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The Nevada Independent

Private sector COVID-19 task force wraps up; governor urges vaccinations

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller

In a sign of the pandemic winding to a close, Gov. Steve Sisolak on Wednesday announced the disbanding of the state's COVID-19 Private Sector Task Force — a group of private citizens responsible for fundraising and supporting efforts to mitigate and recover from the virus.

The governor formed the task force in March 2020, as COVID-19 cases rapidly spread throughout the state and country. At the time, Nevada faced a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies amid countless unknowns.

"We were worried about legitimately having enough body bags ... We worried about crematoriums and air quality, how bad it could get here," Sisolak said during a press conference on Wednesday. “And who do I call for help? The task force. And they were there. So, we've made it this far, and we're going to make it the rest of the way through this pandemic."

The task force aimed to harness public-private partnerships to generate the funding necessary to support PPE acquisition, distribute masks and even connect students with broadband and laptops while they learned remotely.

Members of the task force emphasized that their connections to major casino companies and the global resort industry allowed the state to connect with PPE manufacturers in China and other countries and purchase equipment at fair prices.

In total, the group raised more than $12 million, according to a report submitted to the governor. Funding supported the purchase of PPE and set up a COVID trace application used on more than one million electronic devices statewide. The task force also created the Connecting Kids partnership, which by Jan. 5, 2021 had helped ensure that most of the nearly 500,000 public school students in Nevada had access to reliable internet and an electronic device to facilitate remote learning.

Jim Murren, the chair of the task force and former chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts, said that without the partnership and support of the resort and gaming communities and large employers throughout the state, it would have been nearly impossible to adequately protect medical professionals, first responders and Nevada residents. He added that the task force provides a guide for what to do in future crises.

"We can no longer be dependent on states out of this state for our very safety and our livelihood," he said. "We're an independent state. We need to do this here at home. Because make no mistake, there'll be another crisis."

Though Nevada is reopening and recovering from the economic devastation caused in the wake of the pandemic, Sisolak said that the state is not quite out of the woods and emphasized the importance of getting vaccinated.

As of Wednesday, almost 48.4 percent of Nevadans are fully or partially vaccinated. The seven day average for COVID-19 cases is 310, slightly higher than last week. Hospitalizations are up from where they were two weeks ago, but have seen small decreases the last couple of days.

“The uptick in cases, the uptick in hospitalizations, none of those folks have been vaccinated,” he said. “I mean if you want to protect yourself, there's a simple solution: go get vaccinated. And I encourage everyone to do that.”

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