Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP, Pool
Published Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020 | 6:04 p.m.
Updated Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 | 1:13 a.m.
Nevada is studying if it can ease some of its coronavirus restrictions and limits on the number of people at businesses and churches, Gov. Steve Sisolak said today.
“If public health experts agree it’s OK to loosen some things up, we’ll be OK to do that,” he said.
Sisolak said the state has been researching ways to safely increase crowd capacities at “certain venues,” mentioning specifically churches, which are now capped at no more than 50 people.
“Trust me, I want to get back to Mass. I want church services to expand their limit,” he said. “I want businesses to have meetings in large enough spaces where it’s safe.”
The governor stressed, however, that any steps must be taken cautiously.
Sisolak said he has learned over the past six months that “we have to be careful in our reopening and aggressive in our mitigation.”
The state’s economic recovery depends on lifting restrictions responsibly, he said.
The number of coronavirus cases in Nevada are decreasing, as is the seven-day average test positivity rate, Sisolak noted.
The Nevada Hospital Association also reported this week the lowest confirmed number of hospitalizations since early July.
Still, Nevada is one of only 11 states with a test positivity rate over 10%, Sisolak said.
“Our numbers are getting better, but in our high-risk counties, we still have work to do,” he said. “We flattened the curve before. We reopened. We spiked. We can’t repeat that.”
Clark County bars, meanwhile, will remain closed as the coronavirus test positivity rate remains at a high 12.6%, a state task force announced today.
Clark is one of seven Nevada counties with an elevated risk of virus transmission. The others are Lander, Lyon, Churchill, Nye, Elko and Washoe.
Based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, all seven of counties are still meeting at least two risk criteria, according to the COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force.
No new counties were flagged this week and none dropped off the list, officials said.
The task force approved an action plan for Clark County that continues current restrictions for bars, pubs, taverns, breweries, distilleries and wineries. It clarified, however, that countertops in non-bar areas may be opened for food service under existing restaurant guidelines.
All counties, regardless of risk level, must continue to follow guidelines on wearing face coverings, limits on gathering sizes and capacity in businesses.
Coronavirus cases are down in the state, with 351 news cases and 27 deaths in the most recent daily report from Nevada Health Response.
The state’s economy is still gradually reopening from pandemic-related closures in mid-March, with restaurants limited to 50% capacity, church services capped at 50 attendees and no live entertainment or sporting events.
Sisolak stressed that the upcoming Labor Day weekend has the capability to further increase the state’s coronavirus cases if it’s not taken seriously. Previous holidays — Memorial Day and the Fourth of July — have been connected to case increases, he said.
“Please celebrate with your immediate family. Have a cookout in your backyard, watch some TV, whatever it might be, but please do not have large gatherings,” Sisolak said. “That is the single most expansive spread of the COVID virus, is the family gatherings and the neighborhood gatherings that are done in backyards.”