Sisolak orders casinos, non-essential businesses closed

Historic move to thwart spread of COVID-19

Gov. Steve Sisolak announcing the closure of Nevada casinos, bars, and other businesses March 17. (KLAS-TV video feed screen shot)

Less than three weeks after declaring he had no intention of ever banning tourists or building a wall on the California/Nevada border, Gov. Steve Sisolak is building that wall, albeit figuratively. 

“This is not the time for casinos to remain open,” Sisolak announced at a news conference Tuesday. “All gaming machines will be shut down effective midnight tonight.”

“According to experts at the Imperial College in the United Kingdom, the doubling rate of this virus globally is roughly four to five days.  That spread is truly alarming,” Sisolak said in justification of his decision to close not only casinos but all “non-essential” businesses. 

The order is effective for 30 days and will be re-evaluated at that time, he said.

“I know there will be some who don’t agree with this decision, some who will think this is an overreaction,” Sisolak said. “I want you to know, I have spent countless hours working with medical experts, the White House, the CDC, labor and industry leaders and I fully believe that this is an appropriate and informed reaction.”

Sisolak became frustrated when asked by media about exceptions to the order. 

“I don’t know if I can make this any clearer, that people are looking for a loophole here,” he said. “This is affecting the lives of our citizens. People are dying. You know, every day that is delayed here, I’m losing a dozen people on the back end who are going to die as a result of this.”   

“Kevin Durant, one of the most fit people in the world tested positive today,” Sisolak exclaimed. 

“It’s incumbent upon the citizens of this state to take this seriously,” he said, pounding his fist on the podium.  

Sisolak also urged the federal government to provide cash payments to individuals. 

“We have too many people living paycheck to paycheck already,” he said. 

The order from Sisolak comes as the case count in Nevada reaches 55, including one person who has died.  

Sisolak noted that health care workers “are putting their own lives at risk for us.” 

“Remember that these medical professionals – our doctors, nurses, emergency workers – these folks are putting their own lives at risk for all of us. They have to go to work every day.  That’s their job, and they are committed to helping and treating us. You are being told not to go out. You are being told not to go out,” Sisolak repeated. “You owe it to them to listen to that directive.” 

Sisolak said state and local health officials advised him non-essential businesses should close for 30 days.

“All gatherings should be postponed or canceled. This is not the time for sleepovers, playdates, concerts, theater outings, or athletic events.  Although you may not be experiencing symptoms at this time, you may be contagious. Do not risk your own heath or the health of others,” the governor said. 

Nevada’s action follows that of several states that have taken similar steps.

Here are the specifics of the closures, which take effect Wednesday at noon: 

  • All Nevadans must ensure that 6 feet of social distancing per person for non-family members is maintained.  
  • Only essential services should remain open — such as fire, police, transit, and health care services, in addition to businesses that provide food, shelter, or social services for disadvantaged populations. 
  • Non-essential services such as beauty shops, barber shops, and nail, tanning, and waxing salons should close until further notice. 
  • Only essential businesses should remain open such as, pharmacies, grocery stores, drug and convenience stores, banks and financial institutions, hardware stores, and gas stations. I am asking grocery stores consider special hours for the vulnerable populations
  • All gatherings should be postponed or canceled. This is not the time for sleepovers, playdates, concerts, theater outings, or athletic events.  Although you may not be experiencing symptoms at this time, you may be contagious. Do not risk your own heath or the health of others.
  • Many of you will not be in your office or at work over the next few weeks.  This is not a vacation and it’s not the time to catch up with friends. It’s definitely not the time to go to the movies.  Every social contact increases your risk of exposure. The bigger the group, the higher your risk.
  • This means that you should stay away from auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, large conference rooms, meeting halls, and cafeterias.
  • I know in times of stress, many of you seek the release that comes from exercise.  But this is not the time for you to be in a gym, healthclub, or fitness center. Until the risk goes away, find other ways to exercise such as home workouts, hikes, or other outdoor activities.  But as you do so, remember to maintain social distancing from others doing the same. 
  • Some events are unavoidable.  We still want you to experience the joy of weddings, but this is not the time to bring your friends together — especially if this will require travel.  Consider postponing the celebration to a time when the risk is low or eliminated. 
  • For my friends making preparations to say goodbye to loved ones, please limit the attendance at funeral services.  Consider outdoor services where the risk of exposure is less than inside
  • This is only common sense.  In a time where people are getting sick from simply being near others, this is not the time for gyms to remain open.  This is not the time for casinos to remain open. This is not a time for community recreation centers, clubhouses, movie theaters and malls to remain open.  If your business brings groups of people together, it should not be open.
  • Although I cannot and will not say that places of worship should be closed, I strongly urge our faith leaders to find ways to deliver to your congregation without bringing them together in person.
  • Charitable food distribution sites, including the meals being distributed to our students in wake of the school closings, along with grocery stores should remain fully open and operational. Food services for healthcare facilities and other essential facilities should remain open. Any buffet or food stations used in charitable food distribution settings should transition to boxed meals or served through gloved staff members or volunteers.
  • Restaurants throughout Nevada, in addition to pubs, wineries, bars, and breweries that include meals provided by a full kitchen should be reduced to serving food only in a drive-thru, take-out or delivery capacity. No dine-in at food establishments should be allowed until further notice. This also includes food courts, coffee shops, catered events, clubs, bowling alleys, and other similar venues in which people congregate for the consumption of food or beverages.
  • Pubs, wineries, bars, and breweries that do not include meals provided by a full kitchen must close.
Dana Gentry
Senior Reporter | Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Gentry began her career in broadcasting as an intern at Channel 8, KLAS-TV. She later became a reporter at Channel 8, working with Las Vegas TV news legends Bob Stoldal and the late Ned Day. Gentry left her reporting job in 1985 to focus on motherhood. She returned to TV news in 2001 to launch "Face to Face with Jon Ralston" and the weekly business programs In Business Las Vegas and Vegas Inc, which she co-anchored with Jeff Gillan. Dana has four adult children, a grandson, three dogs, three cats and a cockatoo named Casper.