expected to open on April 6, and it will include at least three separate areas for individuals exposed to the coronavirus, individuals who test positive and individuals who test positive but are asymptomatic. The facility will have at least 350 beds, and the press release said that half of the beds will be used for isolation, while another half will be used for quarantine.
According to the press release, homeless individuals “in need of quarantine will need a referral from a local shelter partner.” The facility will consist of tents, each one with staff and security. The press release did not say how many tents will be constructed.
Clark County plans to fund the construction of the ISO-Q Complex, according to the press release, but the city will be responsible for operations, including security. The city also plans to provide water to the facility and a sewer connection. Individuals in quarantine and individuals in isolation because they tested positive will have separate restrooms and sleeping areas.
The press release did not provide additional details about how city and county officials plan to address the broader homeless population.
— Daniel Rothberg, 3/31/20 at 1:21 p.m.
Las Vegas Sands announces donation of 2 million medical masks, 20,000 protective suits
Las Vegas Sands is donating personal protective equipment to help protect first responders, medical professionals and non-profit groups responding to the coronavirus pandemic and in need of additional resources.
Through the donation announced on Tuesday, Nevada and New York will each receive one million medical masks, according to a press release from the company. Additionally, Nevada hospitals and first responders will receive 20,000 protective suits.
“Hopefully our donations will help protect people on the front lines so they can continue their invaluable work, and we can start to see the numbers of people affected begin to diminish,” Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson said in a statement.
Other gaming companies have also donated protective equipment for health care responders in Las Vegas. Last week, Wynn Resorts announced a donation of 240,000 N95 respirator masks, 600,000 surgical masks and 500,000 medical gloves.
Las Vegas Sands, in its press release on Tuesday, said that it had previously donated 105,000 masks to medical professionals and first responders in Las Vegas.
— Daniel Rothberg, 3/31/20 at 11:31 a.m.
Southern Nevada Health District to notify people with texts, emails about exposure to COVID-19 patients
Southern Nevada health officials are launching a system that will notify people through text or email if they are known to have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or traveled to an area that is a hotspot for the disease.
The Southern Nevada Health District announced the new system on Tuesday. It will be targeted to people who are known to have been exposed but are at a lower risk of having COVID-19.
The alert will advise the recipient, based on their circumstances, to monitor their symptoms and possibly to self-quarantine for 14 days. It also links to further information for the recipient.
Some people may receive a phone call in addition to the text or email message.
“As more testing occurs in Southern Nevada and the state, more cases of COVID-19 will be identified and reported,” the agency said in a press release. “Health District staff is continuing to look for resources and solutions to manage the outbreak and provide the community with information.”
Officials noted that the health district has reassigned staff to help with “contact investigations” that identify people at high risk of infection because of their exposure to someone who has tested positive.
— Michelle Rindels, 3/31/20 at 11:37 a.m.
Cases confirmed at Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation, as well as Douglas, Nye counties
The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on the reservation in a press release and issued a “shelter-in-place” order for Wadsworth, Nixon and Sutcliffe.
The individual, who lives in Sutcliffe, about 45 minutes north of Reno, has underlying medical conditions and is hospitalized.
“The Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe has a responsibility to protect our communities and is deeply concerned for the health and well-being of our people and communities,” tribal leaders said in the press release. “This Shelter in Place action will take effect immediately through April 10, 2020.”
The tribe announced last week Pyramid Lake would be closed “indefinitely” to all non-tribal members for recreational activities, such as fishing.
Pyramid Lake Fisheries announced Monday that it would not be conducting any spawning of fish, adding that “no fish will be available to Tribal members until further notice.” In an effort to provide greater access to food, however, tribal member Autumn Harry has been catching and giving cutthroat trouts to community members.
Elsewhere in rural Nevada, officials announced on Tuesday that a sixth person in Douglas County had tested positive for COVID-19. The person is a woman in her 50s who is self-isolating at home.
It marks the 12th confirmed case in the “quad county” region that includes Lyon, Storey, Douglas and Carson City counties.
Nye County also announced a second confirmed case on Tuesday. The patient is a man in his 40s who lives in Amargosa Valley and is self-isolating at home.
— Jazmin Orozco-Rodriguez & Michelle Rindels, 3/31/20 at 10:30 a.m.
SNHD approves spending for temporary lodging structure for those in isolation because of COVID-19
The Southern Nevada Health District’s board has approved spending for a temporary lodging structure, geared toward people affected or displaced by COVID-19, at the health district’s Decatur Boulevard complex.
The board unanimously approved the request for the project, which is estimated to cost $3 million, during a teleconference emergency board meeting. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to pay 75 percent of costs, with the health district and possibly local government agencies picking up the rest of the tab.
Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who sits on the health district’s board, said the temporary structure is more cost-effective than what FEMA was offering to do, and will help manage costs to quarantine special populations such as those in assisted living or the homeless. She said sheltering tough-to-house people has at times been costing $1,000 a day.
Acting health district chief Fermin Leguen said people could use the facility for up to the 14 days they would need to quarantine, or for shorter periods of time as they transition out of a hospital.
Plans call for 40 distinct pods in the structure, but other details about the shelter were unclear. District officials couldn’t say whether there would be a bathroom inside each pod, or who would be providing food service.
Leguen said it would be staffed by district staff, temporary staff and volunteers.
Earlier, North Las Vegas City Councilman Scott Black, who chairs the health district’s board, said that the facility could also house visitors to Las Vegas who are unable to safely return home. Its target market would be for people who do not need the level of care provided in a hospital.
“This facility will help achieve the important goal of freeing up hospital beds for the most critical patients,” Black said in an email on Monday.
— Michelle Rindels, 3/31/20 at 10:10 a.m.
Eight additional COVID-19 deaths reported in Southern Nevada; statewide death toll now 26
The Southern Nevada Health District is reporting eight additional deaths stemming from COVID-19.
The agency’s update Tuesday morning reports 23 deaths in Clark County, up from the 15 reported on its site on Monday.
Combined with three reported deaths in Washoe County to date, the statewide death toll is 26.
The health district reported that 22 of its fatal cases had been hospitalized, and 15 had an underlying health condition, with diabetes and hypertension among the most common.
The district has confirmed 869 total Southern Nevada cases as of Tuesday, including 145 patients who were hospitalized, excluding those who have died. Of the hospitalized patients, 27 are in the intensive care unit and 18 are intubated.
— Michelle Rindels, 3/31/20 at 8:30 a.m.
Positive cases jump to 1,113, up more than 100 over 24-hour period
Nevada reports 1,113 people tested positive for COVID-19, up more than 100 from the same time a day earlier.
The latest numbers were reported Tuesday morning by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services. On Monday morning, there were 996 positive cases.
With the state reporting 11,794 people tested, about 9 percent of people are turning up positive.
There have been 18 deaths reported.
— Michelle Rindels, 3/31/20 at 7:42 a.m.
Confirmed coronavirus cases statewide rise to 1,044, total deaths remain at 18
The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Nevada rose to 1,044 Monday night, though the total deaths remained at 18, according to the state’s tracking website.
The state has so-far conducted more than 13,600 tests on 11,400 people, with the vast majority of those tests — just over 10,400 — coming back negative.
With the number of deaths remaining constant, the mortality rate dipped slightly to 1.6 percent, while the percentage of positive tests remained roughly steady at 9.1 percent.
— Jacob Solis, 3/30/20 at 8:54 p.m.
Amid shortage, state public health lab in Reno will send 1,000 coronavirus collection kits to Southern Nevada
The Nevada State Public Health Laboratory in Reno will send 1,000 coronavirus collection kits to the Southern Nevada Health District this week amid an ongoing shortage of testing supplies at public health labs in Las Vegas.
Those collection kits, which are being made at the state health lab, are used to collect the samples that are ultimately analyzed by a testing kit.
Dr. Mark Pandori, director of the state health lab, told The Nevada Independent that additional collection kits had to be manufactured after hitting “zero supply,” even though the state maintains thousands of test kits on hand.
Though the state health lab and two private labs have processed more than 2,500 tests each over the month of March, ongoing shortages at the Southern Nevada Health District’s lab have limited its testing capacity to about 500 tests over the same time period.
At a press briefing Sunday, Gov. Steve Sisolak said the state has yet to receive any testing supplies from the federal government, despite submitting four requests for such equipment.
— Jacob Solis, 3/30/20 at 6:38 p.m.
Two more Washoe County residents die after contracting COVID-19 bringing statewide deaths to 18
Two more Washoe County residents have died after contracting the novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide death total to 18, county officials announced Monday.
One was a woman in her 30s with an underlying health condition. The other was a woman in her 80s also with underlying health conditions.
Washoe County officials also announced 10 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, bringing the number of confirmed cases countywide to 121. There are 1,008 cases of COVID-19 statewide.
The health district additionally announced that two more people have officially recovered from the novel coronavirus, bringing the total recoveries in the county to 10. There are 109 active cases of COVID-19 in Washoe County.
— Megan Messerly, 3/30/20 at 3:54 p.m., updated at 5:59 p.m.
