By Michelle Rindels and Riley Snyder
Gov. Steve Sisolak is rolling back orders to close bars in three rural counties, but will continue with closures in Las Vegas and Reno as the state plans a new, long-term recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a press conference Monday evening in Carson City, the governor said the following counties — Clark, Washoe, Elko and Nye — would continue to have their bars and pubs closed for the foreseeable future, while those in rural Lander, Lyon and Humboldt counties would be allowed to re-open. The directive is effective immediately.
Sisolak also hinted that the state was working on a new long-term planning framework for continued gradual business reopening in the state. Nevada entered a “Phase 2” of limited reopenings, with capacity restrictions but only a few select business types remaining closed, in late May. The governor said that plan will be released next Monday.
Although the state previously laid out guidelines for lessened restrictions, Nevada has remained in “Phase 2” over the past two months as the number of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths associated with COVID-19 has steadily increased.
Sisolak said that plan would have updated criteria on reopening and more predictability, and that the state would be moving away from the “phase” system as the state adjusts to the “new normal.”
“While phases made sense at the time, we’ve got to remain flexible and responsive to what we’re seeing now,” he said.
He also said that businesses that repeatedly fail to follow health and safety guidelines could be closed, and that his office would be reaching out to municipal governments that have failed to adequately take on the virus.
“To put it bluntly, the time for education is over,” he said.
The initial closures earlier this month included seven of the state’s 17 counties — Clark, Washoe, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, Lyon and Nye — that were deemed to be at risk of “Elevated Disease Transmission” and subject to the new restrictions that closed bars, pubs, taverns, distilleries, breweries, and wineries that don’t serve food.
As part of the plan, which was put in place at midnight on July 10, counties can be added to the additional restrictions if they meet two of three criteria established and tracked by the state, including a low number of average tests per day, a high rate of new infections or a significant case rate combined with a low test positivity rate.
Counties can move off of the restrictions if they show positive trends on two of the three criteria set by the state, as well as submitting a reopening plan that “includes mitigation initiatives and compliance plans to the Department of Health and Human Services for approval to reopen.”
Sisolak also said he planned for a second special session on various policy topics including criminal justice, worker protection and business liability protections to begin on Thursday, but said that the date was still in flux.