The Washoe County Board of Commissioners will consider a plan on Thursday to eliminate capacities at local businesses as long as social distancing is maintained. This comes as the state is preparing to hand COVID-19 mitigation efforts over to local jurisdictions beginning on May 1, 2020.
The plan for Washoe County, which would go into effect May 1, also notes that, “The health of Washoe County citizens and visitors is as important as the health of the local economy,” and it is contingent upon the county maintaining a COVID-19 test positive rate of less than 5%.
Most businesses—from bars to bowling alleys and libraries and places of worship—will be able to open without capacity restrictions provided they’re able to ensure that patron groups maintain six feet of social distancing. Should that be cumbersome, those businesses will be required to continue operating at 50% of their fire code capacities.
“Both indoor and outdoor fixed seating events will not have a capacity limit” as long as feet of distancing is maintained between ticketed groups, the plan indicates. “Capacity for fixed seating must be 6 feet of distancing between attendee groups,” it says.
Group sizes will also be increased. Instead of six people, they will now be allowed to be as large as eight.
For large events, those anticipating more than 500 attendees will be required to submit a Large Gathering Covid-19 Preparedness & Safety Plan Certification Form as part of the event approval process to the Washoe County Health District.
Fewer than 500 will still need to meet the requirements of the Large Gathering Covid-19 Preparedness & Safety Plan Certification Form but do not need approval to proceed.
However, these capacity limits and limits on group sizes may change if there’s an uptick in COVID-19 numbers in the county.
If the level of new virus cases reaches “625 new cases per 100,000 population over 30 days, then the community will need to draw back on opening capacities the following” Thursday at 11:59 p.m., the plan notes—and the initial focus would be on reclosing restaurants, bars, casinos, gyms and large gatherings/events.
Compliance will be enforced by regional enforcement teams that will spot-check for compliance at events and in businesses, including at hotels, where no more than eight people will be allowed to ride in an elevator together.
Restrictions may continue to be loosened as vaccination rates climb, provided that Truckee Meadows COVID Risk Meter figures remain within certain bounds.
If The COVID meter remains in the yellow or green range for two weeks straight and vaccination has reached 60% for those 16 and older, then social distancing may be reduced from six to four feet between people indoors or three feet for those outdoors.
If vaccination rates reach 75% and the COVID risk meter remains in the yellow or green for that length of time, then all social distancing requirements may be removed, though mask wearing will still be required.
Some types of businesses will not come under county control when the transition of authority takes place. Places like casino floors, hair salons, barber shops and spas will continue to be regulated by the current rules set forth by their respective governing bodies.
Buffets, brothels, night clubs and strip clubs are expected to remain a no-go even after the county takes authority over virus mitigation efforts.
CORRECTION: The meeting is Thursday, not Tuesday as originally reported.
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.