Two workers at McCarran Airport test positive for coronavirus
The Clark County Department of Aviation announced Monday that two employees at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Officials say both initially self-reported their symptoms, and both remain under self-isolation at home.
The employees had most recently worked shifts on Thursday and Friday, respectively, though they did not work similar shifts or in similar areas of the airport.
Officials say their work areas have since been sanitized, and there is no reason to believe that either had any extensive exposure with travelers passing through McCarran.
— Jacob Solis, 3/30/20 at 5:50 p.m.
Southern Nevada Health District to consider emergency funding for additional COVID-19 health care site
The Southern Nevada Health District Board of Health will consider the construction of an alternate COVID-19 health care site at the health district’s Decatur Boulevard complex at an emergency meeting Tuesday morning.
According to Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who sits on the health district’s board, the facility will be a one-stop shelter for people who need to be quarantined for 14 days away from the general population but do not require hospital care, such as people who reside in assisted living facilities. The shelter, she said, will be placed behind the Southern Nevada Health District’s existing building.
North Las Vegas City Councilman Scott Black, who chairs the health district's board, said that the facility could additionally be used to house infected homeless individuals and visitors to Las Vegas who are unable to safely return home.
"This facility will help achieve the important goal of freeing up hospital beds for the most critical patients," Black said in an email.
Renderings of the site posted online depict a small freestanding facility with the words “emergency room” on it with 30 individual hospital-style beds inside. Another rendering shows a biocontainment unit pod with a handwritten scribble that indicates health district officials may build five such units at the facility to the tune of $20,000 apiece.
Health district officials estimate that the facility will cost $3 million, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency expected to pay 75 percent of costs. The health district’s portion of the bill is expected to be between $750,000 and $800,000, with local government agencies possibly asked to contribute.
Funding for the project will be considered at the board’s meeting at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.
— Megan Messerly, 3/30/2020 at 5:40 p.m., updated at 6:06 p.m. to include additional information from Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick and 6:16 p.m. to include additional information from North Las Vegas City Councilman Scott Black
Elko county officials announce two new coronavirus cases, raising total to five
Two more cases of the novel coronavirus were confirmed by Elko County health officials Monday, bringing the rural county’s total number of infections to five.
The news comes after confirmation this afternoon that at least one of those cases is in West Wendover, near the Utah border.
Officials say both cases, a woman in her 50s with “no remarkable travel history” and a man in his 30s who had close contact with a case from another county, are self isolating at home and remain under investigation.
— Jacob Solis, 3/30/20 at 4:20 p.m.
Nevada’s U.S. District Courts move to video, teleconferencing for certain hearings amid coronavirus outbreak
Nevada’s federal court system announced today it will shift to videoconferencing and teleconferencing for certain criminal trials in the latest step taken by the justice system to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus at the state’s federal courthouses.
The shift comes after Congress approved remote hearings in the so-called CARES Act, the first of two coronavirus relief packages to pass through Washington earlier this month.
Today’s announcement comes after ongoing concerns that the country’s justice system would remain particularly vulnerable to effects from the coronavirus — and after weeks of scrambling from the federal court system’s policy arm to find possible solutions to in-person proceedings.
Nevada’s federal courts had already moved to close public access to the clerk’s office on March 19 in addition to a directive to eliminate in-person hearings “whenever feasible.”
— Jacob Solis, 3/30/20 at 3:25 p.m.
Office of Military assigned with helming Nevada’s COVID-19 response efforts; national guard not yet activated
Nevada’s Office of the Military will now spearhead the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday afternoon.
The move aligns the state Division of Emergency Management and the Department of Health and Human Services with the Office of the Military, which is composed of the Nevada Army and Air National Guard, which have more than 4,300 trained military professionals between them. Sisolak has not yet, however, formally activated the national guard for emergency response to the pandemic.
Under the new arrangement, the Office of the Military will be responsible for coordinating activities between the Division of Emergency Management, the Department of Health and Human Services and other state agencies and will report directly to the governor’s office. The office is led by Major General Ondra L. Berry, the adjutant general for the Nevada National Guard who has more than 35 years of military experience and a retired Reno police officer.
Sisolak, in a statement, said he was “proud” of the state’s response so far but that the shift would make the state’s emergency operation “even more organized, responsive, and efficient.”
“Now, more than ever, we must work as a team to deliver locally executed, state managed, and federally supported solutions to the COVID-19 crisis,” Sisolak said. “To be successful across the State – from the smallest town, to every Tribal reservation or colony, to our largest cities – we must utilize every resource we have to act decisively and immediately.”
Sisolak has additionally appointed Caleb Cage, a former chief and homeland security advisor with the Division of Emergency Management, to assist with the state’s COVID-19 response. Cage is currently assistant vice chancellor for workforce development and community colleges for the Nevada System of Higher Education.
