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TIM BURKE: Possible second mandated shutdown would be disastrous

The recent rapid increase in COVID-19 positives is threatening to close businesses and halt family holiday gatherings temporarily. The post-election decrease in COVID-19 positives that some theorized would take place due to the election did not materialize. The exact opposite has happened.

New daily cases have been steadily rising since a low in mid-September. On Sept. 15, the state reported 226 new daily cases. On Oct. 15, it was 655. Last Saturday, there were 2,269 cases reported, along with 15 additional deaths, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ website.

The updated figures brought totals in Nevada to 119,006 cases and 1,908 deaths since the start of the pandemic. On Friday, the state set the previous record for a daily increase in cases when 1,857 were reported. The record before that — 1,824 cases — was set precisely a week earlier, on Nov. 7. According to state data, thirteen of Nevada’s 16 counties (including Nye County) are now seeing elevated transmission.

During a press conference Tuesday night in the Capitol, Gov. Sisolak implored Nevadans to remain at home as much as possible for the next two weeks to contain the spread of COVID-19 amid an uptick that has the state seeing some of the worst infection trends since the pandemic took hold in spring. Outlining what he called “Stay at Home 2.0,” he said the “only proven way to control the current widespread transmission of COVID is to decrease mobility.

That means staying at home as much as we possibly can.” The governor called for a renewed emphasis among businesses to allow employees to work from home.

He said he would ask local authorities to step up enforcing COVID-19 restrictions for the next two weeks. He said the state would stop short, for now, of reimposing deeper restrictions on businesses or other aspects of daily life for Nevadans, such as attending religious services or on visitors to the state.

For many businesses already hard hit by the governor’s previous mandated shutdown, a second mandated shutdown would be unsurvivable. Bars, restaurants, gyms, and personal services businesses were closed for months. When those businesses reopened, fewer customers were frequenting them as consumers remained cautious about public contact. California, Oregon, and Washington have all reimposed businesses’ restrictions by limiting or halting indoor dining, reducing business hours and occupancy numbers. Will Nevada be next?

Much of the recent rise in cases, officials say, appears to have grown from at-home parties or family gatherings. The holiday season arrives next week with Thanksgiving, traditionally a time for multiple generations of families to gather together. With the rise in COVID-19 cases, families will choose between putting family members at risk, especially high-risk elderly family members, or isolating themselves and their families. After months of isolation at home for health concerns, those who arguably could benefit the most from the family time are the same ones most likely to be excluded. That isolation can lead to depression, suicide, or health issues.

There is hope on the horizon. In the last few days, two drug companies have announced COVID-19 vaccines that have had extraordinary success rates of almost 95% in clinical trials. Compare that to the flu vaccination, which reduces flu illness risk by between 40% and 60%. Six in 10 Americans said they are somewhat or very likely to get a COVID-19 vaccine if doing so would lower the risk of becoming infected by about half, according to a new survey from STAT and The Harris Poll. The poll also found that more Americans say they are likely to get a vaccine, practice social distancing, and wear a mask if they or someone they know has contracted COVID-19.

Some people have a strong sentiment to avoid vaccines of any type, especially new vaccines without a long history of results and side effects. So this is the plight we will face by the end of the year and into 2021. Will we be willing to take a vaccine for COVID-19 or not? If we believe the results and trust science, it appears that the only way we will get to return to our everyday lives is through vaccinating as many people as possible. Or do we wait and continue to wear masks, stay isolated, and watch businesses fail as we hope for another solution?

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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