LAS VEGAS (AP) - A task force of Nevada business leaders trying use to their global contacts to bolster the state’s coronavirus response has expanded its initial focus from obtaining protective equipment to ramping up testing and helping businesses figure out how to reopen.
Former MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren said in an interview with The Associated Press that the task force he’s running began in recent weeks working to get test kits and machines, allowing Nevada to test more people and get results faster.
Weeks ago, the state was only able to process less than 1,000 tests a day, but the task force is hoping to help the state grow to a point where it can processes 30,000 a day by June 1.
“That’s an essential building block toward restarting our economy,” Murren said.
Murren, who left the giant casino operator and Nevada’s largest employer earlier in March, was picked by Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak to helm the task force.
Murren said members of the Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief and Recovery Task Force use their contacts and business expertise to find equipment that can be donated to the state or purchased with donated money, moving faster than governments limited by regulatory rules about purchasing.
Two task force members, home builder Steve Menzies of Focus Companies and consultant and former Red Rock Resort, Inc. executive Scott Nielson have been focusing on helping the state’s economic recovery, Murren said.
They’ve been working with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and trade associations to come up with a set of suggestions for each industry, such as retail, manufacturing and food and beverage, about how they might be able to safely reopen their businesses.
Murren said the task force is bundling the suggestions and will deliver them to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which will weigh them as the office works with other officials to set new guidelines for businesses.
The task force is also working to raise money, collecting more than $12 million so far. Murren said about $9 million has been spent on personal protective equipment purchased for the state.
Through purchases and donations, the task force has reported it obtained over 1 million pairs of gloves, 700,000 surgical masks, 241,000 respirator masks, 2,000 surgical gowns, 30,000 face shields, 100,000 goggles and safety glasses and more than 100 gallons of hand sanitizer.
Murren said to get much of the personal protective equipment, the task force relied on Asian-based operations of casino companies like MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Sands, which volunteered their purchasing departments to find and put in large orders of medical supplies in China, where much if it is produced.
Once equipment and supplies are flown to Nevada, they’re met at the airport by the Nevada National Guard and distributed by local government health districts based on need.
Outside of Murren, Menzies and Nielson, other task force members include: Wynn Resorts board chair Phil Satre; Nevada Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela; NV Energy CEO and President Doug Cannon; Purestar executive and former Circus Circus executive Alex Dixon; and from the health care world, OptumCare Mountain West Region President Dr. Rob McBeath.
State officials reported at least 254 deaths with 5,311 positive cases of COVID-19 statewide as of Saturday.
Most people with the coronavirus experience symptoms such as fever and cough for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
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