LAS VEGAS – As Nevada prepared to start reopening parts of its economy last month, a team of medical experts recommended to Gov. Steve Sisolak that he require people wear masks in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The governor promoted masks but resisted making them a requirement, saying he feared the rule could create a backlash for businesses trying to enforce the order on customers.
With reported coronavirus cases rising the past four weeks, Sisolak on Wednesday finally decided to take their advice and impose the mandate, saying it was necessary to protect people and keep businesses open.
“People aren’t wearing these,” he said, holding up and waving a cloth face mask. “It is troubling and it is really discouraging that this has become a partisan issue about whether or not people want to wear a mask."
Sisolak's slow-stepping into the mask requirement reflects a fraught decision-making process among many governors as they listen to a variety of sometimes competing voices on how on to respond to the spreading virus outbreak. The result is sometimes confusing and creates mixed messages for the public.
With reported coronavirus cases rising rapidly in many states, governors are getting lots of advice on what they should do. Unions want to be sure workers are protected on the job. Many business owners say they can’t afford another forced shutdown. Public health officials urge them to make mask-wearing a statewide requirement. At the same, governors are facing blowback on the right over business restrictions and mask regulations.
Dr. Brian Labus, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Public Health and a member of the medical team advising Sisolak, said he knows the governor has to weigh public health advice against political and economic considerations.
“We were told not to think about all those other things. Don’t make political decisions. There will be other groups that will do that,” Labus said.