RENO, Nev. (AP) — An emotional Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said Tuesday she’s “begging” residents to forgo family Thanksgiving gatherings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus that has exploded in Nevada,
Meanwhile, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman characterized Gov. Steve Sisolak’s stricter statewide virus rules that went into effect Tuesday as “crushing” for her tourism-dependent city and called the governor a “dictator.”
Schieve, who has supported the governor's efforts to combat the virus, spoke to reporters during a video conference just minutes after she received word that a good friend had died from COVID-19.
“I think it’s really hitting home for so many of us. I’m pleading with you to take this seriously,” she said, struggling to maintain her composure. “Please do not gather in large gatherings for Thanksgiving. I’m begging you.”
Her plea came as Nevada reported a record-high 2,853 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, the third time the state has surpassed previous high points in the past two weeks.
Statewide hospitalizations also set another record Tuesday with 1,225 COVID confirmed cases, and health officials reported 24 additional deaths, the third-highest to date.
The number of people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washoe County has tripled from 88 on Oct. 29 to 248 Monday. It’s doubled during that period in the Las Vegas area, from 395 to 831.
Schieve, Reno City Councilwoman Naomi Duerr and other members of a task force helped create the Truckee Meadows COVID Risk Meter for the Reno-Sparks area. The meter has five risk categories ranging from green “low" to purple “severe” based on multiple criteria including test positivity rates, daily new cases and hospital capacity.
It has been in the red “very high” category since Halloween, and since Nov. 6 has been “pushing up against purple,” said Dr. Jeremy Smith, a task force member.
Duerr said the purple category was intended to be “something we’ll never reach.”
“If hospitalizations get even a tiny bit worse, we will be in purple,” she said.
Dr. Eric Nielsen, another task force member, expects the meter will reach purple in the coming weeks.
Washoe County’s positivity rate is approaching 20% and active cases have topped 7,700 compared to about 1,200 during a spike in July. Counting COVID and non-COVID patients, 84% of Washoe County’s staffed hospital beds are occupied, the highest rate in the state.
“We are treating people in a parking garage at Renown. This is serious,” Schieve said about the temporary overflow facility at the city's largest hospital. She said city staff are preparing for the possibility of filling the Reno-Sparks convention center with beds, something she said they think they could do with three to five days’ notice.
Sisolak, a Democrat, announced the state’s most expansive mask mandate to date Sunday and reduced the capacity at casinos, restaurants, bars and many other businesses from 50% to 25%.
Goodman, a political independent, responded just as sharply in April to business restrictions imposed by the governor.
“He’s been a dictator with whom we have complied every step of the way,” Goodman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday. “We’ve had no choice.”
She said a shutdown of casinos, restaurants and other commerce was “killing Las Vegas, our industry, our convention and tourism business.”
Scheive, a Democrat-leaning independent who has been criticized for advocating some restrictions stricter than statewide standards, said she’s tired of hearing people minimize the outbreak by saying “the death rate is so low.”
“People have called me a communist, they’ve called me a liar, they’ve called me a hoax," she said, her voice cracking. “And I don’t care anymore."