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County to change COVID-19 plan after rebukes from Reno, health district and school district

By Bob Conrad

Exasperated Washoe County commissioners on Tuesday approved a modified version of the county’s COVID-19 reopening plan, a plan previously endorsed by local jurisdictions, but the approval was swiftly met with opposition by local government leaders.

Commissioner Bob Lucey blamed “massive confusion” caused by a new directive issued Tuesday morning by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, which commissioners received just prior to discussing the plan’s approval.

Sisolak’s COVID-19 response director, Caleb Cage, today accepted responsibility for the confusion caused by Sisolak’s directive that put the commissioners in a tailspin about what they were approving.

Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey
Washoe County Commissioner Bob Lucey

“We have had to alter that plan multiple times, and through the directive that was received by us on Tuesday … we went along with our endorsed plan … but subsequently made the changes to adhere to … the state guidelines,” said County Commissioner Bob Lucey. “We obviously did not have much time to gather or gain the endorsements from the other stakeholders at the time.”

During the commission meeting, Assistant County Manager Dave Solaro was unable to answer specifics due to only having received the directive moments before having to make a presentation about the plan.

Commissioners, in turn, repeatedly expressed frustration.

Lucey said commissioners on Tuesday approved changes with the belief that the plan, in conjunction with the newly issued directive, would satisfy all parties. 

“Indeed, the plan retained its endorsement from the City of Sparks and the Nevada Hospital Association,” he said.

But District Health Officer Kevin Dick and Reno City Manager Doug Thornely both penned letters of complaint to the state after the county meeting. 

Both cited increased transmissions of the B.1.1.7 variant as well as the shutdown of Bishop Manogue High School due to another outbreak at the school attributed to social gatherings.

“A key component of the endorsed plan that was discussed with the [COVID-19] workgroup and agreed upon was the requirement to observe the CDC guidelines for social distancing through May 2021 before going to 100% capacity on June 1,” Dick wrote. “The Board of County Commissioners eliminated that requirement.”

Nevada counties today presented their plans to a statewide task force to begin the reopening process starting May 1, the date counties take over control for COVID-19 mitigation efforts. 

Only one other county presented a modified plan. Washoe County will have to provide a modified plan with required endorsements by local jurisdictions prior to May 1. 

Sisolak recently announced a full reopening June 1 but with mask mandates in place.

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