The state will continue to provide updates through its Nevada Health Response Center but is putting its daily situation reports on hold during the transition.
— Megan Messerly, 3/30/20 at 2:42 p.m.
Fourth positive COVID-19 case confirmed in Elko County, first in West Wendover
The small Nevada-Utah border town of West Wendover has confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19, according to Mayor Daniel Corona.
The case is the fourth reported in Elko County, and the first in West Wendover, which has a population of about 4,600. Corona said in a Twitter message that the individual tested positive at a local health clinic and is self-isolating at home.
— Riley Snyder, 3/30/20 at 2:41 p.m.
Nevada COVID-19 cases surpass 1,000
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Nevada has risen to 1,008, an increase of 84 cases since the last reported statewide total on Sunday.
The state updated its dashboard of confirmed cases on Monday morning to show that it has now tested about 11,215 people and performed 13,349 tests for the virus statewide. The “new” reported tests are likely results from Sunday or even earlier, given the length of time required to complete a test for the virus.
The number of reported deaths caused by COVID-19 is at 16, including one death in Washoe County and 15 deaths in Clark County.
— Riley Snyder, 3/30/20 at 9:57 a.m.
Statewide death total now at 16; Clark County cases up to 753
The number of statewide deaths caused by COVID-19 has risen to 16 individuals, according to data published Monday by the Southern Nevada Health District.
Data published by health officials shows the number of cases in Clark County has risen to 753 cases, including 100 individuals who have been hospitalized and 22 requiring an Intensive Care Unit. Of individuals hospitalized, 23 of them had an underlying medical condition.
Of the 15 deaths reported in Clark County, 13 of the individuals had an underlying medical condition, including six individuals with diabetes and five with hypertension. Washoe County reported its first death from the virus on Sunday; a man in his 40s with recent travel history to New York.
— Riley Snyder, 3/30/20 at 9:04 a.m.
Nevada COVID-19 cases nearly up to 1,000
The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Nevada has risen to 996, an increase of more than 72 cases since the last reported statewide total on Sunday.
The state reported Monday morning that it has now tested about 11,000 people and performed about 13,000 tests for the virus statewide. The “new” reported tests are likely results from Sunday or even earlier, given the length of time required to complete a test for the virus.
The number of reported deaths caused by COVID-19 remained constant at 15.
When Gov. Steve Sisolak announced more than $155 million in private funds for a centerpiece building at the UNLV Medical School last November, it was the end result of nearly a decade of negotiating over an edifice that had more than once been thrown into the waste bin.
It was a project that had lived, died and lived again. Visions of a grandiose, state-of-the-art facility were scuttled as ideas for a more modest library surfaced, all as donors committed millions before backing out, a university president rose and fell — and a fledgling medical school hung in the balance.
Yet today, its construction appears more likely than ever, with at least $180 million in private and public funds at the ready in a project the governor lauded as “monumental step forward” and a watershed moment for the state’s “culture of philanthropy.”
So how did it happen?
A brief history
For five decades, Nevada’s only medical school has resided in Reno, tucked into the northern half of the downtown campus at UNR. But amid a backdrop of an ever-worsening physician shortage across Las Vegas — and a push to further legitimize the still-young UNLV — efforts to establish a new medical school in the south finally coalesced in 2014.
It was then that a planning dean, Dr. Barbara Atkinson, was appointed to head up the school’s start-up phase as the regents looked to secure funding from the Legislature in the 2015 legislative session. That funding was eventually greenlit just as some of the largest obstacles — most notably the start of the accreditation process — were overcome through 2015 and 2016.
But even as the university secured land and state money for a massive proposed facility to house this new medical school — with plans envisioning a sprawling, $200 million, 200,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art building — little was ultimately set in stone.
As 2017 neared a close, uncertainty loomed as officials looked to extend deadlines indefinitely on a pre-construction contract in hopes the school would secure additional financial backers. By early 2018, tensions were flaring between UNLV’s President Len Jessup and the Board of Regents. During a regent’s meeting in March of that year, regents complained to Jessup that costs had ballooned to $238 million — more than twice the original estimate of $100 million.
All the while, fundraising continued to lag as UNLV brought in just $67 million by the time of the meeting.
Less than two weeks later, media reports surfaced that Jessup — now being pressured by Chancellor Thom Reilly to resign or be fired — was actively seeking a new job elsewhere. A day later, the Engelstad Family Foundation pulled its $14 million donation to the project, citing a condition that the money would only come through should Jessup stay on as university president.
