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TIM BURKE: The genie is not going to go back in the bottle

Does the uptick in COVID cases signal the possibility of another “Stay-at-Home” order?

The Nevada Health Alliance reported its single highest increase in new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, adding 379 new cases to the state’s tally. The previous record single-day jump was 295 new cases on May 22. This brings Nevada’s statewide total for COVID-19 cases to 11,658, with 467 deaths.

Those 379 new cases come from a pool of 6,301 tests performed on Monday, June 16, making for a growth rate of 3.4 percent — the highest single-day growth rate recorded since May 22. Hospitalizations are also ticking up, continuing a gradual upward trajectory that’s gone on for the past six days. Currently, 87 current or suspected COVID-19 patients are in the ICU, and 48 are on ventilators.

On Monday, June 15, the governor announced he is planning on extending the second phase of his plan to reopen businesses through the end of the month. The governor emphasized the extension would allow state officials to assess data they’ve gathered on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “We are not ready to go into Phase 3,” Governor Sisolak said when asked when the state would launch the next phase of the reopening plan. “The time line will be dictated by the virus.”

Some states that are experiencing an increase in COVID cases are openly discussing implementing another round of quarantines. No one in our state government has suggested that another “Stay-at-Home” order be mandated for Nevada residents, yet.

Residents have shrugged off the pandemic and are returning to their familiar routines. Many residents have taken the advice of the CDC and are wearing masks in public but just as many aren’t. Traffic seems to be just about back to normal. Our youth will soon be able to return to sports and other school activities. Businesses that survived the shutdown are reopening.

Forcing another quarantine would be met with resistance from state residents that question the effectiveness of the first quarantine and the severity of the virus. It would permanently close businesses that can’t survive another shutdown.

The economic damage has caused many residents to wonder if the first shutdown was worth the sacrifice. The unfairness of which businesses were forced to close and which ones could stay open also raised doubt with the public about how the government handled the quarantine. Forcing everyone to go to the giant box stores and not to be able to do outside activities didn’t make any sense.

The request for social distancing as part of the COVID response was initially followed by residents trying to comply with the guidelines, but as time has passed, so has the urgency to maintain social distancing. Restaurants and bars are forced to set up seating following the social distancing requirements limiting how many customers they can serve, which limits their income.

Some restaurants have elected not to open at all because they can’t meet the social distancing requirements. Other businesses have placed barriers between the employees and customers and marked off where customers can stand. Outside of what businesses are required to do, social distancing is being ignored by much of the general public.

As a youth growing up in rural Nevada, I didn’t understand how free we were to do what we wanted to do and to do it when we wanted to. My mom would turn us loose in the morning during summer break with only one order, be back before dark.

We hiked, swam in the river, shot targets with our .22 rifles, rode horses and motorcycles, set off firecrackers, and generally did whatever we wanted. Mom trusted us to use common sense, and if there was an emergency, she knew that we would be able to figure out the best course of action. We probably did some things we shouldn’t have, but we managed to survive just fine.

No one from the government came to my mom’s house, telling her that she had to keep us under safe. Growing up with that independence is one of the things we cherish about rural life. Forcing us to quarantine again is just not going to work this time, no matter how legitimate the reason.

Most people are willing to take their chances with the possibility of getting COVID-19, and they are not willing to participate in another shutdown. This genie is not going back in the bottle.

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

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