LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak is implementing a statewide "pause" in order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, a move that he said will not shut down the economy, but will tighten mask requirements and reduce capacity limits.
"Our case rate growth is at wildfire levels – even outpacing neighboring states, such as Arizona. 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.
He noted that 10% of all Nevada cases have been recorded in the last seven days, saying a Nevadan is diagnosed with COVID-19 every minute.
New (not so great) COVID fact: Since the start of the pandemic, a quarter (24%) of ALL #COVID19 cases in Nevada were identified in the month of November. We must take this seriously and act now.— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) November 23, 2020
The governor said some hospitals in the state are experiencing staffing shortages because they have become infected or someone in their household has and are in quarantine. "Our public health infrastructure is quickly becoming overwhelmed," Sisolak said.
"Let me explain this quickly: whether you believe in the science of COVID or not, the reality is this – COVID is filling up our hospital beds and that threatens all Nevadans."
New regulations include required masks for Nevadans "at all times," for both indoor and outdoor activities except within ones own household or while eating and drinking, and a 25% limit on capacity on gatherings. The mitigation efforts go into effect Tuesday, November 24 at 12:01 a.m.
With regard to enforcement, Sisolak said he was "not the enforcement police," but would rely on individuals, businesses and the Nevada Gaming Control Board to follow the rules.
"High-risk" areas shown to contribute to the state's growing case numbers were given the following guidance:
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
Restaurants and bars can continue operations under strict social distancing at 25% capacity (indoors and outdoors) with no more than four people per table.
They will be required to have sanitizer available, have temperature checks and reservations will be required at establishments serving food. No walk-ins will be allowed.
"I know the majority of our bars and restaurants are doing their best, but these settings are proven to be high risk because they allow the opportunity for people to remove their face coverings in indoor settings around people outside of their household. That’s how the virus spreads," Sisolak said.
He encouraged curbside, delivery and takeout options.
GYMS, FITNESS & DANCE STUDIOS
Must operate at 25% occupancy with masks worn at all times, except when drinking water.
"If the activity is too strenuous to be done while wearing a mask properly, you must seek an alternative," he said.
Casinos and other gaming establishments will be restricted to 25% occupancy and must follow the Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines.
"If (casinos) they don't follow them, they will face the consequences as delineated by the Gaming Control Board," Sisolak said of compliance at local casinos.
Restaurants and bars within gaming establishments will also be restricted to 25% occupancy.
Gaming Control Board Chairman Brin Gibson said casinos utilize surveillance systems and accounting systems that calculate "how many slot machines are being played, by whom, for what interval, and with what velocity of money, according to a NGCB spokesperson. "This includes regular and accurate counts of how many patrons are on a casino floor."
I’m not overly concerned with the ability of most operators to make the assessment,” Gibson said in a provided statement of casinos limiting their occupancy. “The Board will vigorously enforce the Governor’s newly announced gaming floor occupancy restrictions among licensees and asks for the industry’s assistance. The more successfully Nevada mitigates the current spread of COVID over the next several weeks, the more likely we are to experience a complete return to current gaming floor occupancy percentages in a shorter period of time.
Recently, Sisolak noted the state increased gatherings to 250 people or 50% capacity, whichever was less. "Due to the surge we're experiencing, we must decrease those limits during the pause."
"This includes places of worship, indoor movie theaters, live theater performances, casino showrooms, weddings, funerals, milestone celebrations and any other event where members of the public may be gathering together at the same time, in the same place, for the same purposes," Sisolak said.
No large gatherings will be approved during the pause, he said. If a larger event was approved to have taken place in the next three weeks, Sisolak says they must be canceled.
Sisolak said private gatherings must be limited to 10 people or fewer, from no more than two households -- whether indoors or outdoors.
Face coverings must be in use with people from outside of the household.
Sisolak said adult and youth sports tournaments must also be paused during this three week period.
Indoor malls will not need to change their capacity during this time.
Retail and grocery stores more than 50,000 square feet will be required to have employees at all public entrances counting patrons to ensure compliance with capacity limits.
Brothels, adult entertainment and day clubs must remain closed.
The following businesses will not be affected by the pause, Sisolak said: hair salons, barbershops, nail salons, businesses that provide aesthetic skin services, spas, massage therapy, body art or piercing establishments.
Community and recreation centers will continue at 50% capacity.
"Let’s be honest: our casinos, hotels, restaurants and bars are open with restrictions so that we can protect our economy. Meanwhile, the majority of buildings are closed and our kids are suffering. Our education system and our economy are not mutually exclusive – they are tied together," Sisolak said.
Sisolak urged residents to follow the guidance from the state to continue back on a path that reopens schools.
He noted there have been more deaths by suicide among students in this fall semester compared to years prior, including an 8-year-old.
"We are in a pandemic, which caused an economic crisis, which has created a mental health crisis. And getting children back into school buildings is a key way that we can ensure they are getting the education and support they desperately need," he said.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Sisolak said through the pause, they will be evaluating the situation and looking "for signs of concerns or improvement."
Depending on the COVID-19 trends, Sisolak said there are a few possible outcomes:
If cases slow or plateau, they will make an evaluation of whether it's consistent or if more time is needed to determine the path of the trend.
They may loosen back to the restrictions currently in place. "The numbers and the virus ... determine the timeline," he said.
If the situation worsens, Sisolak said he will take stronger action. That would be targeted at high-risk settings like indoor dining, bars, gyms and gathering sizes.
"I don’t want to impose further restrictions, but we are too close to the real solution, the vaccines, to give up now," he said. "I implore you to tap into Nevada’s independent spirit in this moment and consider your own personal responsibility."