State Watch

Las Vegas mayor doubles down on push to reopen casinos, says it’s not her job to do it safely: ‘They better figure it out’

Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman (I) on Wednesday doubled down on her aggressive push to reopen the city’s casinos and hotels amid the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

However, she said the responsibility would fall on businesses to ensure it was done in a safe manner. 

“That’s up to them to figure out. I don’t own a casino,” Goodman, who previously called the closure of nonessential businesses “total insanity,” said in an interview on CNN.  

Pressed by CNN host Anderson Cooper on why she was pushing for fully reopening the city’s economy without across-the-board social distancing requirements, Goodman said it wasn’t her job. 

“I am not a private owner. That’s the competition in this country, the free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public,” she added. “Right now, we’re in a crisis healthwise, and so for a restaurant to be open or a small boutique to be open, they better figure it out. That’s their job. That’s not the mayor’s job.”

Goodman’s comments come as some states begin gradually reopening parks, beaches and other nonessential businesses. The mayor has called for something more extreme in her city. On Tuesday, she advocated for reopening every casino and hotel, saying that the city could respond on a case-by-case basis if more infections emerged. 

“Assume everybody is a carrier,” she said on MSNBC. “And then you start from an even slate. And tell the people what to do. And let the businesses open and competition will destroy that business if, in fact, they become evident that they have disease, they’re closed down. It’s that simple.”

Cooper repeatedly questioned Goodman over her remarks, at one point saying that her plan could lead to hundreds of thousands of people returning to Las Vegas. 

“I get the financial losses people are suffering, which is awful, but you’re encouraging hundreds of thousands of people, coming there, smoking, drinking, touching slot machines, breathing circulated air and then returning home to states around America and countries around the world. Doesn’t that sound like a virus petri dish?” he asked. 

“It sounds like you’re being an alarmist,” Goodman shot back, noting that she grew up in Manhattan and therefore understood what mass gatherings could bring. She said social distancing restrictions should be in place but argued it wasn’t her responsibility to ensure they were.

“You’re the mayor of Las Vegas, and you want casinos to be open even though you have no authority,” Cooper, visibly exasperated, replied. “You say open them up, but you have no responsibility about how that would be done safely?”

Goodman claimed that Cooper was “blurring” her remarks, again emphasizing that she’s not a “private owner of a hotel.”

Later in the interview, Cooper brought up a study Chinese researchers conducted showing how the coronavirus spreads. The research shows individuals in a restaurant and how one asymptomatic person infected with COVID-19 can pass the virus. 

As Cooper talked about the research, Goodman interjected and said, “This isn’t China. This is Las Vegas, Nev.”

“Wow. OK. That’s really ignorant,” Cooper said. “That’s an ignorant, ignorant statement. That’s a restaurant — yes, in China — but they are human beings too.”

Throughout the interview, Cooper challenged Goodman on her stance on fully reopening casinos, noting that it could be most harmful for employees working on the floor. 

“You’re talking disease. I’m talking life and living,” Goodman said at one point, citing the economic implications. Cooper said the remark made “no sense.” 

The U.S. has reported more than 839,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and roughly 46,000 deaths due to the disease, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. The outbreak caused states around the nation to impose stay-at-home orders that directed schools and nonessential businesses to close. 

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) stay-at-home order is set to run through the end of April. Sisolak has noted that the Nevada Gaming Control Board must approve any reopening plan for casinos.

Speaking at a city council meeting last week, Goodman said that the shutdown was “total insanity” because there was no plan on how the city could economically get through it. City Manager Scott Adams told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the city is facing a deficit of nearly $150 million over the next 18 months due to closures. 

“We cannot keep our heads in the sand and think it’s going to go away,” Goodman said. “We’re adults with brains who can know what to do to wash our hands, to take all precautions not to spread this disease.”

Tags Anderson Cooper Carolyn Goodman Casinos Coronavirus Las Vegas nonessential businesses

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