Moments ago, Governor Steve Sisolak (D) announced, “Nevada has recently been experiencing steady progress in our COVID-19 trends, which is welcome news for all of us.” As a result, the capacity limit for many businesses will rise from 25% to 35% beginning next Monday.
Below we have more details on what changes next week, as well as what Sisolak hopes to accomplish next month and in the weeks ahead.
Here’s a quick COVID-19 check-up, as well as one final reminder of why the “statewide pause” happened in the first place.
Since yesterday, we haven’t seen too much change in Nevada’s COVID-19 stats. According to Covid Act Now the statewide infection rate remains at 0.79, and all counties reporting their COVID-19 data show infection rates under 1.00 (indicating slower spread). Like yesterday, Mineral County (50.7) is the only county reporting over 50 new daily cases per 100,000.
According to The Nevada Independent’s COVID-19 tracker, Nevada’s cumulative test positivity rate holds steady at 21.0%, and our seven-day average has dropped under 25% for the first time since last November. According to the official Nevada Health Response dashboard, Nevada hospitals are treating a total of 879 confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients, and this is also the lowest we’ve seen since last November. And as of this afternoon, Nevada health officials are reporting a total of 4,637 COVID-19 deaths as we continue to average around 30 deaths per day.
When Governor Steve Sisolak first announced the “statewide pause” on November 22, 2020, he lamented, “COVID-19 is filling up our hospital beds, and that’s a threat to all Nevadans. […] We are on a rapid trajectory that threatens our health care workers and your access to care.” When Sisolak last extended the “statewide pause” on January 11, he admitted, “Community spread is high, and many of our hospitals are strained.” Though our current stats remain too severe to justify any rapid return to pre-pandemic business as usual, we now have ample evidence showing that the “statewide pause” worked in bringing COVID-19 infections down to a more manageable level.
“The goal of the plan is avoid another scenario where I have to come back to you and pause our plans.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
In a marked difference from prior reopening efforts, Sisolak announced a full series of phases for reopening: On February 15, the capacity limit goes from 25% to 35% for religious venues, gyms and other fitness facilities, casino floors, arcades, bowling alleys, and pool halls. Bars and restaurants will also see their indoor capacity limit rise to 35%, reservations will no longer be mandatory, and the dining group limit will rise from four to six. Starting next Monday, the capacity limit for libraries, museums, art galleries, zoos, aquariums, shopping malls, other retail stores, marijuana dispensaries, and community recreational centers will jump to 50%. And beginning next Monday, the cap on larger gatherings will rise to 100 people or 35% capacity (whichever amounts to fewer people) with “strict social distancing”.
While state officials will begin to consider applications for future larger events next week, the state won’t green-light any scheduled larger events until March 1 at the earliest. Then on March 15, the overall gathering cap will rise again to 50% capacity or 250 people (again, whichever ends up lower). And for all the above-mentioned businesses that can go to 35% capacity next week, they will be allowed to go to 50% capacity on March 15. Sisolak also announced that his goal is to hand over nearly all COVID-19 health safety regulatory authority to municipal governments on May 1, and that high-risk businesses like nightclubs, pool day clubs, and brothels can reopen May 1.
Sisolak then reiterated his biggest goals for this new plan: “My priority is to get children back to school in the safest way possible. As of today, more than 300,000 children have not been inside a classroom for nearly a year. School reopening can happen in a safe way, but only if we manage community transmission.” Sisolak also tipped his hand to Nevadans’ frustrations over past regulatory hiccups as he stated his desire to do better this time: “The goal of the plan is avoid another scenario where I have to come back to you and pause our plans.”
“We want to protect our workers and our communities. I also want everyone to know that it’s safe to come and visit here.”
– Governor Steve Sisolak
As Nevadans continue to await word on when they will become eligible for vaccinations, Sisolak hailed the state’s “focus on efficiency and equity as we roll out this vaccination campaign”. According to the CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker, 533,800 vaccine doses have been delivered here, and at least 379,077 doses have been administered. Sisolak thanked the Biden administration for “substantial support” in improving the nation’s vaccine efforts, and he announced that at least 36 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations throughout Nevada will participate in the federally-led pharmacy vaccine clinic program.
Sisolak reiterated, “My staff are on the phone every day with federal officials to get us more doses of the vaccines,” and he again promised, “We’re doing everything possible to get needles into arms as soon as possible.” Tonight Sisolak fully endorsed President Joe Biden’s efforts to direct FEMA to open more community vaccination centers, and he encouraged Congress to pass Biden’s American Rescue Plan to “bring us much needed assistance and much needed relief” through additional health care support and $350 billion in direct aid to state and local governments.
Earlier this week, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky reiterated the CDC’s official guidance on COVID-19 prevention, including the recommendation against unnecessary long-distance travel. But during his briefing tonight, Sisolak again sidestepped questions on whether the state would ever tighten travel restrictions or discourage tourists from crowding into major attractions like those on the Las Vegas Strip.
Instead, Sisolak reiterated that the state’s vaccine playbook places casino workers into a priority lane for the COVID-19 vaccines. Or as Sisolak put it, “Hospitality workers are prioritized for vaccines. We recognize the importance of our hospitality workers.” He continued, “We want to protect our workers and our communities. I also want everyone to know that it’s safe to come and visit here.”
If you have further questions about COVID-19 and your health, check Nevada Health Response on testing in your area, check Immunize Nevada for more information on vaccine availability in your area, and check Nevada 211 for more health care resources. If you’re in need of 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. And for goodness sake, please wear your masks and maintain social distancing from people outside your household.
The cover photo is a screenshot taken by me.