Las Vegas Sun

January 18, 2021

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Nevada scraps phased reopening plan, takes new approach

Gov. Sisolak Covid-19 Presser

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Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak speaks during a press conference Monday, July 27, 2020.

Nevada is ditching its phased reopening strategy to bring back the economy following the coronavirus closures, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday.

Stuck in the second phase of the reopening since May 29, and with about 1,000 daily COVID-19 cases being reported, the state will pivot to a new long-term recovery plan, Sisolak said. He offered slim details on the proposal, which he says will better fit the current situation and will be fully unveiled next week.

“We’ve learned a lot about this virus in the last five months, and while phases made sense at the time, we’ve got to be flexible and responsive to what we’re seeing now,” Sisolak said.

He said the plan will include enforcement measures that could close businesses with a “pattern of noncompliance” with the face-covering mandate. Noncompliant resorts, he said, could have all or part of their properties closed for a “period of time.”

Sisolak said the plan will involve “targeting specific businesses that may be experiencing outbreaks (instead of) industries as a whole.” 

“One of my main goals is to create a long-term system of mitigation levels that will allow our businesses and residents to have advanced notice and understanding on what direction their county could be heading based on updated criteria,” Sisolak said.

He said bars in Clark, Washoe, Elko and Nye counties will remain closed, but those in Humboldt, Lander and Lyon counties can immediately reopen. He didn’t indicate how the new plan would impact capacities at businesses, where indoor restaurants, for instance, are limited to parties of six.

If residents do not follow procedures to keep others safe, there need to be “consequences,” he said without being specific of the penalties.

“To put it bluntly, the time for education is over,” he said.  “Businesses, Nevadans and visitors should all be familiar with the expectations of reduced indoor capacity, required face coverings and social distancing. We are close to five months in — no more excuses.”

Caleb Cage, the state COVID-19 response director, said the mask mandate is stopping the virus rates from rising. He gave no specific numbers.

“Based on the best analysis from the best minds in the state ... I absolutely believe that the mask directive and the subsequent directives have made the impact that we’re seeing right now,” Cage said.

“If I’ve got one municipality that’s not enforcing these laws, everybody suffers,” Sisolak said. “If they want to be irresponsible then we’re going to have to reduce capacity in restaurants or close gyms or close water parks … it’s because of stubbornness, and that’s not fair for everybody else.”

The governor said that he did not want to speculate about further business closures, including for casinos, although he said casinos were being monitored. 

Sisolak also said he hopes to start the next special session of the Nevada Legislature as early as Thursday, though the exact date will be announced in the proclamation. Electoral issues surrounding the November general election and other issues including criminal justice reform are expected to be on the docket.

The last special session adjourned on July 19 after lawmakers passed bills to help fill a $1.2 billion budget hole blown in the state’s coffers due to the pandemic.

Sisolak again reiterated the need for federal help to the state. Lawmakers, during the previous special session, passed a resolution requesting further federal assistance to the state due to the budget crisis.

“While (the first session) was an immediate and necessary measure to close the budget gap, this year we know that our state will be challenged to provide the essential services Nevadans deserve, in the way of health care, education and so much more without federal assistance,” Sisolak said.