Sisolak: “Say a prayer to put an end to the spread of this virus”

Governor prohibits in-person faith gatherings of more than ten, shuts down golf courses

go home stay home
A casino's sign displays “Stay Home for Nevada” along Ogden Avenue in March, when Nevada first began issuing coronavirus restrictions. (Nevada Current file photo)

With no change in the state’s capacity to test for COVID-19, no known treatment and holy week underway, Gov. Steve Sisolak added in-person faith gatherings of ten or more to the list of prohibited activities in the state, and imposed greater restrictions on outdoor activities.  

“We have lost 80 Nevadans to this virus,” Sisolak said. “Sadly, as I walked into the conference another death has been reported, so we’re technically going to be at 81.”

The governor noted two of the dead were health care workers in Northern Nevada. 

“They made the ultimate sacrifice.  If you don’t stay home for yourself, stay home for the families of two health care workers who gave their lives,” he said.

Sisolak declined to weigh in on CDC standards followed by hospitals for the reuse and extended use of PPE.  Health care workers complain the revised standards are born of necessity because of the shortage of PPE, not because they are safe.  

“I’ll leave it to the hospitals what their policies are,” he said. 

Sisolak restated his goal remains to mitigate the spread of the virus, save lives and avoid hospitals from being overwhelmed.  

“Trust me, I know testing is the way we can determine the true scale of this pandemic.  Social distancing is the only way we can end this pandemic,” he said. 

He says briefings on “multiple different models” indicate reason for hope.

“What data shows us if we slow down the spread we have a real chance of avoiding a situation that would overwhelm our healthcare system,” he said. “The key to all of this is strict social distancing.  It’s the only way. Our medical advisory team has informed us it’s not just distance that matters but the amount of time a person spends next to an infected person.”

“This is serious folks. I know the vast majority of you understand that and are doing your part,” the governor said.

Sisolak said he consulted with faith leaders and lawyers in deciding to prohibit in-person faith gatherings against the backdrop of holy week.   

“This wasn’t easy,” he said. ”In trying times I’ve clung by my faith to guide me.” 

“Clusters will appear where people congregate,” Sisolak said, citing examples of outbreaks among congregations that have met privately amid church closures.

Sisolak also augmented his social distancing directive to include the closure of sporting and recreational venues “that encourage social congregation” including golf courses, public basketball courts and tennis courts.

Outdoor activities have become “high risk,” says the governor, because of people “circumventing the intent.

”I’ve had a multitude of pictures sent to me showing people were not practicing good social distancing,” he said. “We tried. Some folks chose not to follow the rules and as a result, we’re closing golf courses.” 

Other new social distancing measures include: 

  • Showrooms for cars and appliances must close. 
  •  Homes for sale or rent may not be shown if occupied and open houses are off-limits. 
  • Licensed barbers and stylists are prohibited from offering services other than to household members. 
  • Grocery stores are prohibited from offering self-service food stations or unpackaged bulk dry goods.

“We don’t want people touching the same scoop handles over and over,” Sisolak said.

The governor made no mention of the thousands of Nevadans who, three weeks into massive job losses, are unable to file for unemployment benefits. 

Comments on the governor’s YouTube page as Nevadans waited for the briefing to begin focused on the unemployment fiasco. 

The governor acknowledged the numbers posted by health officials on the state’s COVID-19 website are not dated properly, resulting in confusing and inaccurate spikes on charts graphing cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in Nevada.   

“As we ramp up to provide real-time reporting, we’ve identified it here and we’re fixing it,” Sisolak said, noting other states have encountered similar reporting issues.

Sisolak said the state has “worked overtime” to distribute personal protection equipment where it’s needed. 

He said the Nevada Hospital Association characterized the availability of PPE in hospitals “at yellow,” meaning it is available but must be continually distributed to keep up with demand. 

Sisolak noted the Legislative Interim Finance Committee approved $6.25 million to battle COVID19 and released $2 million for rental assistance.  

The governor says he’s aware of reports that minorities are dying of COVID-19 at disproportionate rates to their population.  Nevada does not release ethnicities of the deceased but Sisolak said he’d make the data public if he receives it. 

“Unfortunately our minority communities are affected the most when you get a medical situation. The health care provided in our minority communities is nowhere near that of our more affluent communities,” he said. “It’s a very big concern for me.” 

Sisolak declined to say where he intends to slash state budgets to help offset lost revenue from the closures. 

“Our revenues went off a cliff.  We went from 90 percent occupancy to zero,” he said.  “I don’t know anyone who will be saved from a cut. A lot will depend on the stimulus package and how quickly we’re able to recover from all of this but I advised all agencies to be prepared.”

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.