By April 2018, Jessup was out as the university’s president, leaving in an acrimonious divorce he said was brought on by the “personal and professional attacks” of system, Reilly and the regents.
With Jessup gone — alongside the Engelstad’s money — plans were revised to a more modest 49,000 square-foot medical library at a cost of $57 million. But that, too, drew donor unease, and the plan was scrapped, according to an interview interim UNLV President Marta Meana gave the Las Vegas Review-Journal in late 2018.
By the middle of 2019, a new, seemingly final plan had emerged. To be financed through $128 million in bonds, UNLV would seek to build a classroom-bearing building of 140,000 square feet — a goldilocks option of the three plans to that point.
But, should current plans hold, it will likely never see the light of day.
To Build A Building
When Sisolak’s announcement of more than $155 in funding for the school arrived just days before the Thanksgiving holiday, it came as something of a surprise. The regents had last moved over the summer to approve more than $100 million in bonds to pay for a new facility, but little more had surfaced before the governor’s remarks.
For the philanthropic group that would eventually coalesce around funding a medical school, it had become clear that there would be no path forward through the traditional structures of the university system.
What changed? The addition of a development corporation.
Also called by the shorthand “Devco,” development corporations function as a development middleman to public-private partnerships that have become common across American universities. Such corporations generally spearhead large or costly developments before handing over ownership of such a development to the university.
That would also be the case in Las Vegas, where, once construction of the massive med-school-centerpiece is complete, ownership of the building would transfer over to UNLV.
Kris Engelstad McGarry, a trustee of the Engelstad Foundation, a longtime donor to UNLV and an early supporter of the school’s medical program, told The Nevada Independent that the key to securing the future of the fledgling medical program was to persuade the powers that be that a development corporation might provide a path forward.
“We knew there was a real need and it was something that we could help with. But we're continually hit with "no's" or why something couldn't work, and I think it took thinking outside the box to think 'what can we do to make it work,’” Engelstad McGarry said. “There has to be a yes out there somewhere, and we were really just chipping away until we figured out what that would be.”
But for Engelstad McGarry — who had long been a vocal supporter of ousted President Jessup — part of the calculus behind the creation of the development corporation was the ability to side-step the existing institutional apparatus that, in her view, had so far strangled previous attempts at a medical school.
“For me, it became a matter of thinking around excluding [university leadership] in every way,” Engelstad McGarry said. “Because it didn't appear that they wanted to partner with us, at least not in a way that we could do.”
Pointing to a raft of vacancies of the system’s top jobs — the chancellor, UNLV president and UNR president are or will soon be vacant or held by interim appointees — Engelstad McGarry said such uncertainty would make it “very difficult for them to make some kind of long-term building decision when they don't know who's going to fill in slots.”
Still, because of the intervening holiday period, details of the project remain scarce even more than six weeks after Sisolak’s announcement — though Engelstad McGarry said more details should become available by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
Even so, Warren Hardy, a former legislator who helped negotiate the new deal, said the use of a development corporation should help speed the process along once plans are set — plans that he says will be instrumental in the full establishment of the medical school.
“Anything we can do legislatively or from a policy perspective is important, but at the end of the day, it doesn't have an impact unless you have a facility like this to grow your own doctors, because at the end of the day, doctors are just like teachers,” Hardy said. “They go, they get their education, they build their careers and ultimately everybody wants to go home. So if this is home, if this is where they got their education, this is where they'll come home to, this is where they'll stay.”
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced on Wednesday at least $155 million in private donations that will spur development of a key facility for the nascent UNLV School of Medicine, capping a years-long quest to find the millions needed to build the sprawling medical facility.
That money will be buoyed by another $25 million in matching funds from the state, approved by the Legislature during deliberations in 2017.
Speaking to the media at the state government building in Las Vegas, Sisolak said the money marked a “turning point” for the state.
“This announcement marks a turning point for Nevada in creating a culture of philanthropy that will encourage other individuals and families to contribute to projects and causes that will have positive outcomes for our state,” Sisolak said.
The money raised has come in large part from a handful of key private donors, including the Engelstad Family Foundation and the Lincy Foundation. Together, the donors will form what’s known as a development corporation, which will ultimately spearhead the construction process before handing over the lease of the building to the school of medicine.
Sisolak, alongside Democratic legislative leaders, also touted that the project would pay workers the prevailing wage.
Original plans for the building envisioned a massive, 220,000 square-foot facility on the medical school’s Shadow Lane campus, built at a cost of roughly $200 million. However, those plans were soon scrapped after the Engelstad Family Foundation pulled a $14 million donation in the wake of the resignation of former UNLV President Len Jessup, ultimately leaving UNLV to scale down plans for a more modest medical library.
