An extensive “State Pandemic Scorecard” put Nevada tied for 48th — with Mississippi — in ranking the state’s overall COVID response. Only Wyoming ranked lower than Nevada in handling COVID issues, according to the report.
The scorecard pulled together what was known so far about how states fared during the pandemic, and how choices each state made impacted its residents, businesses and schools. It grouped available information for policy outcome into four categories – health, economy, social well-being and education.
The comprehensive report was issued on Dec. 15 by Politico, the authoritative liberal-leaning political news publication. The scorecard showed vast differences across the nation with state decisions having major impacts.
Nevada placed 49th in the economy category with Hawaii coming in at 50. The report noted that states that rely on tourism were deeply impacted by the pandemic.
Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Draconian lockdown orders in March 2020 were devastating to Nevada’s economy.
In February 2020, Nevadans were celebrating an all-time record low unemployment rate of 3.6%. By April 2020, Nevada set the highest unemployment rate ever recorded — 30.5%. That’s higher than in the Great Depression. It also sent the state’s unemployment insurance system into meltdown.
During 2021, Nevada’s monthly unemployment rate was regularly the highest in the country. The state’s unemployment declined to 6.8% in the November U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, yet that’s still the second-highest state unemployment rate in the U.S. after neighboring California.
Southern Nevada’s hotel and casino industry was particularly hard hit. Casinos closed in March 2020 remained closed until June 2020.
David Schmidt, Nevada’s chief economist told the Nevada Independent the Clark County-area gaming industry is now at a 65% level when compared to its peak employment before COVID. There are 66,200 fewer workers employed at casinos and hotels than before the pandemic.
Sisolak’s lockdowns also destroyed many “non-essential” small businesses, closing them permanently. His arbitrary capacity orders wildly fluctuated from 50% to 25%, then back to 50%, making it difficult for businesses to plan and comply.
Nevada ranked 12th nationwide in the social well-being category of the Politico report, based on metrics for food insecurity, households’ economic hardship and violent crime.
It ‘s notable that crime is up in Nevada. Statistics released by Las Vegas Metro show murders increased by 49% over 2020. As of Dec. 17, Metro reported 143 murders committed in 2021 in Las Vegas.
Nevada ranked 35th in health concerns, even though the report concludes that “states with better health outcomes tend to be run by Democratic or moderate Republican governors who impose health restrictions and reopened slowly.”
Sisolak’s onerous mask mandates in traditionally libertarian Nevada contributed to angry recall efforts against him. His indoor masking requirement for all people over nine regardless of vaccination status will continue through early 2022.
Critics note that even California Gov. Gavin Newsom had a more limited indoor masking requirement. It applied only to the unvaccinated.
Nevada also received low marks for education, ranked 41st, with that score derived from changes in reading and math assessments from each state’s pre-pandemic baseline to the spring of 2021.
In education, a Reno Gazette Journal analysis of K-12 proficiency exams and state financial reports found Nevada students doing worse on most tests than they did in 2000, when the state spent 79% less per pupil.
Under Sisolak directives, Clark County schools remained closed for an entire school year.
The Politico “State Pandemic Scorecard” ranking Nevada next to last in its COVID response bolsters the case for Republican gubernatorial opponents against the politically vulnerable incumbent.
In his announcement for governor, former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller blamed Sisolak for putting Nevada “at the top of every bad list in America, including for unemployment rates, crime rates, graduation rates and suicide rates.”
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo seized on the Politico report to criticize Sisolak’s handling of the COVID pandemic in Nevada.
Jim Hartman lives in Genoa. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.