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We were getting comfortable, now the mask mandate is back

The resurgence of COVID-19 and the Clark County Health District’s recent recommendation that everyone should once again wear masks indoors had left many of us wondering if that recommendation would lead to local government entities requiring masks.

If you worked in Clark County, the answer was yes. The Clark County Board of Commissioners (CCBC) had enacted a mask mandate for employees who worked in public indoor spaces in the county. Tourists and members of the public were not required to mask up, despite the recommendation from the Southern Nevada Health District that they do so.

On Friday, the mask mandate by the CCBC became null and void when Governor Sisolak mandated that everyone in areas of high infection rates must wear a mask indoors while in public places.

The action by the Clark County Board of Commissioners seemed to be primarily symbolic. If it is true that wearing a mask slows the transmission of COVID-19 and its variants, then why only require employers to force their employees to wear masks? Our state economy depends on tourism. The CCBC wanted to give the appearance that Las Vegas was doing something to make it safer for tourists while not inconveniencing those tourists with face masks. The governor’s new mandate means that tourists will again have to use face masks in casinos.

The mandate does not allow an exemption for those that have been vaccinated. For months now, government officials have been telling the public that one of the advantages of getting vaccinated is so you can quit wearing a mask. Well, take that dangling carrot right off the table.

Now the strategy from officials seems to be going back to using fear, as in we will all die from COVID-19 and its variants if we don’t follow the mask rules. Is the public going to buy that argument again? The governor is betting that they will. If you played by the rules and got vaccinated, you might be a little irritated that you must wear a mask once again.

Businesses were pummeled financially by the COVID shutdown, and then by the occupancy restrictions, they could not afford another economic turndown. The government loan and grant programs for small businesses were poorly executed and inadequately funded. Less than a third of eligible restaurant businesses that applied for SBA grant money received grants before funds ran out.

The second round Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) left out any companies that started in 2020 before the shutdown. These are shining examples of programs enacted by career politicians who have never owned a business and had to make a payroll. They told businesses hurt by the mandated government shutdown they will fix everything and make them whole. And then they only partly fixed it, leaving many companies struggling to stay open. They need to add enough money to the existing programs to finish what they promised before spending billions more on “infrastructure.”

The elected officials in Clark County realized that businesses might not weather another downturn. Nevada has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in the country, prompting many regions outside of Nevada to recommend not traveling to Nevada.

Governor Sisolak wants to use the mask mandate to avoid a shutdown and encourage more people to get vaccinated. But maybe it’s time for a different strategy than the mask mandates.

If the statistics are accurate, if you are vaccinated, odds are you will not get COVID-19 or its variants. And if you do get it, you will not get seriously ill or die. It may also be true that if you don’t, odds are you will get COVID-19.

The new Delta variant seems to be incredibly contagious. People are still getting very sick, and people are still dying. But maybe we need to accept that COVID-19 will be here for a long time and treat it like the flu, albeit more contagious and deadly.

Get vaccinated and don’t get sick, or don’t get vaccinated and take your chances. Wear a mask if you choose or stay home. Shouldn’t the choice be yours?

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

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