Sisolak offers no date for phased reopening of economy

Schools closed for the year

Gov. Steve Sisolak addressing the state state via his YouTube April 21.

Nevada’s students will not be returning to their campuses this school year, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced during a news conference Tuesday from Carson City.  And businesses are still in the dark as to a date for reopening. 

Nevada School Superintendent Jhone Ebert said remote education will continue for the remainder of the school year and that educators will work toward “a smooth transition back to the classrooms when the time comes.”

She did not say when that would be, nor did Sisolak, who said he can’t think that far ahead.    

Sisolak announced the state is following the White House guidelines for reopening the nation, beginning with the effort to reach the first threshold, at which time some businesses may reopen. 

Benchmarks for reaching the first phase include a sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization of patients, and an elimination of emergency standards adopted by hospitals to cope with the pandemic. 

Hospitals would resume elective surgeries put on hold during the crisis and return to pre-pandemic workplace standards that prohibited the reuse or extended use of some personal protective equipment for medical workers.  

Visitation at nursing homes would still be prohibited. Bars would remain closed. 

But Sisolak said the five members of his Medical Advisory Team are reviewing conditions for allowing elective surgeries to resume, and for gyms, movies, places of worship, and sporting events to open with social distancing parameters in place. 

State health officials and statisticians reported hospitalizations for COVID-19 have decreased in the last three weeks, and suspected cases have fallen in the last ten to 14 days.  

But testing remains the missing link. 

“Expanding laboratory testing is the key to understanding what the situation in Nevada is,” said Melissa Bullock, the state epidemiologist. 

The state announced a shift in its testing criteria, allowing anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested.  Previously, testing was available only for members of high-risk groups.  

Testing in Clark County is expected to skyrocket in the coming days and weeks, officials announced Tuesday.  

The governor noted that social distancing has largely succeeded in containing the spread of the virus, but stopping now would be like removing a parachute before landing.

“Saving lives and restarting our economy are not mutually exclusive,” Sisolak said, adding it will have to rely on testing and tracing to be sustainable.  

The governor said “resort partners have begun the thoughtful process of protecting employees and guests,” but did not offer a projected date for reopening resorts. 

In the meantime, vulnerable individuals should shelter in place, the governor said.  Everyone should avoid socializing in groups of ten or more when you can’t maintain social distance, minimize nonessential travel, and use face coverings in public.  

He said Michael Brown, director of the Governor’s Office for Economic Development, will offer guidance to businesses as they prepare to reopen.

Dana Gentry
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.