And I do mean “shocks.” As contentious as cable news interviews tend to be, you don’t often see the host call an elected official “ignorant.”
Not to overhype it, but the most famous political writer in Nevada, Jon Ralston, watched it live on CNN and reacted this way:
I have seen many Nevada officials stumble on national TV. But that was the single most embarrassing thing i have seen by a NV pol in 35 years here. The mayor just showed the country she is unfit for office, and the commentary and shock and disgust here bears that out. My God.
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) April 22, 2020
Carolyn Goodman, the mayor of Vegas, is one of the country’s loudest voices in the “reopen now” camp. Yesterday she told NBC that it’s “total insanity” that the city is locked down by order of the governor. CNN had her on today to tease that out. What would she like to see happen? Vegas is at a special disadvantage from the pandemic relative to most American cities because so much of its economy depends on hospitality. It’s a city that runs on crowds: Crowds in the casinos, crowds at shows, crowds at bars and restaurants, crowds in hotel lobbies. Remember that story about how a single soccer match in northern Italy in mid-February is suspected of seeding the outbreak that brought Lombardy to its knees? Imagine that in Vegas every night. And in Italy, most soccer fans were local. Vegas attracts tourists from everywhere. Not only is it a perfect incubator for the disease, it’s positioned to spread it to all four corners of the country as visitors arrive, get infected, and return home.
You’d think the mayor would be more cautious under the circumstances. In reality, she’s so gung ho to reopen that she claims to have asked her deputies whether the city might serve as a control group for … something. It’s not clear if she means a control group for doing away with lockdown orders while leaving informal social distancing in place or if she means a control group for ending the lockdowns and ending social distancing. Her position on that seemed to shift during the interview. Every time Anderson Cooper accused her of being reckless in not insisting on keeping people apart, she tut-tutted him and said of course she believes in social distancing. But watch this. Sure sounds to me like she’s questioning whether it’s necessary.
The Mayor of Las Vegas offering up her citizens as “a control group” to see if social distancing actually works is <enter own expletives here> pic.twitter.com/7zfFQfmtmS
— Blair McDougall (@blairmcdougall) April 22, 2020
Elsewhere in the clip he asked her what her plan is for casinos and restaurants after they reopen. Once the lockdown orders are lifted, how does she propose to make it safe for people to congregate in confined spaces like casino floors? To which Goodman counters: I’m not a casino owner. Let the businesses worry about it.
Which is a fine laissez faire attitude, and not in conflict with better-informed skeptics who point to data showing that lockdowns don’t work. But the catch is that those same skeptics do endorse various other social distancing measures, including and especially school closings because of the potential for schools to become incubators of the virus. Places that host mass gatherings are obviously a special threat in an epidemic. Schools are one of those places. As, of course, are … casinos and theaters.
Even so, I’d be all for letting her run her “control group” with willing participants *if* they could all be contained in Vegas for a month afterward instead of seeding outbreaks around the United States. The wrinkle in her laissez faire approach to an infectious disease is that, in this case, if you want to party on the Strip you’re not just risking your own health. Potentially you’re risking mine and the health of thousands of other people in your chain of contacts after you’re infected and contagious. Goodman never addresses that point, that in this case what happens in Vegas emphatically does not stay in Vegas. Instead she’s left babbling at times about how people toughed it out during typhoid outbreaks, West Nile, and so on, without lockdowns or mass social distancing. In which case why can’t we do that in this case, with a novel virus for which we have no treatments, no vaccine, and no natural immunity, and which has already killed 40,000 people in six weeks?
At one point Cooper asks her if she’ll head down to the casino once the COVID crew is in there gambling. She doesn’t sound eager. I think she’s presidential material.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman clashes with CNN's Anderson Cooper over her push to reopen casinos and hotels.
"It sounds like you're being an alarmist." pic.twitter.com/NOtAtaJ9tr
— The First (@TheFirstonTV) April 22, 2020
“Wow, that’s really ignorant.”@AndersonCooper clashes with Las Vegas Mayor Goodman after she justified her wish to quickly reopen casinos saying, “this isn’t China, this is Las Vegas,” after he showed her a graphic of how coronavirus could spread in a restaurant in China. pic.twitter.com/w3QscYmiIH
— Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) April 22, 2020
Update: One of the engines of Vegas’s hospitality industry is not eager to be part of the “control group.”
Brutal statement from Culinary Union on Goodman interview:
"In Las Vegas, we’ve had 11 Culinary Union members die because of COVID-19. The Mayor’s statements are outrageous considering essential frontline workers have been dealing with the consequences of this crisis firsthand." pic.twitter.com/wYliBP86ZE
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) April 22, 2020