Cities, police empowered to take action against open non-essential businesses

Sisolak: ‘I am no longer asking’

Sisolak and his emojis
Screen shot from Gov. Steve Sisolak declaring on Facebook Friday that nonessential businesses "must" close until April 16.

No more “should.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday empowered cities and law enforcement to take action against any non-essential businesses that are still open, a move that puts teeth behind an earlier order directing all non-essential businesses to temporarily close in a widespread effort to curb the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes.

The order goes into effect at midnight Friday and remains until April 16.

His announcement comes just three days after Sisolak ordered all gaming closed and strongly urged all non-essential businesses to close.

In the days that followed his urging of non-essential businesses to close, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman dismissed the severity of the threat and urged the governor to reverse his position. And businesses across the state declared themselves essential and announced they would stay open.

“Previously, I asked non-essential businesses to close their doors to the public,” said Sisolak during a press conference, which was live streamed on social media. “I am no longer asking them to do that. I am directing all non-essential businesses to close. I repeat. If you are not an essential business, I am using my power as governor under an emergency declaration to order you to close.”

Through the order, local governments have been given authority to impose civil penalties on any non-essential businesses that do not shut down. This could include suspension or revocation of business license. Sisolak said that “after all other options have been exhausted” local law enforcement now have the ability to consider remaining open a criminal act.

“This is not the time to try to find loopholes,” added Sisolak.

He explained the extreme measures are necessary to keep the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed by the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases. Positive cases have risen by 70 percent over the last three days, he said.

As of Saturday Nevada was reporting 190 positive cases of COVID-19, including two deaths.

Sisolak said there are fewer than 5,000 acute care beds statewide, and fewer than 700 of them are intensive care unit (ICU) beds.

“Right now, more than 80 percent of all those beds are occupied with a mix of COVID-19 and other patients. That means, we have only 20 percent of beds available. We have similar limits when it comes to ventilators,” he said.

Sisolak painted a grim picture, saying Nevada’s health care system could soon be overwhelmed the way hospitals in Italy have been, putting doctors in an impossible situation. “Being forced to decide between treating a father or a son, a mother or a daughter, a cousin or a nephew. Don’t put our doctors in that position. Don’t put your family through that heartache.”

Sisolak cautioned that, even with the measures, “the virus is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Additional details on the order

Friday’s order can be viewed or downloaded in full here. Here are some highlights:

  • Non-essential businesses include: recreation centers, movie theaters, massage parlors, adult entertainment establishments, live entertainment venues, massage parlors, etc.
  • Non-essential businesses also include: gyms, beauty shops, barber shops, nail salons, tanning salons, wax salons, etc.
  • Restaurants are allowed to operate but can only provide curbside, to-go, pick-up or delivery. No dine-in options are allowed.
  • Essential business include: health care providers, veterinary services, grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, hardware stores, convenience stores, security services and gas stations.
  • Essential businesses that remain open are directed to comply with the 6-foot social distancing guideline. This includes not allowing lines to form.
  • Retail marijuana dispensaries must be delivery only.
  • Construction, mining, manufacturing and infrastructure are allowed to continue operations but must follow additional regulations regarding social distancing.

The new order also offers some guidance for those businesses in industries not explicitly mentioned within the order. These businesses are allowed to remain open if they can:

  • Implement social distancing
  • Perform operations without contact with the general public
  • Provide services without causing members of the general public to congregate in a manner contrary to social distancing goals
  • Provide services without causing more than 10 members of the Nevada general public to congregate
April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.