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Nevada workers who lost jobs to COVID-19 roll dice on proposed ordinance to get them back

The WHO warns more younger people are getting infected, while fans won't be watching "Da Bears" at Soldier Field this season.
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A waiter wearing a mask serves a patron at Mon Ami Gabi restaurant at the Paris Las Vegas hotel and casino in Las Vegas on July 28.Roger Kisby / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

The bartenders, nurses and airport, casino and convention workers who help power Nevada's economy rallied Tuesday in Las Vegas for a "Right to Return" ordinance that would require businesses to hire back employees who were laid off or furloughed because of the coronavirus crisis.

"Every one of those workers should have the right to come back to their previous jobs when business resumes," the Save Our Jobs union coalition said in a statement. "They have lost their jobs through no fault of their own."

Save Our Jobs represents about 87,000 workers across the state, and the ordinance it is asking the Clark County Commission to place on the Sept. 1 agenda would ensure that employers don't hire someone new before asking a former employee to return.

While the language is still being finalized, the coalition said it would cover both union and nonunion workers.

"Workers have helped to build Nevada into the tourism and entertainment capital of the world," the coalition statement said. "They take care of our sick, injured, and elderly residents. All workers make this city one of the best places to live and raise a family."

The coalition includes Bartenders Union Local 165, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, IATSE Local 720, National Nurses United, Operating Engineers Local 501, SEIU 1107, Teamsters Local 986, Teamsters Local 631, United Auto Workers Local 3555 and others.

More than 20 million jobs were lost nationwide after the pandemic hit, and the move by the coalition comes as the recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression appears to be flagging.

Nevada was among the hardest-hit states because 2 of every 5 jobs in the state were in the leisure, retail and hospitality industries, Business Insider reported.

The U.S. economy added 1.76 million jobs in July. But that was a steep decline from the 4.8 million jobs that were restored in June, according to the latest batch of federal Bureau of Labor statistics.

And while revelers returned to the casinos in June, two months after they were closed by COVID-19 and the neon lights on the famous Las Vegas Strip went dark, a lot of the jobs haven't come back. And experts have said it may take years for the Las Vegas and Nevada economies to recover.

Back in June, The Wall Street Journal reported that the pandemic "hit Nevada's workforce harder than any other U.S. state" and posed a possible "existential threat to Las Vegas's business model based on bringing people together for gambling, entertainment and conventions."

"We think that consumers are still going to be pretty reluctant to travel very far, to stay in hotels [or] to take part in gaming" until there is a vaccine, Troy Walters, a senior economist with IHS Markit, told The Journal.

Nevada had reported 61,967 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 1,077 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the latest NBC News figures.

But the 25 deaths reported Tuesday were a new high for the state. Although the number of new cases is down by 26 percent in the last two weeks from the two weeks before that, it is still much higher than it was in early June, when the state was averaging a little more than 100 new cases per day.

ProPublica, the independent investigative news operation, warned in a pieced published Tuesday that when it comes to the coronavirus, "what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas." The reopened casinos are "a likely hotbed for the spread of the novel coronavirus." And tourists who return home infected are hard to track down, because "there is no national system in place for contact tracing."

Nationally, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases was nearing 5.5 million, and the death toll as of Tuesday morning was close to 172,000, according to NBC News numbers. The U.S., which leads the world in both categories, has accounted for about a quarter of the 22 million cases and 776,000 deaths around the globe.

In the last seven days, India (6,540) and Brazil (6,784) have logged more coronavirus deaths than the U.S., which reported 6,440, according to NBC News figures.

Most of the new cases and deaths in the U.S. have been in Southern and Sun Belt states that reopened at the urging of the Trump administration as the numbers of new COVID-19 cases were starting to climb.

Currently, however, the state with the highest rate of infection is Louisiana, which has nearly 3,000 cases per 100,000 residents, public records show.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, won a legal battle Monday when a federal judge refused to block his order to stop the spread of the virus by shutting down bars. Ten bar owners had sued the state to stay open.

"The case turns on a classic who-decides question: As between democratically accountable state officials and a federal court, who decides what measures best protect Louisianans during a global pandemic?" U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman wrote. "The answer is state officials."

Florida has the second-highest infection rate in the country, with more than 2,600 confirmed cases per 100,000 residents. The Sunshine State was on track to join California as the only states with more than 600,000 confirmed cases. And as of Tuesday morning, Florida had reported 9,673 deaths.

  • Rebekah Jones, the former head of the Florida public information portal who says she was ousted by Gov. Ron DeSantis for refusing to censor the dismal data, has a new number-crunching job. Jones announced that she is partnering with the advocacy group FinMango to track coronavirus cases "in every K-12 school district" in the U.S. NBC News reported Monday that the federal government isn't tracking COVID-19 outbreaks in schools and that some states aren't publicly reporting them. That makes it harder for public health experts to come up with solutions to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.
  • While most of the pandemic victims early on were the aged or infirm, the World Health Organization warned that more and more younger people are getting infected. "The epidemic is changing," Takeshi Kasai, a WHO regional director, said at a recent briefing. "People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving the spread." They, in turn, pose a big danger to the most vulnerable groups, because "many are unaware they are infected," Kasai said. "This increases the risk of spillovers to the more vulnerable."
  • Notre Dame became the second nationally known university in two days to yank its students out of classrooms following a coronavirus outbreak on campus. The university's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, ordered that all classes for undergraduates go online for the next two weeks after an off-campus party resulted in dozens of students' getting infected. "If these steps are not successful, we'll have to send students home as we did last spring," Jenkins warned. At least the Irish still have a shot at completing the semester on campus. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sent all of its students home Monday for the rest of the fall semester after reporting 135 new COVID-19 cases and four clusters within a week of having started in-person classes.
  • The world got a glimpse of some jarring images from Wuhan, China, the city where the pandemic is believed to have started — a massive pool party at a water park. Thousands of bathers bobbing in inflatable rubber things, hardly any wearing masks, were squeezed into a pool where they grooved to electronic music. Wuhan's super-strict lockdown ended in April, but the majority of China's reported 4,634 reported coronavirus deaths were in Wuhan.
  • Da fans probably won't be watching Da Bears play football at Soldier Field dis season. Concerned about the coronavirus crisis, the Chicago Bears pulled the plug on allowing spectators after consulting with city health officials. "The Bears and the City of Chicago agreed that the health metrics show it is not the right time to welcome fans back to Soldier Field," the team said in a statement. The Bears aren't the first NFL team to ban fans from some of their games. The Tennessee Titans are doing the same. And earlier, the New York Jets and Giants announced that no fans will be allowed "until circumstances change" at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where both teams play. Teams like the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Falcons said they will play before reduced-capacity crowds with social distancing measures in place. The NFL is making mask-wearing mandatory for any fan attending a pro football game.