Those plans were eventually scuttled, too, and replaced with a new vision for a $128 million facility that hewed closer to the original plans.
No announcement was made Wednesday on what the newest plans will be, though Warren Hardy, one-time legislator and now lobbyist working closely on the deal, said more details should become available in the coming weeks.
Two freshman Democrats fighting to hold onto their seats in 2020 in an effort to help their party retain its majority in the House have built up substantial cash leads to fend off any Republican challengers, according to quarterly campaign finance reports due on Monday.
Rep. Susie Lee, who represents Nevada’s swingy 3rd Congressional District, raised more than $470,000 in the second quarter of the year, while Rep. Steven Horsford, in the Democratic-leaning 4th District, brought in about $420,000 over that same time period. The highest raising Republican congressional candidate in either district over that same time period was former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who is running to challenge Horsford and reported nearly $104,000 in contributions.
But it’s still early in both races — with a little less than a year until the primary election and more candidates likely to enter the fray between now and then.
For now, here’s a closer look at the fundraising totals reported by each candidate.
Rep. Susie Lee brought in a little more than $471,000 in the second quarter of the year for her re-election bid in Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District and ends the quarter with $734,000 in the bank after spending about $145,000. Those fundraising totals come on the heels of the roughly $435,000 she raised in the first quarter of the year, which she ended with $400,000 in cash on hand.
Roughly two-thirds of the money Lee raised this quarter came from individual contributions, though she raised $150,000 from PACs as well.
Las Vegas realtor Zachary WalkerLieb, a Republican, raised a little less than $29,000 in the quarter, including a $10,000 loan, and has about $20,000 in the bank. Neither of the other two declared candidates in the race — former state treasurer Dan Schwartz, a Republican, and Richard Hart, a Democrat — had filed their reports online as of Monday evening.
Twelve people maxed out their donations to Lee this quarter — meaning they gave a total of $5,600 to her, or $2,800 each for her primary and general elections. They include MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren and his wife Heather Murren; Kris Englestad McGarry, trustee of the Engelstad Family Foundation; and Karla Jurvetson, a physician and philanthropist who lives in Silicon Valley. She also received $5,000 from 10 PACs including the Teamsters’ DRIVE PAC, EMILY’s List, the Progressive Turnout Project and Red to Blue California.
The 3rd District, which covers Summerlin, Henderson and the southern tip of the state, is Nevada’s swingiest House seat, with Democrats holding a 1.6 percentage point voter registration advantage over Republicans. Lee has represented the seat since 2018, taking over the seat from Democrat Jacky Rosen, who served one term in the district before being elected to the Senate. Before that, Republican Joe Heck served three terms in the seat.
Rep. Steven Horsford reported raising a little more than $420,000 toward his re-election bid in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in the second quarter of the year, eclipsing the $371,000 he raised in the first three months of the year. He spent nearly $142,000 over the quarter, ending June with a little less than $589,000 in the bank. (He had nearly $310,000 saved at the end of the first quarter.)
More than half of Horsford’s fundraising haul came from PACs, which contributed roughly $221,000 to his campaign. Individuals were responsible for contributing $198,000.
One of his Republican opponents, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, raised nearly $104,000 over that same period — including a $10,000 personal loan to his campaign — ending the quarter with $85,000 in the bank. Republican Sam Peters, the owner of Peters Family Insurance, raised roughly $22,000 during the quarter, including a $3,853 personal loan, and has about $11,000 in cash on hand.
Republican Charles Navarro, who serves in the Navy reserves and went on duty shortly after filing for office at the end of May, reported raising a little more than $17,000 in the second quarter. The remaining candidate, Libertarian Jonathan Esteban, had not filed his report online as of Monday evening.
Horsford received the maximum contribution of $2,800 from more than 20 people — including from eight who have given him the maximum of $5,600 between the general and primary elections. They include Democratic donor Stephen Cloobeck; Jay Bloom, director of the real estate investment company First 100; Charles Phillips, CEO of the cloud software company Infor; Michael Rhodes, president and owner of Big Slick Petroleum; and Scott Sibley, publisher of Nevada Legal News and a former Nevada assemblyman.
Thirteen PACs gave him the maximum $5,000 contribution, including the American Federation of Teachers, the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, the Teamsters’ DRIVE PAC, Juul Labs Employees PAC, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s PAC to the Future, and UnitedHealth Group’s PAC.
Many of Marchant’s donors gave the maximum $2,800 contribution, most of them from out of state. They include Ed, Tim and Troy Herbst in Las Vegas, the owners of Terrible Herbst; Marjorie and Walter Buckley, investors from Pennsylvania; Tatnall and Roberta Hillman, conservative donors from Colorado; and Bill Pope, the Texas CEO of NCIC Inmate Telephone Services.
