Gov. Sisolak announces new restrictions for Nevada as COVID-19 cases surge
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak strengthened Nevada's mask mandate among other new restrictions announced Sunday as the state tries to halt a recent surge in coronavirus cases.
The new restrictions, referred to as a "statewide pause," go into effect Tuesday and will be in place for three weeks.
"From the start of this pandemic, there aren’t any decisions that don’t have negative consequences. Weighing the loss of jobs and businesses versus the loss of health and lives is painful, without a perfect solution," Sisolak said.
Private gatherings will be limited to ten and can include people from no more than two households. Public gatherings limits will also be reduced from 250 people to 50, including for churches. Masks are required at any time you are around someone not part of your immediate household, including during private gatherings inside and outside.
Other restrictions announced Sunday include:
- Reservations are required at all restaurants and bars that serve food for in-person dining. Fast food restaurants and food courts are exempt from the reservation requirement. Restaurant and bar capacity was reduced from 50 to 25 percent, and there can be no more than four patrons at a table.
- Capacity at gyms, fitness and dance studios is reduced from 50 to 25 percent. Patrons must wear a mask at all times, unless actively drinking. If the activity is too strenuous to be done while wearing a mask properly, people must seek an alternative.
- Casino capacity has been reduced from 50 to 25 percent.
- Public gatherings are limited to no more than 50 people, or 25 percent of fire code capacity, whichever is less.
- Arcades, art galleries, aquariums, racetracks, bowling alleys, mini golf, libraries, museums and zoos all are reduced to 25 percent capacity.
- Big box stores that have more than 50,000 square feet must now have monitors at public entrances to manage capacity
- There will be a pause on adult and youth sports tournaments
What we know:See the new Nevada COVID-19 restrictions announced by Gov. Sisolak
There were no changes announced for capacity at community and recreational centers, retail stores, hair salons, massage establishments or shops that provide skin services. Brothels, nightclubs and adult entertainment remain closed.
"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," Sisolak said. "That’s how the virus spreads."
There will be no restrictions on in-person learning at schools.
"Our casinos, hotels, restaurants, and bars are open with strict restrictions so that we can protect our economy," Sisolak said. "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. And as long as school buildings are closed, our economy can’t be fully open."
Sisolak announced the new restrictions during an update on the state's COVID response Sunday.
The press conference was held virtually after the governor tested positive for COVID-19 Nov. 13 and continues to isolate. He said Sunday that he was feeling well and not experiencing any symptoms.
Sisolak had warned of another shutdown earlier this month, telling reporters the state “must see a significant reversal of the current trends” in order to keep the state’s economy up and running. He also asked local governments to step up enforcement of the state’s existing COVID-containment measures and urged employers to allow telework whenever possible— all in order to “mimic” much stricter shelter-in-place orders issued at the start of the pandemic.
In March, Sisolak shuttered all nonessential businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19, issuing strict stay-at-home orders that were gradually rolled back as the case curve started to flatten in late July.
Previous:Gov. Sisolak warns of tougher restrictions if COVID-19 numbers don't improve
The governor in September raised the statewide limit on large gatherings to 250 people, and said he would allow well over 1,000 people to attend conventions, trade shows and other events that submit a large gathering plan approved by state and local health officials.
But Nevada, like much of the rest of the country, has been hit by a dramatic autumn swell in new cases that health officials fear could soon overwhelm the state’s hospitals.
Seven months after it first retrofitted a parking garage as a deployable medical structure due to the pandemic, Renown Health has started taking in its first COVID-19 patients at the alternate care site.
"We are on a rapid trajectory that threatens to overwhelm our health care system, our frontline health workers, and your access to care. So it’s time to act," Sisolak said.
The situation would have been better, Sisolak said, if the president's administration took stronger action at the beginning of the pandemic.
News:How are states around Nevada dealing with COVID-19? Here's a guide as of late November
"The lack of a national plan has been devastating to states," he said.
As of Sunday, 13 of Nevada's 17 counties have been flagged for elevated risk of transmission. In early October, only two counties had been flagged. Ten percent of all COVID cases in Nevada were reported in the last week, Sisolak said Sunday.
"Our case rate growth is at wildfire levels –even outpacing neighboring states, such as Arizona," Sisolak said. "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 the state will continue to evaluate the situation over the next three weeks to decide whether to continue restrictions or loosen them. However, if the situation worsens, he cautioned that he would take stronger action such as prohibition of indoor dining and service at restaurants and gyms; closure of gyms and fitness facilities and severe restrictions on gathering sizes.
News:Renown confirms first COVID-19 patients at its parking garage alternate care site
"But I am hopeful that these restrictions announced today going into effect on Tuesday will help reduce our caseload," he said. "I don’t want to impose further restrictions, but we are too close to the real solution, the vaccines, to give up now."
Washoe County reported a record 817 new COVID-19 cases and four more deaths related to the coronavirus on Saturday.
The new cases break the previous daily record of 610 cases from Nov. 18, according to the Regional Information Center.
On Sunday, Washoe County reported another record of 835 new cases as well as five additional deaths.
One week out from the Thanksgiving holiday last Thursday, Nevada reported a new single-day record for new coronavirus cases with 2,386, and Washoe County reported more than 6,000 diagnosed active cases for the first time.
The state has had 133,888 cases and 2,017 deaths as of Sunday, according to the state's COVID dashboard.
Editor's note: Although the governor's office said Sunday that fast food restaurants would be required to take reservations for in-person dining, the printed directives released on Monday exempt fast food restaurants and food courts from the reservation requirement. This story has been edited to reflect that change.
The RGJ's Anjeanette Damon and James Dehaven contributed to this report.
Kristin Oh is a public safety reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 775-420-1285. Please help support her work by subscribing.