GOP says rural counties should open at swifter rate |

GOP says rural counties should open at swifter rate

Steve Ranson Nevada News Group

Republican lawmakers including Assemblywoman Robin Titus, who represents Lyon and Churchill counties, and State Sen. James Settelmeyer don’t feel Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is looking at separate rural and urban issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although many Nevadans expressed opposition of Nevada joining a regional pact of states to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the GOP Assembly caucus endorsed it one week ago. Their four-part plan included joining the California, Oregon and Washington Western States Pact to work on best practices to mitigate the spread and economic impact of the coronavirus; establish a regional plan to modify and/or ease Nevada’s stay at home orders; establish a bi-partisan taskforce to advise on a strategy to re-open Nevada; and establish a curbside pickup model that will allow nonessential retail businesses to open.

Sisolak is scheduled to announce Thursday the steps he’s taking on restrictions affecting Nevada’s businesses, which will include opening golf courses and venues for tennis and pickleball and making adjustments for curbside services for merchants other than food services and cannabis dispensaries. Churches will be allowed to have drive-in services, as long as worshippers stay in a car and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet.

According to Nevada Health Response, “under the extended directive, businesses that previously were directed to be closed will remain closed, including salons, barber shops, bars and casinos, among other things. Businesses that are deemed essential may still be open, and must still comply with strict social distancing standards and other safety measures to keep workers and clients safe.”

Now, the GOP caucus announced Wednesday in a letter to Sisolak “the time has come to start getting Nevadans safely back to work.” The caucus also told Sisolak to allow rural counties to open at a swifter rate and to work with county commissioners and local government officials to optimize county resources.

Titus, a physician in Lyon County and Assembly majority leader, said the Nevada Association of Counties has been working with the governor’s office.

“We’re trying to get his attention and get involved,” she said.

Titus said the rural counties have been doing a good job in following his directives, but she wants him to consider the GOP caucus;’ ideas and needs, especially for the smaller counties instead of statewide.

Titus said only 61% of hospital beds and 69% of ICU (intensive care unit) beds are in use, which is lower than the normal amount. She points out, though, Nevadans seriously need to treat the coronavirus pandemic as very dangerous. The governor did relax his directive earlier this week and is allowing more elective surgery at the state’s medical centers. Titus said with those restrictions, hospitals and physicians were losing money.

“Practices and hospitals have been economically overwhelmed because they have not been able to treat most patients outside of those affected by the COVID-19 resulting in a major departure of normal revenue streams for our healthcare providers,” Titus said. “Many of those private practices are going to be forced to shut down, further straining our already vulnerable healthcare system and patient access to care. We are about to have a new emergency on our hands.”

Settelmeyer said he was glad the governor decided to close the K-12 schools for the rest of the academic year. The University of Nevada system closed their campuses a month ago. Although Settelmeyer said a comprehensive plan must be in place for the larger casinos, he said he’s concerned with “the little guys” who operate smaller gaming establishments, especially in the rural counties.

Like Titus, Settelmeyer said he’s concern with the declining hospital bed capacity.

Meanwhile, Dagny Stapleton, executive director of NACO, said the organization has also been working with the Nevada League of Cities in providing input to the governor’s office.

The GOP caucus said the state needs to work together.

“Assembly Republicans will continue to work in a bi-partisan manner to develop and implement commonsense solutions for Nevadans,” they said in their letter. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel and we will get there together.”