Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday said he’s ending Nevada’s statewide mask mandate immediately. Sisolak’s decision follows a number of other states also dropping their mask mandates, including California where the mandate ends Feb. 15.
Much of Nevada remains within the high transmission range for COVID-19 as set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whose officials recommend masking continue.
Sisolak said the decision to end the mask mandate isn’t a rejection of the CDC’s guidance, but what he thinks is best for Nevadans based on current data.
“I respect the CDC and the information they’ve provided us moving forward. They go by a national basis and every state is different,” Sisolak said. “I’ve analyzed data particularly focused on Nevada and how we’re moving forward.”
The governor cited a decline in cases, deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19, along with lower levels of the virus detected in wastewater studies as evidence that now is the time for such a decision.
Nevada’s daily case counts have dropped dramatically since the highest single day total of new COVID-19 cases. More than 7,800 cases were charted Jan. 10. That number is down to an average of 1,280 cases per day this week. About 800 fewer people are hospitalized now than one month ago.
According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, just over 67% of Nevadans ages 5 and older have initiated vaccination.
Masks won’t disappear
Masks will no longer be required in public places, Sisolak said, but businesses and school districts can still set their own mask requirements for employees, customers and students if they choose to do so.
Washoe County School District officials said masks will be optional by day’s end.
“Following this decision, masks will be optional for all staff and students in the Washoe County School District by the end of today, Thursday, February 10,” Superintendent Kristen McNeill said. “Please be advised that masks remain federally mandated on all school buses across the nation and mask wearing will be enforced on all of our district buses and charter buses.”
Shortly after Sisolak’s announcement, higher education advocates took to Twitter to urge Nevada System of Higher Education and the Board of Regents to maintain masking requirements on campuses. They cited CDC guidance for higher education institutions and student and faculty concerns as reasons to continue the policy.
The governor encouraged individuals to make their own decisions on whether to wear a mask and asked for kindness and tolerance for those who chose to continue masking.
“They should wear a mask if they want to wear a mask,” he said. “I am asking, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that we need courtesy and kindness and respect to be just as contagious as the virus is. I understand there is a group of people that don’t want to wear masks. I get that. I respect that decision. But I ask those people also respect that decision of those individuals that want to wear a mask, for whatever reason that might be.”
Federal masking requirements are still in place, including for airports and airlines, school buses and public transportation.
As Sisolak made his announcement, officials from Washoe County Regional Transportation Commission shared a statement on social media reminding transit users that federal masking requirements remain in effect and will be enforced through March 18.
Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services will work with hospitals and other healthcare settings to provide masking guidelines, the governor said.
Vaccination still a priority
The biggest and most effective tool in slowing the spread of COVID-19 is vaccination, said Sisolak. He urged everyone eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine to get vaccinated and boosted.
COVID-19 vaccines are widely available throughout the state and appointments are not required at most locations. To find a location visit https://covid19washoe.com/ or vaccines.gov.