The 4th Congressional District, which was created in 2013, covers parts of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, as well as rural Lyon, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties. The seat leans blue but was once won by a Republican, Cresent Hardy, in the red wave of 2014. Horsford first represented the seat after the 2012 election and was again elected to represent it in 2018.
Republican Rep. Mark Amodei, who first was elected to this Northern Nevada seat in 2011, brought in a little less than $148,000 in this quarter for his re-election bid and ended the quarter with about $266,000 in the bank, an increase of about $36,000 since the beginning of the reporting period. Most of his contributions, roughly $102,000, came from individuals, with only $44,000 coming from PACs.
Democrat Clint Koble, who ran against Amodei for the seat in 2018, raised just a little less than $19,000 during the quarter and had a negative $1,200 balance in the bank at the end of the reporting period.
Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, who has represented this solidly blue district in the heart of Las Vegas since 2013, raised a little less than $86,000 in the second quarter of the year, ending the reporting period with $264,000 in the bank. Of the money Titus raised, $46,000 came from PACs and a little less than $40,000 came from individuals.
A frustrated Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick gave UNLV President Marta Meana a professional thrashing Tuesday over delays in the development of the anchor building for the university’s fledgling medical school. Let’s give credit where it’s due.
To her own credit, Meana took the berating -- but not the bait during the commission meeting. Kirkpatrick was clearly pitching for a fight on the subject. Meana maintained her composure as the chairwoman piled on concerns about elements of the medical school’s development, which started sputtering long before Meana was named as an interim replacement for ousted UNLV President Len Jessup. Kirkpatrick tipped her hand by admitting at the outset of the commission item that she’d already had a private conversation with Meana. Apparently she thought she’d missed something and needed to repeat herself.
Seeing what was coming, Commissioners James Gibson and Tick Segerblom alluded to the building’s challenges and bright future while also touting the quality of care at UMC, which has transitioned into a teaching hospital. Kirkpatrick was in no mood for sunshine. She quickly countered their attempt to maintain a balanced perspective.
“I need more than a commitment, right?” she asked. “I need a hard date, a hard time line, a hard communication and expectation because what I’ll tell you is, for me, I’m super frustrated with this whole thing. And I’ve never been shy about it. “
After expressing regret about her support as a legislator for transferring the medical school focus from Reno to highly populated Southern Nevada, Kirkpatrick became even more animated. “For me, it’s not okay to say you’ve got some conceptual plans. For hell sakes, after four years, that’s the best we’ve got? And, quite frankly, somebody picked that up and put it on a piece of paper.”
Meana mostly remained silent as Kirkpatrick went on, occasionally accompanied by Commissioner Lawrence Weekly, who noted the absence at the meeting of departing medical school Dean Barbara Atkinson.
There’s been no shortage of vitriol associated with the medical school’s lack of progress in the past year.
Under withering criticism from Nevada Board of Regents Chairman Kevin Page in part over the progress of the medical school building, Jessup resigned in April 2018 claiming he was the victim of “unfounded and unjustified attacks” from some of the regents and Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly. Jessup almost immediately announced his new position as president of California’s Claremont Graduate School.
The political battle had a bruising fiscal cost. Allied with Jessup and Atkinson, the Engelstad Family Foundation pulled a $14 million gift dedicated to the building fund due to the turmoil surrounding the president’s performance review and ouster. Atkinson remains dean of the school during a national search for her replacement. The Engelstad foundation continued its long-term investment in the medical students by maintaining its $10 million scholarship fund for those accepted to the program.
Kirkpatrick was over the top, but did she hit Meana below the belt?
Concern for the medical school’s progress is certainly justified. A lot is riding on it, and with Meana’s title comes the challenge of picking up the pieces and moving forward without a big-money donor. But this house was on fire long before she arrived.
Beyond the endless North-South political struggle over the school roiling beneath the surface of the issue, there’s the very real need for more physicians with real connections to the community -- especially the medical school’s affiliated University Medical Center. A lot of longtime observers of the hospital and the local state of medical care have been rooting for a breakthrough for Southern Nevada. The Las Vegas Medical District is considered by many to be an important part of that improved outlook for patients who have perennially left the community to seek better care.
A building originally slated for nine stories with an opening date set for 2021 has been cut to four stories and an optimistic fall of 2022. Kirkpatrick wasn’t buying the new time line and optimistic construction schedule.
Meana responded with understatement. After explaining the challenges of arranging a new financing package and reconfiguring the building’s footprint for feasibility and design, “so that we can get it off the ground very, very soon,” the president said, “... This is not a pipe dream. This is a doable project.”
