Rural neighbors watching as Las Vegas COVID-19 cases explode

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The rural counties that surround Las Vegas are watching COVID-19 cases here growing rapidly, and doing what they can to prevent the virus from devastating their own small communities.

We have been monitoring the numbers in Clark County and its closest neighbors. Here’s a look:

San Bernardino County is a large population center itself, with more than 2 million residents. It shows — by far — the largest number of cases of any of Clark County’s neighbors with 547 confirmed cases and 17 deaths as of Tuesday night.

But the cities in San Bernardino County are separated from Las Vegas by 200 miles of Mojave Desert. The biggest cities, San Bernardino and Fontana, each have more than 200,000 people.

Victorville, with about 125,000 residents, is 188 miles from Las Vegas.

Residents are probably much more concerned about cases in Los Angeles.

When Las Vegas casinos shut down as Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered “non-essential” businesses to close, the Interstate 15 tourist pipeline from Southern California dried up. Worries about California cases were lost in the attention to cases that are already happening in Southern Nevada.

Washington County in Utah, northwest of Las Vegas on I-15 has 31 coronavirus cases. Just one death has been reported.

The main entrance to Zion National Park brings a lot of visitors through the area. St. George, with 85,000 residents, and Hurricane are the largest cities.

Another Laughlin hotel shares a positive message

Arizona’s Mohave County, southwest of Las Vegas, reports 23 confirmed cases and 1 death. With Bullhead City — population 40,000 — right across the Colorado River from Laughlin, Mohave is probably the only place where Nevada residents are watching across a state line at a possible threat for the spread of COVID-19. Laughlin has about 7,500 residents.

But most of Mohave County’s cases are actually being reported in Lake Havasu City, which has grown to 54,000 residents. It is about 75 miles south of Laughlin.

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Our Nevada neighbors to the north — sprawling Nye County and Lincoln County — are probably the most nervous about Southern Nevada. The rural nature of those counties creates reasons to come to the big city, whether for trips to Costco or Sam’s Club, for specialized medical care, or simply for things they can’t get where they live.

Raley’s informs customers of limited sales of some items in Tonopah, Nevada, on Saturday, March 14. (KLAS-TV)

In addition, travelers coming from the Las Vegas valley have raided rural stores as supplies ran out during initial hoarding. Customers from Las Vegas emptied shelves as far away as Tonopah in the search for toilet paper, hand sanitizer supplies and canned food.

As a supermarket clerk in Tonopah said in March as a Las Vegas customer bought 12 cases of soup: “I’ll be glad when this is all over.”

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