Governor: Nevada economy won’t fully recover without a COVID vaccine

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Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, top right, speaks with Vegas Chamber President and CEO Mary Beth Sewald and Executive Committee Chairman President Tom Burns during a webinar Friday, May 22, 2020.

Fri, May 22, 2020 (1:21 p.m.)

Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday he doesn’t expect Nevada’s economy to fully rebound until a coronavirus vaccine is available.

“In dealing with my health experts, I don’t think there’s any hope in getting back to where we were until we have a vaccine,” Sisolak said during a Vegas Chamber video conference call.

Sisolak didn't say what kind of recovery he thought would be possible in the interim.

“We’re going to need a vaccine to where people are comfortable with getting on a plane. Until there’s a vaccine where people feel like they’re immune to the virus, I don’t think it will be back totally. We certainly won’t get our international travelers back,” Sisolak told the business group.

Federal officials have expressed hope a vaccine will be available by late this year or early next year. But vaccines typically take years to develop and, in some cases, are never discovered.

“Hopefully, by the end of the year, we’ll be pretty far along,” Sisolak said.

Nevada’s economy, largely because of its dependence on tourism, has been one of the hardest-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, state officials released the latest unemployment statistics, which show Nevada’s unemployment rate at 28.2% for April.

Sisolak ordered casinos and other nonessential businesses statewide closed in mid-March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Some businesses — dine-in restaurants, hair salons and retail stores — were allowed to reopening May 9 under strict social distancing guidelines.

No date has been set for casinos to resume operations, although companies have been releasing plans for an eventual phased reopening. MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, which run a combined 18 resorts on the Strip, each plan to initially reopen just two properties.

Casinos will also be under state-mandated social distancing restrictions that will limit things such as overall guest capacity and the number of players at gaming tables.

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