Las Vegas is not out of the pandemic woods

pandemic woods

North Las Vegas Mayor John J. Lee

On Monday, John J. Lee, the 65-year-old mayor of North Las Vegas, became the first declared Republican candidate for next year’s gubernatorial election. A few hours later, he announced he had COVID-19 and was quarantining. Oh, and he admitted he had not been vaccinated, even though the shots for his age bracket have been available and authorized since February.

Lee is one of the state’s most prominent political figures. North Las Vegas, which adjoins Las Vegas, is the state’s third-largest city. Lee, a former legislator, has sat on a number of boards.

But the Las Vegas-area economy is almost completely dependent on people from other places coming here in great numbers and mingling with no social distancing. If, more than a year into the pandemic, somebody like Lee didn’t think it important to get the free vaccination, why should a would-be tourist pay any attention to the new “Vegas You” marketing campaign launched in advance of the June 1 “full reopening” of the region?

On Tuesday, it was announced that 15 states reported no new COVID-19 deaths. Nevada, on the other hand, reported seven new deaths–six in Clark County, home of Las Vegas (and North Las Vegas). And Nevada is not exactly among the most populated of the 50 states.

I’m not making a political argument out of this. Steve Sisolak, the incumbent Democratic governor running for reelection, tested positive for the illness in November. But that was several months before the vaccine became available, and Sisolak later made a public show of getting his shots. Around the country, a number of governors of all political persuasions have caught the illness.

But the overall numbers around Las Vegas, while improving, are not as good as the image-makers might make you think. And as someone New To Las Vegas, I can tell you many locals still have a cavalier attitude toward the pandemic.

According to the latest data I can find, some 587,159 deaths around the country have been attributed to the coronavirus. In a country with 331 million residents, that’s one death for every 564 persons.

The coronavirus death count in Clark County is officially put at 4,366. In a county with 2.3 million residents, that’s one death for every 527 persons. That’s 7% worse than the national rate (a lower number is bad), a margin that had held for some months. And that tally might not include some visitors who got infected here, then went home where they were diagnosed and later died.

Folks, contrary to that famous Las Vegas marketing pitch, what happens here doesn’t necessarily stay here.

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