The Heart Attack Grill in downtown Las Vegas shortly after non-essential businesses were ordered closed in March. (Photo: Bridget Bennett).
Cases of COVID-19 have been on the decline since April 21, according to Gov. Steve Sisolak, who says “the trend is strong enough to reopen.”
The governor laid out his plan for a phased reopening Thursday in Carson City.
All businesses that reopen Saturday must ensure staff members wear face coverings but the same is not required of the public.
“In an ideal world every person should wear a mask,” Sisolak said. ”There’s a minority of the population who feel it’s infringing on their right to freedom to force them to wear a mask. “
Casinos, which provide the lion’s share of jobs and a substantial portion of tax revenue for the state, will remain closed at least for several more weeks.
Sisolak, who previously said casinos would not open in the beginning of Phase One of the state’s reopening, reiterated Thursday casinos will not open during that phase, but is leaving the date to Gaming Control Board chair Sandra Douglass Morgan.
“We rely so heavily on tourism, on our hospitality industry,” he said. “The only way that somebody is going to come here from another state and gamble is if they know we are the safest place to come to and that’s what we are trying to do with these restrictions.”
“Our actions will now determine what actions we can take in the future,” he said. “I mentioned previously we need two to three weeks” before determining “whether we’ll be ready to move into Phase Two sooner or if we won’t be able to open on May 30,” or have to roll back openings, he said.
“I don’t have a specific metric for moving into Phase Two,” Sisolak said, adding he doesn’t “want to focus too much on statistics.”
“Right now the trajectory of our positives has gone to 11.2 (percent). If I see it go to 11.4 I’m OK. But if I see that go to 11.7, 11.9, 12.1, I’m not OK.”
Restaurants are still encouraged to provide curbside pickup and delivery but may open at 50 percent seating capacity. Employees must wear face coverings and guests should be encouraged to do so.
“A lot of restaurants are telling me they can’t get by at 50 percent and they don’t know if they can get to 50 percent,” he said, adding some would prefer to remain closed rather than increasing expenses to open for marginal business. “Those are business decisions that are going to have to be made.”
“Nobody knows what to expect come Saturday when these businesses can open up,” he said. “The ones that play fast and loose, you’re not going to get the business. “
Barbershops, hair salons, and nail salons may open with strict social distancing requirements and one customer per stylist. Again, staff must wear face coverings.
Grocery stores and big box stores will now be subject to 50 percent of their capacity. Indoor malls must remain closed but open-air malls may open.
Auto, ATV, and recreational vehicle dealers may open but staff may not accompany customers on test drives. Showrooms are also subject to the 50 percent occupancy rule.
Retail cannabis stores are encouraged to provide curbside and pickup service but may conduct sales after submitting a plan and receiving approval from regulators.
“I see some folks saying ‘Mission Accomplished.’ That’s not true,” Sisolak said. “You can’t let your guard down because as soon as you let your guard down this virus hits you in the face.”
Gatherings of more than ten are still prohibited in Phase Two.
Bars, nightclubs, and taverns that are not currently licensed to serve food may not open.
Gyms, fitness, dance, and barre studios will not be allowed in Phase One.
Entertainment and recreation facilities, live venues, and sporting arcades may not open.
Also remaining closed are touchy-feely businesses such as strip clubs, brothels, spas, massage parlors, body piercing, and body art facilities.
Government offices are also remaining closed.
With Mothers Day on Sunday, Sisolak noted “nobody would like to have dinner with their mother, their 93-year-old mother, more than me,” but noted “no good can come from that.”
“Please celebrate with your loved ones by protecting them from COVID-19.”
“We are not done with this fight. We can’t put our gloves down now,” he said. “Social distancing is the best weapon we have against this disease. It’s the best treatment.”
Businesses and counties are empowered to impose stricter plans, the governor said.
Sisolak admitted the state’s unemployment system for gig workers “is just not in place yet” and projected a seven to ten-day roll out.
“If I could wave a wand and fix unemployment claims no one would be happier than me,” he said.
Sisolak noted that Nevada is among the best states at staying home and social distancing, according to Google tracking.
“I’m so proud when I compare our statistics” to other governors, he said, noting the state’s progress in reopening is due to the efforts of those who have complied. “It’s not because of the people who are complaining.”
Sisolak said a recent protest at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City was “traumatic” for his wife.
“When you’ve got people with AR 15s charging up to your door and swatting the dog, it is not a comfortable situation,” he said.
“I don’t believe they represent even a minority,” he said of the protestors, calling them “isolated extremists.”
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