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Sisolak announces Nevada will be in phase two through end of July

By Lucia Starbuck

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a directive to extend phase two of his reopening plan to July 31. It was originally supposed to expire at the end of June. 

The announcement comes after the state saw a surge of new COVID-19 cases and an increase in hospitalizations since entering phase two. The state also surpassed 1,000 cases per day, reporting 1,099 new cases of COVID-19 on June 26. 

There have been an average of 637 additional cases per day over the last week. About a month ago, during the week of May 31, there were only 116 daily cases on average, Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said during a press call on Tuesday.

Additionally, 18,456 people in Nevada have tested positive for COVID-19 and 507 individuals have died as of June 30. 

During the press conference on Tuesday, Julia Peek, a deputy administrator with the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said a majority of COVID-19 cases are stemming from people gathering indoors and not practicing social distancing or wearing face coverings. 

Julia Peek
Julia Peek. Image: Jeramie Lu Photography

Peek added that the state is working on a plan to protect populations that are testing positive for COVID-19 at higher rates than others. More than half of Nevada’s confirmed cases are individuals ages 20-49. About 42 percent of all positive cases in the state have been Latino.

Peek said the plan is in partnership with the Division of Industrial Relations, which is part of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry.

“This plan … will establish a phone line to take complaints regarding non-compliant businesses, increase unannounced business surveillance and coordinate with chambers of commerce to promote messaging for Nevada industries,” Peek said.

Peek added that the state has increased its contact tracing efforts, which is crucial to limiting the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In June alone, we identified an additional over 1,500 cases solely because of our contact tracing efforts,” Peek said. “Here’s how that works: When a positive case is identified, we will reach out to all their contacts, provide them information on quarantine and advise them to schedule a COVID-19 test following the CDC protocols. These contacts may or may not be showing symptoms at the time and may not have bothered to get a test until they got the contact tracing call.”

Peek said the state called people who tested positive from June 4 to June 16 to learn more about cases but only a quarter answered. About 11 percent of the people who answered said they went to a mass gathering, and a quarter of the 11 percent attended a civic activist event, according to Peek.

Additionally, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York tweeted Tuesday that visitors from 16 different states must enter a two-week quarantine upon arriving in New York. Nevada is on that list.

In response to rising cases of COVID-19, Sisolak mandated masks in public settings. This mandate went into effect on June 26.

The governor said Nevada needs to be in phase two for an extended period of time to determine if the mask mandate decreases the spread of COVID-19, and the state needs time to expand contact tracing to identify trends.

“As a state, we were able to begin reopening because Nevadans were staying home as much as possible, washing hands frequently and maintaining six feet of social distancing,” Sisolak said in a statement. “Now, all Nevadans must wear face coverings to help slow the spread as well. We can only stay open if we stay safe.”

Sisolak also tweeted yesterday warning that he is prepared to reimpose restrictions.

“If statewide trends do not improve or get worse, I will not hesitate to take any action necessary to protect the public, including reinstituting previous restrictions. I am currently reviewing all the data to determine potential next steps,” Sisolak tweeted.

Other changes to look out for

Sisolak’s directive also stated that Department of Motor Vehicles documents that expired between March 12 and July 15 will be valid through Sept. 3. Patrons are encouraged to use online services and kiosks when possible.

The directive went on to state that all licenses and permits that expired between March 12 and July 30 issued by the State of Nevada, Boards, Commissions, Agencies or other political subdivisions are still valid and will expire on Sept. 28.

Public bodies can continue to conduct business safely and provide alternate ways to allow public participation.

Eviction moratorium gradual lift

Sisolak also signed a directive that the moratorium on evictions, which was put into place in late March to protect Nevadans from housing insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, will be gradually lifted starting July 1.

Eviction notices that were initiated before the moratorium, where the tenant has not filed an answer are void, and notices given during the eviction moratorium are not valid. 

Tenants on properties that have been foreclosed or sold can be evicted, along with mobile home owners that rent a space. That went into effect on July 1. 

Starting Aug. 1, residential tenants with leases that have expired, tenant at will agreements, actions that have gone against a lease contract, like waste, unlawful business, nuisance and violations with a controlled substance, and failures to meet lease agreements. The evictions that are allowed to proceed are not to be used for failure to pay rent.

No cause evictions and evictions for non-payment of rent may resume Sept. 1.

Tenants and landlords are encouraged to voluntarily enter a new rental agreement to pay rent, which never stopped being charged during the eviction moratorium. 

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford provided a template for new rental agreements for paying rent back, called a Lease Addendum/Promissory Note for Rental arrearages due to COVID-19. Landlords can initiate evictions if tenants fail to meet the new requirements. Landlords can also begin charging late fees on Sept. 1, but not retroactively collect any late fees from March 30 to Aug. 31.

For commercial properties, evictions and lockouts can be initiated for failure to pay rent, unlawful detainer actions and commercial foreclosures beginning July 1. Commercial landlords can begin charging late fees on Aug. 1, but this cannot be retroactively applied to late payments that have accrued from March 30 to July 31.

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