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Nevada Today

Nevada Today is a nonpartisan, independently owned and operated site dedicated to providing up-to-date news and smart analysis on the issues that impact Nevada's communities and businesses.

COVID-19HealthNews and informationThe Economy

Sisolak Announces “Phase One” of Retail Reopenings Begins Saturday, Encourages Nevadans to “Stay Safe to Stay Open”

Moments earlier, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) officially announced that Nevada will shift to “Phase One” of his “Roadmap to Recovery” starting this Saturday. Why so fast? According to Sisolak, “I am able to move up this benchmark because as a state, we’ve met our criteria for reopening.”

But not so fast: Just because businesses can reopen doesn’t mean COVID-19 is over and done with.

So where are we on the “Roadmap to Recovery”?
Steve Sisolak, COVID-19, coronavirus
Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis next to State Treasurer Zach Conine, from left, and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, right, at a press conference at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Pool) @rookie__rae

According to The Nevada Independent’s running tally (which is again running ahead of the state’s official numbers) as of 4:30 PM, Nevada has 5,852 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and 288 COVID-19 related deaths. The numbers remain very grim when it comes to the continually mounting toll of illnesses and deaths, and it’s critical for all of us not to minimalize, let alone “normalize”, such brutally unnecessary illness and death.

Yet in terms of the “Roadmap to Recovery” that Sisolak unveiled last Thursday, the two-week-long trend of lower daily totals of new infections, new hospitalizations, and new transfers into hospitals’ intensive care units gave Sisolak reason to announce Nevada’s impending progression into “Phase One” this weekend. At the same time, Sisolak and his team have also had to navigate the escalating conflict between politicians President Donald Trump and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman who demand a rapid reopening en masse, and medical scientists and public health officials who demand a more cautious, science-based approach.

Sisolak already indicated “Phase One” will include the wider reopening of outdoor spaces and expanded access to retail shops and services. So what’s reopening, when will more places reopen… And why shouldn’t we just rush to reopen everything now?

“We will enter ‘Phase One’ on Saturday, May 9.”  
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Photo by Andrew Davey

Shortly after he started today’s briefing, Sisolak wasted no time in announcing, “We are on track with our reopening criteria. We will enter ‘Phase One’ on Saturday, May 9.” He continued, “I am able to move up this benchmark because as a state, we’ve met our criteria for reopening.”

After noting that the cumulative amount of people who’ve tested positive for the novel coronavirus has dropped from 12.2% to 11.2% in the past two weeks (though that’s still above the World Health Organization’s recommended 10% benchmark), Sisolak also touted the state’s growing capacity for testing. On expanding testing opportunities for more Nevadans, Sisolak proclaimed, “We are able to test all symptomatic patients, and we are now able to test asymptomatic patients.” 

Sisolak then added, “We continue to move towards our goal of 4,000 tests per day. […] Our labs have the capacity to do more testing, and we are confident that we are able to meet this benchmark.” Yet while that 4,000 daily test goal still falls below the amount of testing that epidemiological experts have called for, Sisolak nonetheless presented this as sufficient progress to warrant the next round of reopenings.

“If you’re a retail business, you may reopen, but you have to follow the rules.” 
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis at a press conference at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Pool) @rookie__rae

So who can reopen, and who must remain closed? According to the state’s new rules, formerly deemed “non-essential” retail stores and service-oriented storefronts like salons and restaurants can allow customers back in starting 12:01 AM this Saturday. However, Sisolak warned, “If you’re a retail business, you may reopen, but you have to follow the rules.”

The biggest rule is the 50% occupancy rule: That is, no store can have more than half of the people inside as marked by its official fire code occupancy limit. Or in other words, if a store has a sign declaring “1,000 person occupancy limit”, that store must not allow any more than 500 people inside at any given time.

Then, Sisolak added, “Face coverings and masks are strongly encouraged for all customers. All businesses shall require employees to wear face masks, especially those employees whose work requires face-to-face interactions with the public.”

“We opened a considerable amount of businesses with ‘Phase One’. […] I don’t plan on having a ‘Phase 1.5’.” 
– Governor Steve Sisolak
COVID-19, coronavirus, Steve Sisolak
Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis next to State Treasurer Zach Conine, right, at a press conference at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Pool) @rookie__rae

From there, Sisolak listed off certain rules for certain sectors. For instance, even though restaurants can begin allowing dine-in patrons inside, they must not send anyone to sit at the bar. And unless they serve food, bars and taverns must remain closed.

Also, (non drive-in) theaters, bowling alleys, gyms (because no, anabolic steroids do not cure or prevent COVID-19!), dance studios, tattoo and piercing parlors, stripper clubs, brothels, casinos, and other very high risk businesses must remain closed during “Phase One”. When asked when casinos will reopen, Sisolak commended the Nevada Gaming Commission’s and Gaming Control Board’s for establishing new safety guidelines. Yet when it comes to when casinos will actually reopen, Sisolak said, “That will be decided in the future.”

And in response to a follow-up question on when theaters, gyms, brothels, and other still-ordered-closed storefronts can reopen, Sisolak said, “We opened a considerable amount of businesses with ‘Phase One’. […] I don’t plan on having a ‘Phase 1.5’.” And since “Phase One” is set to continue through May 30, it doesn’t appear likely that these businesses will open any time before June 1.

“This disease spreads so easily. You can’t let your guard down. As soon as you let your guard down, this virus hits you right in the face.” 
– Governor Steve Sisolak
Photo by Andrew Davey

In response to a question on why some counties can’t operate under looser standards, Sisolak warned that COVID-19 remains highly contagious. Or as Sisolak explained, “There have to be some type of restrictions. I don’t want people in Clark County going into Nye County, and then having people from Clark going back to Clark spreading infection, along with people in Nye going home and spreading infection.” 

He added, “This disease spreads so easily. You can’t let your guard down. As soon as you let your guard down, this virus hits you right in the face.”

Photo by Andrew Davey

Yet when asked about Washoe County’s upward tick in infections, Sisolak responded, “That’s going to now fall to the Washoe County Commission, as far as determining if they don’t want to reopen because they’ve seen this uptick. They can say, ‘I don’t think we’re ready.’ That’ll be up to them.”

Earlier in the program, Sisolak explained that county authorities can continue to apply and enforce stricter social distancing rules than the state’s “Phase One” rules, just not any looser rules or broader reopenings, as some rural Northern California counties have been attempting to do against that state’s shutdown rules.

If you’re in need of medical treatment, contact your primary health care provider first. If you fear you can’t afford treatment from a hospital or doctor’s office, check with the Southern Nevada Health DistrictWashoe County Health DistrictCarson City Health and Human Services, or the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services for resources in your area. For additional aid, check the Nevada Current’s and Battle Born Progress’ resource guides. If you can afford proper treatment and you are fortunate enough to help others in need, please donate to larger operations like Direct Relief and Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and to local groups like Three Square.

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