Sisolak activates Nevada National Guard; ‘begging, urging’ non-essential workers to stay home
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Gov. Steve Sisolak made it clear Wednesday night his latest directive urging as many Nevadans as can to stay home is not martial law but a plea for everyone not in a critical, essential industry to not go out and possibly spread the coronavirus.
“We are asking our citizens to cooperate. I’m begging and urging,” he said in an evening press conference at the Capitol.
Sisolak said the mandatory stay at home orders haven’t really worked well in other states.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate to actually put fines or penalties on them,” he said. “It’s frustrating when I drive around town and see kids playing basketball. They might feel invincible but they’re not.”
Earlier Wednesday, Sisolak issued a statewide directive telling Nevadans to stay at home, with an exception for essential trips including doctor or healthcare visits, taking a pet to the vet, buying groceries, going to a pharmacy or picking up restaurant takeout food.
The directive — which extends the statewide closure of “non-essential” businesses, including casinos, through April 30 — does not apply to the homeless, and it allows people to leave homes for exercise as long as they stay at least 6 feet apart and are not meeting up with people outside their household.
Sisolak said as of Wednesday, more than 1,200 Nevadans have tested positive for the virus and 32 have died. He said anywhere from 6 percent to 20 percent of patients require hospitalization and 44 percent of those require ventilators.
He said he is calling on Nevadans to stay home if they can because his goal at this time is to get more people to practice protocols such as social distancing, frequent washing of hands and not gathering in groups of more than 10.
“Step up for Nevada,” he said. “If you don’t do it for you, do it for your family, your mother, grandfather. Practice the protocols. If we all do this, we can get through this quicker.”
Sisolak announced at the press conference that he is activating the Nevada National Guard. He and Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry said that will open the door to more federal assistance and support. The governor said the Guard trains for emergencies and can provide logistical support, transportation and other services.
“The National Guard is made up of the very people we’re trying to protect,” Sisolak said.
Berry, who heads the Nevada Office of the Military, said this is “the exact right time for the governor to activate the Nevada National guard.”
But Berry added that he won’t be calling up guardsmen in healthcare and other critical jobs.
Earlier in the afternoon, the Board of Examiners consisting of Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske voted to recommend taking a total of $6.25 million out of the state’s a Disaster Relief Account to pay for a laundry list of personal protective equipment including masks, gloves, gowns and sanitizers as well as test kits and equipment to the two Nevada public health labs to quickly analyze those tests.
Of that, $1.25 million is the state match to get a grant to pay the state portion of a Federal Emergency Management grant. The other $5 million is a grant or loan that, hopefully, will be repaid — at least in part by the federal government — to jump start the purchase of the equipment and personal protective items desperately needed by health care workers, first responders and others who have to deal with the growing number of Nevadans who test positive for coronavirus.
That will use up roughly half the money that is in that account.
Sisolak said the state is using creative approaches to actually get that equipment including seeking help from major Nevada gaming companies that have casino resorts in Macao and other parts of Asia, through his recently started “COVID-19 Response Relief and Recovery task force” headed by former MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren.
The BOE appropriations must still be voted on by the legislative Interim Finance Committee that has an upcoming meeting this month.
Finally, Sisolak said he has used his executive authority to try to expand the healthcare workforce by lifting certain licensing requirements so that retired healthcare workers from doctors and nurses to EMTs and even medical students can go to work.
He said there are also numerous healthcare professionals who moved here from other states but not licensed here who can join the workforce he dubbed the Battle Born Medical Corps.
Nevada Guard Soldiers, Airmen set to join coronavirus battle
About 100 Nevada National Guard Soldiers and Airmen will join the National Guard’s COVID-19 response effort this week and join the other 17,000 Guardsmen across the nation already on duty battling the coronavirus, Sisolak said in a press release Wednesday.
The Soldiers and Airmen will be placed on state active duty and work under the direction of the governor but the compensation for the Guardsmen will come from federal funds. These are the first Nevada Guardsmen called upon to contribute to the response effort.
The military occupations of the Soldiers and Airmen have not been finalized, but it is likely the governor will call upon Guardsmen trained for medical, security, transportation, logistical and food services. The exact missions and locations of the Guardsmen is being finalized, but it is likely the Soldiers and Airmen will be split evenly between Southern and Northern Nevada.
Across the nation, the National Guard provides a force of 450,000 Soldiers and Airmen capable of contributing to the response effort. The Nevada Guard includes about 3,100 Soldiers and 1,200 Airmen able to respond and assist any community in the Silver State.
Although the missions the governor will request from the Nevada National Guard are pending, familiar types of support the National Guard has been providing across the country include: working to increase medical capacity; providing security at testing sites; managing food banks; delivering food and critical supplies; and disinfecting public spaces.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.