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Top Nevada GOP senator calls for coronavirus reopening plans

Top Nevada GOP senator calls for coronavirus reopening plans. (KRNV: Tony Phan){p}{/p}
Top Nevada GOP senator calls for coronavirus reopening plans. (KRNV: Tony Phan)

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Nevada’s top legislative Republican called Thursday for the governor to describe plans for reopening casinos and nonessential businesses closed since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic, and to say whether he will extend the closure order past April 30.

On a day that federal officials reported that a whopping 60,180 more Nevadans filed for unemployment benefits last week, state Senate GOP Leader James Settelmeyer’s letter to Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak acknowledged a “need to remain focused on the health and well-being of our residents.”

“But it is also our duty to provide the public with clarity and specifics about Nevada’s plan for health and economic recovery,” Settelmeyer said. “Nevadans are hurting, families, educators and small businesses need to plan for tomorrow.”

Sisolak didn’t immediately respond to Settelmeyer’s call for answers also about whether schools will reopen; whether certain businesses will get priority to restart; and whether future panels like one the governor established last month to mobilize private donations of supplies and money for the COVID-19 response will be bipartisan.

The governor planned a 5 p.m. news conference about plans for coronavirus testing in Nevada, a spokeswoman said.

Settelmeyer’s letter came a day after Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, a political independent, called the statewide shutdown of all but essential businesses “total insanity” and pleaded for the economy to reopen.

“Being closed is killing us already,” Goodman said, “and killing Las Vegas, our industry, our convention and tourism business.”

The 60,180 Nevada residents who filed unemployment claims last week brought to more than 300,000 the number of out-of-work people seeking benefits checks in the month since Sisolak ordered casinos, bars, gyms and restaurant dining rooms closed to prevent people from congregating. Grocery stores and drive-thru and takeout eateries have been allowed to remain open.

Nevada health officials said Thursday the state’s death toll from the COVID-19 respiratory illness was at least 137, with more than 3,300 people infected.

Most people with the virus experience symptoms such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

The number of new jobless claims reported by the U.S. Department of Labor was lower than the almost 80,000 filed the week before, State Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation spokeswoman Rosa Mendez said.

Nevada unemployment administrators and the governor have acknowledged severe backlogs and frustratingly long waits to file for jobless benefits in an office that Sisolak said wasn’t designed to handle the unprecedented wave of idled workers seeking relief.

The Nevada jobless rate jumped to 6.3% in March, the state jobless office reported Wednesday, a dramatic increase from the all-time low of 3.6% in January and February.

In the weeks between March 14 and April 4, Nevada had its highest number of initial weekly unemployment insurance claims on record.

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Officials said they have more than doubled unemployment office staffers from from 70 to more than 200 and hired an an outside firm to add 100 full-time operators. Benefits can be backdated to the earliest date of eligibility, March 15, the governor said.

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