Effective 10 a.m. tomorrow all “non-essential businesses” are being ordered to start the process of closing by Friday in Reno in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Reno Mayor Schieve today said the city and Washoe County Health District are ordering the closure of all bars, gyms, restaurants, casinos and the UNR and TMCC campuses. Those statements, however, caused confusion and were quickly contradicted by UNR, TMCC and the Health District.
“Non-essential businesses” were later clarified to be the mandatory closures of bars, nightclubs, gyms and restaurants (except takeout/delivery/drive through and pick up services) in the city until April 5 unless extended.
“I know there was some confusion around the announcement, so I just want to clarify that these are businesses where groups of people tend to congregate,” Schieve said in a follow-up statement. “Let me also clarify that all businesses are essential. I am simply trying to limit areas of high-exposure risk.”
The follow-up statement from the city also said that casino gaming is still allowed “following the directions of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, but casino dining areas in restaurants and bars should be closed. Room service is allowed for guests within properties.”
The city’s actions are prompted by the city’s Friday proclamation of a state of emergency.
“This virus is highly, highly contagious,” Schieve explained. “Unfortunately, you are [going] to see more cases come forward. We all have to do this together. I am pleading with the entire community to do this together.”
It wasn’t clear how or if this is going to be enforced. Police Chief Jason Soto said RPD does not want to be heavy-handed.
It’s also not clear how people will continue to survive without income. Schieve said the city is seeking emergency and disaster funding. She also encouraged people to file for unemployment.
Schieve said everybody will have access to food, so grocery stores will remain open. Soto said they are asking stores to reduce customer hoarding of food and supplies.
The Washoe County Health District, after today’s announcement, said the mayor’s comments do not reflect the district’s position.
“Contrary to recent reports from the City of Reno, WCHD has NOT issued any mandate that all restaurants, bars, casinos or gyms in Washoe County close due to COVID-19,” said Health District spokesperson Scott Oxarart. “If you receive calls from the public, please advise them of this and let them know they can contact the City of Reno with any questions.”
In addition, the county issued the following statement after the City of Reno’s press conference:
Washoe County, the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) and the City of Sparks seek to clarify a recent statement by the City of Reno regarding a mandatory order to close bars, nightclubs, gyms and restaurants (not including takeout/delivery/drive through or pickup services) through April 5.
At this time, the Washoe County Health District has no mandate to close any establishments in Washoe County. The Health District supports business closures and cancellation of large public events to reduce risk of transmission of COVID-19, but it is not mandatory at this time.
Additionally, the jurisdictions of Washoe County and the City of Sparks have not made a decision to close any businesses at this time due to COVID-19.
The University of Nevada, Reno’s spokesperson also said UNR did not have advance notice of the mayor’s announcement.
“We had no advance warning on this, so we are currently working through it. We’ll release information as soon as we have it,” Kerri Garcia said.
UNR President Marc Johnson later called Schieve’s inclusion of college campuses into mandatory closures erroneous.
“It is important to note that contrary to earlier erroneous statements today from the City of Reno regarding upcoming planned closures for nonessential businesses that included our campus, the campus does remain open on alternative operations that are designed to diminish the potential for spread and severity of coronavirus,” he said.
TMCC announced in an email yesterday that it will begin offering remote courses March 23. TMCC spokesperson Kate Kirkpatrick would not respond to a question as to whether it will close as a result of today’s announcement. Instead, she referred to a webpage that indicated all four TMCC locations remain open.
“As of March 23, 2020, TMCC is moving to alternate operations and classes will be delivered remotely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the website shows.
Nevada System of Higher Education’s chancellor issued a statement this evening saying all NSHE campuses will provide in-person services to students, faculty and contractors, but “the bulk of our services should be offered remotely.”
Reno Fire Chief Dave Cochran said emergency services are being maintained.
“We have not reduced our staffing level at all,” Cochran said.
Soto said the police department is changing its approach to homeless encampments. On Saturday, after concern expressed on social media, Jim English with the health district said enforcement would continue enforcing health violations on properties along the river.
“The WCHD is still accepting complaints related to solid waste issues with homeless camps,” English said. “They are routed through our complaint system and will be addressed as all other complaints. Based on the ongoing public health emergency surrounding COVID-19, this process of notifying property owners may take a few days longer than in the past.”
Chief Soto said today that they are not actively pursuing property cleanups at this time.
“The dynamics (of some of these camps) have changed since this outbreak’s occurred,” he said. “We’re still out there because we need to be out there getting them resources, supplies and things of that nature. We’re … taking them on a location-by-location basis in the interest of caution. We’re still addressing it but not as we were in the past.”
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Museums close, performances canceled
Area museums today announced closures. That includes the Nevada Museum of Art, National Automobile Museum, Wilbur D. May Center and the Discovery Museum.
“When our public health officials tell us it is safe to do so, we look forward to welcoming the community back into the May Museum,” said Samantha Szesciorka, assistant curator of the May Museum.
The Reno Phil today announced all performances are canceled through May 11. These announcement follow a number others made last week about canceling performances.
Sheriff’s Office scales back some operations
Effective immediately the Sheriff’s Office has:
- Instituted remote working for the staff positions where it is feasible and for personnel who remain at the building, actively encouraging social distancing, minimizing in-person contact and frequently sanitizing throughout the building.
- Required that all non-professional visits with inmates in the detention facility be conducted remotely, using iWebvisit.com; guidance regarding professional visits will be forthcoming.
- Limited front desk operations – crime reports can be filed online at WashoeSheriff.com or via telephone at (775) 328-3001.
- All permits requests will be taken at the Sheriff’s Office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- CCW applications will be taken at the Sheriff’s Office on Mondays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Suspended all outside work crews as well as all internal programs for inmates.
- Continued increased screening for inmates as they arrive for booking.
- Encouraged sex offenders to contact their agency of local jurisdiction or the Sheriff’s Office before coming to the Sheriff’s Office.
RTC Transit Service
The Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County is open, but RTC will reduce the number of people in its offices to minimize public interaction in the interest of everyone’s safety. The public is encouraged to contact RTC employees by phone or email to conduct business.
“RTC transit service continues on its normal schedule. Transit passengers can continue to expect the increased frequency of our sanitization and disinfection practices using a strong disinfectant approved for use against COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) on our transit vehicles and at RTC transit centers,” the agency said in a statement. “Heightened awareness of coronavirus may increase service delays, and we apologize for any inconvenience. The RTC is making adjustments as needed to continue serving our customers.”
St. Mary’s Medical Center also indicated it is postponing elective surgeries for the time being.
“The rescheduling of elective cases currently scheduled after March 16 will be evaluated daily,” said spokesperson Amber Norris. “Cases that get delayed will be considered for rescheduling after Wednesday, April 1st, depending on the state of the emergency at that time.”
Renown posted online that it will not be receiving visitors, except one designated visitor per patient.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor, and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011, where he completed a dissertation on social media, journalism and crisis communications. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.