Three days ago, Clark County had 16 reported cases of coronavirus. Schools were open. Casino workers at MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts were still going to work. No one in Las Vegas had died from the novel, highly contagious virus.
Much has changed since then.
Clark County reported its first coronavirus death Monday. Despite limited available virus tests, known cases in the region have climbed to 35. On Sunday, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that public, private and charter schools across Nevada would close until at least April 6. All Wynn and MGM Strip properties closed as of Sunday.
As the global coronavirus pandemic shuts down Las Vegas, residents and local organizations are stepping up to help those in need of assistance.
Now that schools have closed, the more than 200,000 children who qualify for free or reduced lunches and breakfasts are left without that steady supply of food. The Clark County School District has set up 22 feeding and classroom resource stations serving free breakfast and lunch to any K-12 students who show up.
But those stations might not be accessible to students across the Las Vegas Valley. For example, all students at Red Rock Elementary receive free breakfast and lunch, according to Red Rock teacher Elysa Arroyo, but none of CCSD’s food distribution centers are within two miles of the school.
“For my kiddos who don’t have reliable transportation, that’s going to be difficult,” Arroyo said.
That’s why she and a few others are organizing to help students and families obtain food by connecting them to volunteers who can deliver it to families’ homes and by attempting to set up a “no-contact” food pantry, Arroyo said. Those interested in helping out or in need of food and other resources for children can join the Facebook page, called Community Resources for Clark County School District Families, Arroyo said.
She said she is in contact with district officials to determine how to distribute food safely, following school and state health regulations, and without putting volunteers or students at risk of contracting coronavirus.
“I know there are rules about the distribution,” she said.
Las Vegas businesses are also stepping up to help kids and families. Hawaiian restaurant Aloha Kitchen is offering free meals to anyone who shows up at a designated location with children between 2 and 4 p.m. Monday-Friday until April 3.
Breakfast joint Stacks and Yolks, which has a location in southwest Las Vegas and one in the northwest, is inviting hungry families to come in between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday-Friday and get a free lunch, no questions asked, said owner Baha Damanzadeh.
“Just come in, sit down and we’ll take care of the rest,” Damanzadeh said.
Another breakfast spot, Griddlecakes, with three locations that are owned by Damanzadeh’s brother and sister, is offering the same deal during the same times to families with children, Damanzadeh said.
“We’ve lived in Las Vegas for 30-plus years and this city had done nothing but good to us. If we can find a way to give back to the city, we will,” he said.
For those who do not have children or have other needs during the pandemic, a volunteer-driven “mutual aid” system is being established by the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America. So far, 11 people have requested help and 28 have signed up to provide help, said Ashley Morris, a Las Vegas DSA member spearheading the effort. Most of them have asked for assistance paying rent and for food, Morris said.
Over the past few days, the group has received $390 in donations, which it plans to use primarily on food, Morris added.
Other than money, healthy volunteers can offer child care and pet care services, storage space for people who are evicted after losing their job, transportation to a doctor’s appointment, or grocery runs so that the elderly and immunocompromised people — who are the greatest risk of contracting a severe case of coronavirus — do not have to leave their homes, said Las Vegas DSA co-chair Kara Hall.
Although DSA Las Vegas is a political organization, the group is working with people of all political backgrounds and perspectives, Hall emphasized.
“This is a very focused, community effort,” she said.
Local nonprofits have started a similar effort to connect people to resources during the pandemic, led by the LGBTQ rights organization Equality Nevada. Organizations involved include the LGBTQ Center in Las Vegas, Gender Justice Nevada and the Three Square Food Bank, among others, said Chris Davin, founder and president of Equality Nevada.
The groups are working on a case-by-case basis to provide financial assistance for families and low-income people, with a particular focus on the needs of the LGBTQ community, Davin said. They also have a hotline and are working on developing a donation system and ways to distribute food, housing funds and supplies.
As an Oct. 1 survivor, Arroyo said she sees similarities between the community’s response to the coronavirus pandemic so far and its response to the mass shooting two and a half years ago.
“This reminds me a lot of that time, where the community all came together and took care of each other,” she said.
A complete list of emergency food distribution sites in Clark County can be found here.
For immediate food, supplies, rental assistance and other resources, call Equality Nevada’s hotline: 800-495-5119
Families with children can obtain free meals between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the following breakfast restaurants:
Griddlecakes, 9480 S. Eastern Ave. #170, Las Vegas
Griddlecakes, 6085 S. Fort Apache Road #180, Las Vegas
Griddlecakes, 6584 N. Decatur Blvd., Las Vegas
Stacks and Yolks, 3200 N. Jones Blvd., Las Vegas
Stacks and Yolks, 7150 S. Durango Dr. #140, Las Vegas
Free meals are also available for families with children between 2 and 4 p.m. at the following locations:
Mondays: Aloha Kitchen, 2605 S. Decatur Blvd, Sahara & Decatur
Tuesdays: Aloha Kitchen, 8150 S. Maryland Parkway, Windmill & I-215
Wednesdays: Aloha Kitchen and Bar, 2605 S. Decatur Blvd. Sahara and Decatur
Thursdays: Aloha Kitchen, Maryland Parkway at UNLV, 4745 S. Maryland Parkway
Fridays: Aloha Kitchen, 4466 E. Charleston Blvd.
Seniors over 60 years of age who need food assistance can call 702-765-4030 Monday-Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m to connect with a relevant food service program.