Las Vegas Mayor Offers City As Social Distancing ‘Control Group’ In Call To Reopen Businesses

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said Wednesday that she wants to reopen businesses like hotels and casinos, volunteering her city and the people in it as a “control group” to see if social distancing actually works to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In a shocking interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Goodman also argued there have been viruses in Vegas “for years,” and said she would not provide social distancing guidelines on how to safely reopen the economy.

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

Goodman responded no, calling Cooper an “alarmist.” She also said that while she believes everyone should practice social distancing in businesses, she does not believe it’s her responsibility as mayor to create a plan to make sure businesses reopen safely.

“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,” Goodman said. “Right now, we’re in a crisis health-wise, 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.”

Nevada has more than 3,900 confirmed coronavirus cases and 163 deaths as of Wednesday, 141 of which come from Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas. Goodman touted the number in comparison to the state’s population of about 3 million, but refused to say whether that number is due to social distancing guidelines.

“How do you know until we have a control group? We offered to be a control group,” the mayor said, adding that a statistician told her she could not do that.

Geographically, the strip casinos are not in Las Vegas itself but in the unincorporated town of Paradise, Nevada. Rep. Dina Titus (D-Nev.), whose district includes Las Vegas, echoed that in her disagreement with Goodman.

“We have to listen to the scientists and right now they tell us we must continue to stay at home as much as possible,” Titus told HuffPost in a statement on Wednesday. “Businesses in Las Vegas will only be able to recover if we take this pandemic seriously. The Mayor does not represent the Las Vegas Strip, literally or figuratively.”

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

Jerry Lambert, a hair and makeup artist who has lived in Las Vegas for 22 years, told HuffPost he has “no interest” in being part of a so-called “control group.”

“The majority of people I know are not interested in reopening before it is safe to do so because of the fear of reinfection or spikes in infection,” Lambert said. “As hard as it is on my business … I’m not interested in making money off of somebody else possibly getting ill.”

When Cooper asked the mayor if she herself would be inside those reopened casinos every night putting her own life on the line, the mayor refused to give a direct answer.

“What is the purpose of that? First of all, I have a family,” Goodman said.

Cooper responded: “Because it would be putting money where your mouth is.”

Hayley Miller and Igor Bobic contributed to this report.

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