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Governor Sisolak orders more restrictions amid “wildfire level” surge of COVID-19 patients

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak today issued orders for more restrictions on gatherings and businesses as the Silver State is facing a “wildfire level” of COVID-19 cases.

The surge of new positive cases and increasing deaths are putting hospitals at risk of not being able to treat patients, Sisolak said.

Thirteen of Nevada’s 17 counties are flagged for elevated risks of transmission — previously, in October, only Washoe and Clark counties were flagged for high levels of spreading the coronavirus disease.

The state has surpassed 2,000 deaths. Washoe County reported nine more deaths just today and yesterday. Washoe County reported 241 deaths as of today — 41 people have died just in November.

“All available models indicate that Nevada is in a ‘red zone,’ and our health experts anticipate continued case growth based on current trends,” Sisolak said.

Ten percent of all of Nevada’s coronavirus cases have been reported in just the past week.

The increase in cases has impacted hospital staffing levels “because [employees] have become infected, or their family members have been diagnosed with COVID and workers are in quarantine,” Sisolak added.

That means patients may face delays in treatment for other medical issues, such as heart attacks.

“COVID is filling up our hospital beds, and that threatens all Nevadans,” the governor explained. “All Nevadans will have limited access to the care they may need. This cannot become our reality.”

New restrictions on businesses, gatherings

Sisolak said he has to balance keeping the economy open and the ability of hospitals to treat patients. Effective Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. new restrictions on business and gatherings begin.

Mask requirements will be increased as well. Masks must be worn if you are around somebody who is not a member of your immediate household. That includes in-home gatherings.

“Nevadans must wear face coverings at all times, whether indoors or outdoors, when around individuals from outside their households,” Sisolak said. “Private gatherings will be restricted to 10 people or fewer, from no more than 2 households — whether indoors or outdoors.”

Restaurants and bars must enforce mask wearing unless patrons are eating or drinking, and no tables can have more than four people. People with Thanksgiving reservations at restaurants will need to break parties up into no more than four at a table or order takeout.

Restaurant reservations are also now required. No walk-ins are allowed.

Bar capacities are reduced from 50% to 25% whether indoors or outside. Gyms, dance and fitness studios are also reduced from 50% to 25% capacity with masks required. Casinos must also operate at 25% capacity.

Public gatherings that were previously increased to 250 are now reduced to 50 people.

Churches, theaters, casino showrooms, weddings and showrooms can only have 50 people or 25% of capacity, whichever is less. Large events must be canceled.

Adult and youth sports tournaments will be suspended for three weeks. Malls, retail outlets and grocery stores can keep 50% capacity but employees must be at entrances to ensure capacity requirements.

“We must decrease these limits,” Sisolak proclaimed.

The governor said it will be up to local governments to enforce the new restrictions. Industry-specific regulators, such as the Nevada Gaming Control Board, will also enforce his new directives, which will be issued tomorrow.

Washoe County School Board meeting Sept. 9, 2020. Image: Erick Marks / This Is Reno.
Washoe County School Board meeting Sept. 9, 2020. Image: Eric Marks / This Is Reno.

Sisolak said high levels of suicides among students, as well as hardships for parents, outweigh school closures.

“We must reprioritize keeping our kids in the classroom or getting them there,” he said,citing economic hardship on parents. “We have students who have not been inside a school building in over 8 months. Our kids are suffering as a result. That could mean they do not have reliable food and safe shelter.”

The Washoe County School Board of Trustees on Tuesday will consider going to full distance learning.

“Let’s be honest,” Sisolak added. “Our casinos, hotels, restaurants and bars are open with strict restrictions so that we can protect our economy. Meanwhile, the majority of school buildings across our [state] are closed, and our kids are suffering as a result. Our education system and our economy are not mutually exclusive. They are tied together.”

Sisolak said that if case trends do not slow within three weeks, further restrictions will be implemented.

“I must act,” he said. “[But] I don’t want to impose further restrictions.”

Indoor dining, bar closures, and closing gyms and fitness centers could be next, if COVID-19 cases do not decrease.

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