It had better be. From the sound of things a lot of people will be watching its progress closely and looking for cracks in the construction timeline.
If Kirkpatrick was trying to make the case for her concern over the lack of forward-motion on the construction project, she certainly succeeded. But the pounding also looked like grandstanding given the simple fact Meana wasn’t around when this Spruce Goose of a medical school building failed to leave the runway.
It’s on her shoulders now, though. She was instructed by the chairwoman that the commission will be seeking monthly updates on the building’s progress.
So it appears the floggings will continue until morale improves.
John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal—”Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Amazon.com. Contact him at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith
Years have passed, and an endless parade of clients has come through the doors of the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, but Barbara Buckley will never forget the panic in the young mother’s voice.
On the verge of losing her children during a mean-spirited custody battle, the kind that are so common in Family Court, she reached out to Buckley’s executive director’s office at the center, which since 1958 has provided free legal services to those who can’t afford a lawyer.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” the woman said, sobbing, her desperation palpable.
Buckley helped calm her fears, explained the confusing process, gave her a legal strategy and a tether of hope born of experience. In time, the facts were separated from the emotion, and justice rose from the chaos.
“A year later, she friended me on Facebook,” Buckley recalled recently. “She said, ‘I got my kids back today. I want you to know I’ll never forget you.’”
And she didn’t.
Of course, not all the stories at the nonprofit Legal Aid center end happily. There’s no shortage of heartache when your indigent clients are in foster care, seeking a restraining order, faced with the threat of eviction or foreclosure, or battling credit card companies and payday lenders. While those in the criminal justice system are afforded legal counsel, the endless thousands navigating the civil side often are forced to fend for themselves. That’s where Legal Aid comes in.
“For someone who’s not familiar with the court system, the legal system can be stressful, confusing and intimidating,” Buckley said. “I think we all feel fortunate not to have much interaction with it.”
Starting with a single full-time lawyer back in the Eisenhower era, the Legal Aid center has grown into a large, diverse law office with 64 full-time attorneys and as many more on staff. The office’s workload has grown along with the community of need: from 7,000 clients in 1999 to 125,000 clients in 2018. Its civil law and family court self-help centers reach 100,000 annually.
For her part, Buckley started as a staff attorney at Legal Aid in 1989. She has led the office as its executive director since 1996. She may be best known to followers of Nevada politics as the former speaker of the Assembly. That legislative experience no doubt has come in handy as she’s worked to help Legal Aid grow to meet the needs of the community. In that regard, the office has been helped in dramatic fashion by a $10 million challenge grant from the Engelstad Family Foundation and a $500,000 contribution from the Kemp, Jones & Coulthard law firm.
It’s the kind of investment in the community that helps ensure the justice system is more fair to more people, no matter their life’s station.
That includes the nearly 4,000 children in Southern Nevada foster care. Traditionally buffeted by circumstance and left without direct legal representation, children are charges of the court. Legal Aid today provides services to virtually every young person in the system through its Children’s Attorneys Project.
Buckley recalls the story of a teen-age girl named Stephanie, who had been physically abused by her mother’s boyfriend. Stephanie gave testimony before a legislative committee in 2017. She was headed for foster care, but thanks to Legal Aid she was able to redirect the court and argue successfully to be sent to her grandmother.
“It was then she really started being able to live her life,” Buckley said.
But Legal Aid helps lives hanging in the balance every day.
“In the criminal system, you have a right to an attorney, but if you’re losing your kid, or your car, or house, you’re often on your own,” she said, noting that three of four people in the civil system are there without a lawyer. “The cruel irony is that you could have done nothing wrong your whole life and be ruined. We can help, but only if we have enough resources available.”
After three decades as the center’s leader, she’s more confident than ever that the needs of the community can be met. It’s challenging work, but client appreciation is one of the job’s greatest benefits.
Which brings us back to that desperate mother Buckley fought for years ago. She not only regained custody of her children, but she went on to law school.
When she graduated, she sent her advocate from Legal Aid a message of gratitude.
“She said, ‘I’ll never forget what you did for me,’” Buckley said. “What’s better than that?”
John L. Smith is an author and longtime columnist. He was born in Henderson and his family’s Nevada roots go back to 1881. His stories have appeared in Time, Readers Digest, The Daily Beast, Reuters, Ruralite and Desert Companion, among others. He also offers weekly commentary on Nevada Public Radio station KNPR. His newest book—a biography of iconic Nevada civil rights and political leader, Joe Neal—”Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice” is published by University of Nevada Press and is available at Amazon.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith