If This Weekend Is An Indication of What’s In Store For Us, Things Don’t Look All That Great.
With the lockdown America has been under for the past 50 days or so, all kinds of things have happened. Some bad, some awful, and some downright heartbreaking.
- 50,000 dead nationwide, 25,000 deaths in New York alone
- 30 Million unemployed
- Trillions of dollars are tacked onto the National Debt with $1200 going to you and me and trillions to entitled corporate special interests
- The greatest economic engine in the history of mankind being jacked into park overnight
The impact on Storey County has been no different from other communities all over the country. While many of the TRI businesses were deemed essential, including the Tesla Gigafactory, all businesses in VC save those serving food were deemed non-essential overnight. Virginia City returned to being an actual ghost town. Heck, even Lance Gilman made the “gut-wrenching” decision to close the Mustang a bit behind the rest of the non-essential businesses and join the rest of us on lockdown.
The waiting began.
Almost everyone has complied with the recommendations of our President and his National Health Leaders. But after 50 days of lockdown, people are getting restless. Some folks are getting pissed. In Huntington Beach, thousands of people flew the bird at Governor Newsom and took to the beach in protest. Similar protests happened this weekend in Carson City by like-minded citizens.
On Wednesday, April 29th, Governor Sisolak signed Directive 16 and gave it a catchy moniker: “Battle Born Beginning.”
The directive outlined steps Nevadans would be taking to gradually ease the draconian restrictions placed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, May 1, Storey County held a virtual “Merchants Meeting” to discuss the Governor’s Plan and our reaction to it. The meeting was led by Austin Osborne and had input from Deny Dotson, Sheriff Antinoro, and Commission Chair Marshall McBride.
When I got the notification of the meeting, it piqued my interest. Wow, I thought, look at this sudden interest and concern for the merchants. After years of caring more about events than if the merchants actually benefitted from them, there is now some concern? What’s up with that?
If you attended VCTC and County Commission meetings and had conversations with our County officials over the years, their attitudes and actions regarding the merchants were pretty consistent:
- “All the merchants do is complain.”
- “They never show up to the VCTC Meetings and provide input so their opinions don’t matter.”
- “We fill the town with people with our events. If they can’t make money, that’s their problem.”
- “Most merchants don’t live here and take advantage of our town, so they have to live with our decisions.”
The County held the Merchant Meeting and 70 some people attended. The meeting started by saying how important it is to get the merchants back open and for things to return to normal with people back into town spending money.
After the introductory formalities, the meeting turned into a planning session on how to circumvent the rules set down by the governor led by Storey County Commission Chair and Bucket of Blood owner Marshall McBride.
Marshall McBride was clear in his displeasure with the Governor and made no bones about telling businesses in Storey County it was their right to circumvent the orders from the Governor and open our businesses on C Street.
“We put together a plan for reopening. We know people in business don’t want their customers to get ill… If the Governor would give us a little leeway here we can open our businesses in a very safe and productive way,” explained McBride.
“Most of the information we are getting from the Rurals is, hey listen. We are running a real clean county. We aren’t having a lot of breakouts. We aren’t having any deaths. We know how to operate our cities and our counties so give us the opportunity to operate. His plan is that everybody is going to open at the same time. He has lifted the restrictions to play pickle-ball” said McBride.
Marshall explained that Home Depot is open and selling lots of things that are non-essential. In those stores, there are hundreds of people herding around not practicing social distancing. He explained that it’s not fair.
McBride went so far as to say that he doesn’t wear a mask and doesn’t know if they are even effective. What type of example is McBride setting from a public safety standpoint? Clearly, he is not concerned about his own safety, but more significantly, seems pretty unconcerned about the safety of others.
“There is a little bit of a take-back of what the fairness is. It’s very arbitrary the difference between what’s essential and what’s non-essential. And that’s where a lot of our businesses in Virginia City are going to have to become creative. You’re going to have to convert your non-essential business into an essential business as others already have possibly by getting guidance from the Sheriff’s office.”
Sheriff Antinoro said that if the merchants had any questions to just come to his office and he’ll help them out.
So the word on high is that Storey County endorses businesses to ignore the Governor and open the town for business. Fair enough.
Who’s Open? Who’s Closed?
My son and I donned our “bandits” (his term for our bandana masks) and took to C Street on Sunday to see how things were playing out after the instructions issued by the Chairman.
We walked from the Jerky Factory to the Canvas Cafe on the west side and from The Way It Was to the Firehouse on the east side of C Street. By our count, 16 businesses were open and 42 were closed. Of those open, only two merchants were wearing masks when we stopped by. Most of the (very) few actual tourists were wearing masks.
However, there was a group of people gathered in the street outside the Red Dog not wearing masks and not practicing anything that could be confused with social distancing.
The crowd assembled outside the Cigar Bar was also unmasked and clustered together. Most of these folks were the people who come to town in costume to drink and hang out. They usually chill at the Bucket, but the Bucket was closed.
The costumed could have been with the 601, the Silent Riders, or were docents from the VCTC. While most were in costume, none appeared to be paying attention to the guidelines set by State Health Officials. If these people represent Virginia City, what kind of an example are they setting from a safety standpoint? If they are representing themselves, what kind of example are they setting? If not for themselves, the safety for others, the safety for the residents, the safety for the tourists?
The More Equal Animals
This situation illustrates an issue that has dogged Storey County since I was a kid. Who do the rules apply to and who has to abide by them? I have documented the laughable way the County has dealt with the fact (according to Storey County Ordnance) that nobody can live at the Mustang Ranch, and therefore, people can’t claim to live there and vote or serve elected office.
The bigger issue at play here concerns public safety. More than half the residents who live in Storey County are 55 and over. Seniors are considered at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus by health professionals. The battle cry of the defiant is “ you stay home, I demand my freedom”. That’s fine. However, as long as the virus is being circulated, both the defiant and those at risk will be on lockdown for a much longer time than any of us want. Our most vulnerable will be unnecessarily exposed. All this sacrifice will be a waste of freaking time.
The Governor shut down roughly 80% of Nevada’s economy when he ordered shelter-in-place in March. Unemployment is expected to break 30% in Nevada this month. I predict 25-35% of the businesses closed today will not re-open or will shutter within 6 months of whenever this lockdown is lifted.
We Are In For Some Rough Sledding
As Americans, we all are getting curb-stomped by the lockdown. As a Libertarian, I am troubled at the proposals being floated that this crisis as a shield as an excuse to curb our freedom and privacy. But as a human being with concern for the health and well-being of my fellow man and woman, I am troubled by McBride’s directive. I am even more troubled by his attitude about the safety of others by not wearing a mask himself… it is, after all, the least he can do to protect others.
Questions to Ponder
Is the economic well-being of a few worth the danger to the many that allowing the virus to get a foothold in Virginia City poses? Is Marshall McBride truly concerned about the residents of our county when he directs businesses to creatively become “essential” in order to attract people who are mentally but not socially distant?
Do Storey County Residents Matter to McBride?
Many C Street merchants are my friends and neighbors. I relate to their very real sense of survival and the obligations they have to their families. But let’s face the facts. We are all sacrificing, not just here in Storey County, not just here in Nevada but nationwide. Many have lost all income and face hardships unimagined a few short months ago. Hunger and homelessness are becoming a painful reality for millions of Americans.
With his directive, Marshall McBride and our County leadership appear to thumb their noses at the sacrifices we have made and will be forced to make in the coming months. To invite people into our town who clearly aren’t interested in the health and well-being of themselves, much less our community seems reckless and irresponsible.
I am concerned about McBride’s phased re-opening based on the non-existent public safety concerns on display from our visitors this weekend. Having Storey County Deputies enforcing social distancing is unrealistic, and frankly, unwelcome.
In the absence of this unwelcome enforcement, mentally distant people will almost certainly bring the virus up here to The Richest Place On Earth.