Titus: We must do everything in our power to slow the spread of this virus

Las Vegas was built out of America’s sacrifice for the greater good. We became the country’s entertainment mecca as tens of thousands of workers came to build the Hoover Dam during the Great Depression, and grew even more as thousands more troops passed through on their way to fight in World War II.

As President Trump announced Monday and reemphasized in his press conference on Tuesday, Americans must again make great sacrifices in order to save lives as we confront the novel coronavirus pandemic. One of the places where that sacrifice is going to be felt most strongly is Nevada, where tourism, entertainment, restaurants, casinos, and nightlife are our lifeblood. Working together, though, we can start to defeat this virus in the next 15 days.

The guidelines laid out by the President, Vice President Mike Pence, and their team of world-class public health experts may seem draconian, especially in a city where following those guidelines means shutting down virtually every part of the economy. No social gatherings of more than 10 people seems unimaginable in a city accustomed to crowded casino floors, sold-out live shows, and now — after decades of waiting — our very own NFL and NHL teams to cheer for. Social distancing and self-quarantines seem antithetical to a culture built on hospitality, and the specific isolation of senior citizens seems shocking in such a popular destination for American retirees.

Unfortunately, none of that matters now. The horror we see unfolding in Italy and Spain — not to mention the truly dystopian nightmare that the Chinese government is hiding from the world — show us that we must do everything in our power to slow the spread of this virus. In this case, that means putting our way of life on hold, at least for a while.

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A mere 15 days could make or break America’s response to the Coronavirus. This administration’s early restrictions on travel from Wuhan, Hubei Province, and the rest of Mainland China delayed the onset of self-sustaining Coronavirus outbreaks in the United States for weeks after they became a reality in other Western nations, and the subsequent ban on travel from Europe bought us additional time. As things stand, America’s is doing everything in its power to keep numbers as low as possible.

In order to keep it that way, we need to follow the White House guidelines by staying at home to the greatest extent possible and practicing social distancing and rigorous hygiene when we are forced to go out in public.

These measures, along with America’s world-leading private healthcare system, should save countless lives. We now know, however, that they will not be enough.

We are at a major inflection point. Experts believe the spread of the virus will either be arrested or accelerated in the next two weeks. In other words: this is it; this is the moment for sacrifice. This is when short-term inconvenience and lost economic opportunity can save lives and ensure that the country recovers quickly and completely after the crisis point is past.

On Tuesday, the President spoke about the “incredible spirit” Americans have shown in response to the Coronavirus. That spirit is akin to the one that carried Las Vegas and America through the Depression and World War II. It permeates the federal and state response, with Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak’s declaration of emergency for Nevada echoing President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency.

What Las Vegans must do now is lean into that spirit, just as we did in times of war and depression. As we do, we should know that their government is standing behind us. Economic relief is on the way for those negatively impacted by the measures we all must take to save lives.

Tax relief is already in place, and the administration is working with states to make expedited payment of unemployment benefits. Direct support to the industries we rely on here in Nevada and the workers who are most affected will be forthcoming in the very short term as Congress works with the White House on an unprecedented $1 trillion stimulus.

Meanwhile, President Trump is steadily breaking down regulatory barriers to ensure that our healthcare system has the flexibility to react to this new threat. In addition to expediting vaccine development, the administration also worked with the FDA to allow experimental uses of established treatments, such as antimalarial drugs, that doctors believe might be effective against COVID-19.

The sacrifices Las Vegans are being asked to make are absolutely necessary for the health of the country. We overcame similar challenges in the past, and we can overcome this one. 

Dr. Robin Titus is the Nevada State Assembly Republican Leader

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