- Associated Press - Friday, April 3, 2020

RENO, Nev. (AP) - State and federal officials are finalizing details of Nevada National Guard role in the statewide response to the coronavirus, but they’re emphasizing the mission won’t include martial law.

Brig. Gen. Mike Hanifan, the guard commander, used social media to dispel a rumor that Gov. Steve Sisolak’s activation of the Guard this week means soldiers will enforce civilian laws.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “Martial law is defined as law administered by military force. The governor has not handed over law enforcement duties or powers to the Nevada National Guard.”

Sisolak activated the Guard on Wednesday for logistical planning and delivery of medical supplies ahead of an expected spike in patients with the respiratory illness.

Duties also likely will include security at testing sites, managing food banks and disinfecting public spaces. Guardsmen also could assist in medical screening, help provide security of federal property and run traffic-control points, Hanifan said.

At least 43 people have died and more than 1,500 have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Nevada.

Sisolak said the Guard may help distribute some of the more than 2 million protective masks Las Vegas casino resorts have donated to the state.

Officials about 100 soldiers and airmen would begin active duty Friday and some should be in local communities by Tuesday. The troops will be paid from federal funds.

Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, Nevada’s adjutant general, said more could be added. The National Guard includes about 3,100 soldiers and 1,200 airmen.

The governor has activated the National Guard each New Year’s Eve since the 9/11 terrorist attacks to help patrol the Las Vegas Strip.

Nevada’s Guard regularly is deployed overseas, but the most recent non-New Year’s activation within the state was March 2017 when 140 troops responded to flooding north of Reno with federal disaster funding similar to what’s expected to occur now, said 1st Lt. Emerson Marcus, Nevada Guard historian.

A Guard activation in the winter of 1948-1949 to deliver hay to livestock during a blizzard was chronicled in the 1950 motion picture “Operation Haylift,” Marcus said. To his knowledge, this is the first activation specifically due to a virus outbreak.

Most people with the virus experience mild or moderate fever and coughing for two to three weeks. Some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, can face severe illness including pneumonia and death.

In other developments Friday:

- Nellis Air Force Base said only “mission essential personnel” and residents will be allowed inside gates beginning Monday. Access to the base hospital and commissary will be limited and restrictions will tighten next weekend.

- Officials said a parking structure at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno will be converted to a temporary patient care area with beds, equipment, water and walls in anticipation of a surge in patients in coming weeks.

- Casino giant Caesars Entertainment furloughed 90% of its 60,000-plus employees. Company chief executive Tony Rodio announced Thursday that staff members will receive two weeks’ pay, can use paid time off after that, and the company will fund health insurance through June 30.

- The Electric Daisy Carnival was postponed from mid-May to Oct. 2-4 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. More than 150,000 people annually attend the three-night electronic music festival.

- Gov. Steve Sisolak asked state agencies Friday to start finding ways to trim budgets by 4% this year and between 6% and 14% next year to address a major drop in revenue because of the coronavirus.


Associated Press writers Ken Ritter and Michelle L. Price contributed to this report from Las Vegas.

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