Reno officials today warned that business closures are possible if COVID-19 cases continue to spread throughout the community. But that decision will ultimately be determined by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who also warned today of impending surges.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said people need to limit non-family contact with others and always wear masks. The spread, she said, is alarming — she called it a tsunami — and could trigger community-wide shutdowns again.
“If we have to, we will do it, [but] we have the ability to affect the outcome right now,” she said. “If we have to fine you, we absolutely will. There’s no reason that someone should not be wearing a mask.”
The region’s risk meter is the highest it’s ever been and increasing cases have been placing hospital capacities under duress.
However, calling on citizens is the first step.
“It is now at the point where we really have to understand the severity,” Schieve said. “If we don’t, we will be closing businesses. Right now we need all the help we can get throughout the entire community.”
She said hospitals are filling to capacity and hospital administrators reached out to local officials to spread the word that the community is at risk because of increasing coronavirus cases.
Dr. John Hess of Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center warned it’s not just increasing numbers but increased severity of illnesses that is cause for alarm. Those who recover are seeing long-term effects from contracting COVID-19.
“It is going up dramatically,” he said. “This is putting tremendous strain on our healthcare infrastructure. [Renown CEO Dr.] Tony Slonim said within a week, patients will be going into the [Renown] parking garage. That should be a massive wake-up call for the community.”
The influx of patients could impact the ability of hospitals to attend to patients in a timely manner. States such as North Dakota, facing a similar surge of patients, are shipping patients out of state to be treated.
Schools temporarily closed
The University of Nevada, Reno has documented more than 800 cases, and four public schools have temporarily closed and gone to distance learning. Picollo, Reed High, Washoe Inspire Academy and Marce Herz Middle School are now on full distance learning due to spikes in COVID-19 cases. Most will be on distance learning schedules through the end of November.
Officials said children are getting ill from COVID-19, but it’s not schools but rather family and social gatherings that are enabling the spread of the coronavirus disease. Schools such as Reno High, Reed and Matthews Elementary have seen cases of nearly 10 or more.
Dr. Ron Aryel, a pediatrician, said children are getting sick from COVID-19 and going into the intensive care unit; however, he said it’s not the place of doctors to tell the school district how to conduct its business.
He said parents should be involved in the decision to keep their children in school. Contact with others should be kept at a minimum.
“That’s going to happen before a child gets sick in school,” he said. “It doesn’t mean there’s no risk from getting sick at the school.”
There’s hope, however: a vaccine is on the horizon.
“We are looking at within month of getting out of this,” Hess said. “[But] if we as a community don’t change our behavior, it could be very, very bleak.”
“Stay at home 2.0”
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered people today to again stay at home, but he did not issue a new, official directive, instead calling his statements tonight an “impassioned please.”
He said people should avoid human contact if at all possible for the next two weeks. He called the next two weeks of a new stay-at-home order 2.0.
“If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out,” Sisolak said. “We must see a reversal of these new trends. Avoid gatherings, large and small.”
He avoided business closures with a new directive. He asked business owners to let employees work from home; if at work, masks should be worn at all times. Commercial and government employers should not allow crowded meetings indoors. He asked people not to attend church services for two weeks as well.
“Masks must be worn by everyone of two people or more,” he said of people in the workplace. “For the next two weeks we implore all businesses to follow directives in place.”
Failure to do so could result in fines and suspended business licenses.
Sisolak said two weeks of stay-at-home practices could prevent business closures “if we all pitch in. We need to do more.”
He said if numbers do not go down, stricture restrictions will be implemented in two weeks.
“We are in a very crucial point right now,” he added.
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 research appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.