Vegas Stepping Up COVID-19 Response, City Officials Say

More Contract Tracers, Compliance Officers Brought On Board

Associated Press
July 24, 2020 - 5:03 am
New York New York's Statue of Liberty wearing a face covering

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Las Vegas was already stepping up efforts to test, treat and track community spread of COVID-19 when a top doctor on the White House coronavirus task force listed the city with 10 others in the U.S. as virus trouble spots.

City spokesman Jace Radke cited a July 16 letter from City Manager Scott Adams to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office outlining enhanced efforts including deploying 50 two-person teams of city officials for business visits to ensure compliance with mask-wearing and social distancing mandates the governor imposed a month ago. 

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, on Wednesday named Las Vegas with cities including Baltimore, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami, New Orleans and St. Louis that she said should take aggressive steps to stop the spread of the virus.

The reference came during a conference call with officials from around the country, according to the nonprofit Washington news site Center for Public Integrity. It followed a July 14 report putting 18 states including Nevada in a “red zone” for coronavirus cases.

State virus response chief Caleb Cage noted Thursday that a federal COVID-19 assistance team has been working in Nevada. Cage declined to comment on the governor’s behalf about Birx’s recommendations, which include investigating and reaching people who have had contact with those with COVID-19.

Adams told City Council members on Wednesday that in addition to the 100 employees handling business visits, plans were being made to set up virus testing locations around the city including the downtown Cashman Center conference hall. 

The employees are termed “ambassadors,” not enforcers, providing education and resources but also able to report violations to city business license officers.

Clark County, with jurisdiction on the Las Vegas Strip, issued a statement saying officials were evaluating whether additional measures are needed in response to Birx’s comments. 

County officials said Tuesday that more than 400 people were being enlisted to augment 60 Southern Nevada Health District staff members investigating positive COVID-19 cases and contacting people who may have been exposed. About half the investigators and contact tracers are expected to be hired contractors.

After two days of reporting record COVID-19-related deaths — 28 each day — state health officials on Thursday added five cases to the tally, bringing the total to 709. The 1,262 additional confirmed cases of COVID-19 bring that total to just under 40,000.

Mark Pandori, state coronavirus testing chief, said test facilities in Nevada are operating at full capacity, resulting in delays in obtaining results. He said Nevada is not among places conducting “pool testing” of multiple samples at a time.