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Governor Sisolak allows larger gatherings with new COVID-19 directives

By Sudhiti Naskar

Governor Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday afternoon new emergency directives for gatherings as part of the ongoing Road to Recovery: Moving to a New Normal action plan.

“Gatherings touch every aspect of social and economic life of Nevada — from weddings to funerals, to church services and conventions,” Sisolak said yesterday inside the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas, where he held a press conference.

In the past week, he received multiple calls from faith leaders and Nevadans urging him to ease restrictions on social gatherings, he added. “I have heard from so many that have shared the anguish of not being able to go to church, attend a wedding or another milestone. I have had several calls this week from the faith leaders in the community to work through the specific details as it relates to church and in-faith gatherings.”

The state is working to create extensive guidance for groups larger than 50, the limit that has been in place.

Ease of restrictions for churches

“We have now increased our limit for public gatherings to 250 people or 50% of the capacity, whichever is less. This 250 is in addition to the staff that is at the event. For example, for a faith gathering, it’s in addition to a priest or the rabbi to the choir to the volunteers, those that are working at the event,” he announced.

However, he reminded that the gatherings can happen only under “very strict guidelines” as the COVID-19 situation in Nevada still requires all of the mitigation efforts in place. Cases continue to rise in Nevada, primarily in Clark and Washoe counties.

He thanked the faith leaders for their input and active involvement in working with the state to ease the restrictions on gatherings and hoped that people will enjoy getting back to religious celebrations.

Detailed guidelines for churches and other religious gatherings can be accessed at https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Nevada-Places-of-Worship-and-Life-Rites-Ceremonies.pdf

Bringing back conventions 

Sisolak talked about the importance of businesses that hold conventions, trade shows and seminars in Las Vegas and why reopening the economy is the need of the hour.

“Four miles on Las Vegas Boulevard, The Strip, is the fuel that keeps the engine of the state running, and we are doing what we can to provide a safe environment, to protect our residents and at the same time, allow the economy to reopen,” he said.

The restrictions for businesses allow for gatherings larger than 250 provided the venue has a bigger seating capacity. 

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak speaks during a news conference in Las Vegas Sept. 29, 2020 providing updates on Nevada’s COVID-19 response efforts and adjustments to current capacity limits on gatherings. The face mask is themed after the Vegas Golden Knights’ mascot Chance the Golden Gila Monster. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun, pool)

“The 250 capacity does not include the staff who prepare the venue or work at the event. If a convention or conference wants to host more than 250 attendees, they will have an opportunity to host up to 1,000 attendees if all requirements are met, including the approval of a plan, breaking up the attendees into smaller groups–250 or less–and following protocols that minimize commingling or cross-pollinization [sic] as we call it, between the various pods that are going to be in the facility.”

But as a general rule, total gathering size should not cross 10% of total seating capacity. If a venue has a total fixed-seating occupant capacity of 3,000, 10% of that equals 300, If a venue has a total fixed seating occupant capacity of 20,000, 10% of that equals 2,000.

He called the decision to allow business to hold conventions “an important first-step towards revitalizing our hospitality industry under the strong social distancing and safety guidelines in the nation.”

He also took the opportunity to court companies to bring their business events to Nevada instead of going to other states. 

“As you plan your next corporate meeting or convention, I know you may be considering other states who have recently announced a complete lifting of all restrictions including safety restrictions, but before you make a decision, understand that Nevada is not only open for business, we plan to be open for the long term,” he said. “We are focusing on your safety and providing you with a great experience, but a safe great experience…We are doing it responsibly here because your safety matters to us. We are going to provide you with the gold standard of safety.” 

Live entertainment 

Live entertainment venues may get permission to have gatherings “if the local health care authority confirms that it is safe to do so,” said Gov. Sisolak.

Detailed guidelines for business events, seminars and live entertainment can be found here: https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Nevada-Guidance-for-Safe-Gatherings-Celebrations-Ceremonies-and-Events.pdf

Real estate

Also, realtors can resume “in-person showing and open houses,” Sisolak said, with restrictions to protect the health of the people living in the facilities and visiting for the purpose of buying.

Businesses will need to post the capacity limit

“All businesses and venues will now be required to post the capacity limit at the entrances,” said Sisolak. Examples of signage to be put on the front door should be in both in Spanish and English and can be downloaded from https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/

Guidelines Highlights

There are detailed guidelines that can be accessed on https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/. Here are some highlights:

Defining a large venue

The state is defining a larger venue as a place with more than 2,500 fixed seating capacity–places like the Lawlor Events Center and Legion Stadium. If such a place “wishes to host more than 250 people and can meet the extensive requirements necessary to host a gathering, they can host a gathering up to 10% total fixed seating capacity,” said Sisolak.

Ensuring local health care is not overburdened

The events and gatherings will have to work with the State to ensure that they “will not overly burden the local health system,” said Sisolak. Then the plan must be submitted to the appropriate state oversight authority for approval. “Only the state can approve larger gatherings,” he added. 

Safety plan

“Qualifying large gatherings must submit a COVID preparedness safety plan to the local authority for review for compliance with public health standards,” he reminded.

A safety plan should include larger gatherings separating attendees for social distancing. Inside the gathering, event sections have to be distinct and independent to prevent individuals from entering one side of the area to another. Seperate entrances and exits would be required. Shared restrooms are not encouraged in the plan and their usage should be minimized, when they are allowed. Venue staff will be allowed to work only within one section to minimize disease spread.

Safety plan submission guidelines

All gathering spaces and venues that want to host a gathering for more than 250 individuals will need to submit a “Large Gathering Venue COVID-19 Preparedness & Safety Plan Submission Guide” to the local health authority where the gathering will take place. 

A summary of things to include in the submission:

  • Ensure medical preparedness: Events would need to require each attendee to complete a COVID-19 screening and designate a licensed or certified medical professional who must always be located on-site. 
  • Ensure contact tracing after the event: Event organizers would be responsible for establishing a primary contact who will collect and retain contact information for all attendees for 60 days following the gathering. They will assist the local health authority with contact tracing should there be a positive case identified from the gathering or event. 
  • Ensure social distancing: Events will submit a layout or diagram of the event to show how attendees will be socially distanced and chances of crowding are minimized. The plan could include use of  stanchions or hedges, ingress and egress points for attendees, barriers, markings or other elements. 
  • Ensure face covering: Events will need to identify the staff and resources to enforce face covering and other social distancing requirements, occupancy counting, metering of crowd access to certain facilities, crowd/congregation control, etc.
  • Identify the communication protocols: There should be a communication protocol in place with all attendees prior to arrival, upon arrival, and throughout the event.
  • Disinfecting: Events are required to identify the cleaning and disinfection protocols.

Read more news about COVID-19 in Reno


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