The Plan to Completely Destroy Nevada’s Economy

Nevada, like no other state, is totally dependent on tourism. If tourism dies, the state will die. The Democrat governor, Steve Sisolak, is doing his best to kill Nevada.  Sisolak seems to be driven more by a lack of clear thinking rather than malicious intent.

Sisolak’s plan is to place most state residents under what amounts to house arrest. In order to discourage anyone from leaving their house he is attempting to make leaving home as unpleasant as possible. Parks are closed, or if that is impossible, at least the bathrooms are closed. He is even attempting to close the vast desert that surrounds Las Vegas, blocking off roads and trails. All businesses are required to close except for “essential” businesses like grocery stores. The schools are closed, making it difficult for parents to work because they have to care for their children.

The entire tourist industry has been shut down. The Las Vegas strip, usually crowded with tourists staying in some of the 150,000 hotel rooms, is completely deserted.

Credit: Reiji via YouTube screen grabs (cropped)

Tourism is the base of Nevada’s economy. Hundreds of thousands of tourist industry workers have been laid off. The state unemployment benefits office is apparently helpless in the face of the flood of applicants.

The governor sees this as a medical problem. It does not seem to bother him that destroying the Nevada economy will devastate the citizens of Nevada. Not only will they lose their jobs, they will also lose their savings and assets. 

What exactly is the purpose of the house arrest? The disease is going to spread through the population until enough people are recovered and immune, so that herd immunity develops, and the virus fades away. That is the typical pattern for the spread of a new disease. Placing everyone under house arrest will slow the spread of disease but prolong the time it takes for herd immunity to develop. The justification for house arrest is that it is necessary to flatten the curve and avoid spikes that will overwhelm the medical resources.

Why is it necessary to take draconian measures? The governor seems to be relying on computer models that have been consistently wrong. Why anyone takes these epidemiological models seriously is a big mystery. Whenever the model is too high by a factor of 10 or 20, the believers in the models implausibly claim that good behavior on the part of the people has lowered the number of deaths. Thus, the theory embedded in the model is never wrong. If a model is immune to falsification, because no matter what happens it is always right, it is not scientific, but meaningless nonsense.         

A March 20th article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, citing a model, suggested that 94,000 Nevadans would have to be hospitalized. The same article reported that Governor Sisolak warned that hospitals faced a potential tsunami of Covid-19 patients. In the governor’s April 21st situation report Kyra Morgan, the state biostatistician, claims that with limited action, the peak hospitalizations will be 65,000. She claims that with social distancing the peak hospitalizations will be 25,000. With shelter in place (house arrest) she claims peak hospitalizations will be only 1300. Nevada has only 5500 hospital beds. Thus, you have the model-inspired case for placing the entire population under house arrest.

As best I can make out, the governor assumes that in a few more months the virus will be suppressed by surveillance and contact tracing. This assumes every time a case pops up an army of contact tracers will find everyone exposed to the case and put them under quarantine to make sure the virus does not spread further. This is obviously incompatible with the tourist industry. Tourists mix with other anonymous tourists in casinos and shows. No contact tracing is possible.

The governor’s plan, then, is to shut down the tourist industry until the virus has vanished on a national scale, probably in one or two years. This is ridiculous. If the Nevada economy is shut down for a year, the economy will have vanished. The population will take total losses on their houses, default on their credit cards and stop paying rent. The Casino industry will be bankrupt. Some of the world’s largest hotels will be empty tombstones. The government will lose most of its tax income. Like the Okies escaping the dust bowl in the 1930’s, Nevada’s population will decamp to other states, leaving their incomes and assets behind.

The governor’s plan is a recipe for the destruction of the state. The plan can’t roll out as planned because the governor, if he continues with his plan, will be driven from office by an enraged population. Rather than wait to be removed from office, the governor needs to come up with a plan that is compatible with the survival of the state. The mayor of Las Vegas calls the governor’s plan insanity. Already, public demonstrations protest the governor’s actions.

A realistic plan will give first priority to protecting the state’s economy. Medical measures must be compatible with prompt reopening of the economy. If this results in a medical catastrophe, that is better than the total destruction of the state. Fortunately, a medical catastrophe is unlikely. There are many reasons for optimism.

Covid-19, with very few exceptions, only kills elderly people that have serious health problems. This is incredible good luck. The 1918 Spanish Flu killed young people in the prime of life. The medical profession is rapidly improving treatment protocols. Therapeutic drugs show considerable promise for limiting the severity of the disease. Much can be done to slow down the rate of spread without placing everyone under house arrest. Resources then can be concentrated on protecting the most vulnerable.

The country of Sweden provides a model. Sweden never shut down its economy allowing the virus to spread toward a condition of herd immunity. An effort is made to protect the elderly population vulnerable to severe consequences. This seems to be working well.

The CEO of Wynn Resorts developed a 23-page program for starting to reopen the hotels and casinos. Marriott is testing the use of electrostatic sprayers and ultraviolet light to prevent spread of the virus.

It is quite likely that the summer will suppress the epidemic. Sunshine kills the virus in seconds. Nevada has a super abundance of sunshine. This could give a respite while improvements in treatment continue.

The economy has to be protected. That must be the first priority.

Norman Rogers is a resident of Las Vegas.

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