Nevada facing double-bind of rising cases, limping economy

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People dressed as showgirls stand along the Las Vegas Strip, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas. As the coronavirus surges to record levels in Nevada, the governor has implored residents to stay home. But Democrat Steve Sisolak has also encouraged out-of-state visitors, the lifeblood of Nevada's limping economy, to come to his state and spend money in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

LAS VEGAS – As the coronavirus surges to record levels in Nevada, the governor has implored residents to stay home. But Democrat Steve Sisolak has also encouraged out-of-state visitors, the lifeblood of Nevada's limping economy, to come to his state and spend money in Las Vegas.

The pandemic has put officials in this tourism-dependent place in a double-bind: trying to protect the economy while keeping people safe.

With the state seeing a record number of new cases, Sisolak said he's on the brink of imposing new restrictions, but he's walking a tightrope.

“I don’t want to shut down the entire economy if I can at all avoid it,” Sisolak told reporters on a phone call Wednesday. “We can keep everybody safe and accomplish both ends.”

Nevada's tourism and hospitality industry has an estimated $67.6 billion economic impact, employing more workers and bringing in more state tax revenue than any other sector. Right now, it's hurting and Nevada is facing a nearly 13% unemployment rate — the second highest in the U.S. behind Hawaii.

While the governor has urged Nevadans to try to get their groceries delivered, forgo in-person dining and stay home, he’s said he welcomes out-of-state tourists to Nevada. And though he implored residents to consider curbside pick-up, he said tourists were welcome to patronize restaurants as long as they followed protocols, such as abiding by the statewide mask mandate.

But with cases surging, the current measures aren't working, officials acknowledge.

On Thursday, Nevada reported 2,416 new confirmed COVID-19 cases — a record of daily new cases for the state.