‘We are not in a post-Covid time. We are right smack dab in the middle,’ Sisolak says

Phase Three postponed indefinitely as new cases increase

social distance sign
Nevada casinos began reopening on June 4, 2020. (Photo: Caesars Entertainment)

An upward trend in daily cases will delay Nevada’s progress to Phase Three of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s reopening plan for the state.

At a news conference Monday, Sisolak cited an upward trend in new COVID-19 cases during the last three weeks.

“We are not ready to go into Phase Three and the timeline will be dictated by the virus, as we analyze the statistics and the data many times a day,” he said.

Sisolak noted the sacrifices Nevadans have made since March to control the spread of COVID-19.

“I don’t want to let that all go for naught by us having to take a giant step backward,” he said.

Phase Three would allow a resumption of concerts and sporting events, among other group activities.

Nevada’s cumulative rate of positive cases is steady, but the seven-day average of positive cases is increasing, according to data from the state.

Hospitals have yet to be overburdened by the increase in cases, Sisolak said.  

“We can only stay open if we stay safe,” the governor said, adding he’s heard lots of theories about what is causing the uptick in cases, including the reopening of casinos in early June and recent protests of police violence, primarily against Black people.   

Sisolak said the state has tripled its capacity for contact tracing, and it has added questions about attendance at social events or casinos to its list of queries for those who test positive, according to a health official. 

On the same day the Southern Nevada Health District suggested that businesses mandate masks for employees and customers, Sisolak said he will continue to urge voluntary compliance.

“If we come up with a situation where we can pinpoint there’s been a spread or a breakout” because of a certain activity, Sisolak said he would entertain a targeted mandate.

He also praised casinos for promoting face coverings for customers.

“They are going out of their way to encourage customers to wear masks. They are even offering incentives to get customers to wear masks,” Sisolak said. 

Sisolak praised protesters throughout the state who are expressing their right to assemble but said their proximity “is a big concern.” 

“I would certainly hope they’d distance themselves as much as possible.  We will see with contact tracing if they went to protests or a casino,” he said.  “We’ll get that information in the days ahead.” 

Sisolak, who called for an investigation into Las Vegas Metropolitan Police arrests of legal observers at protests over the weekend, said he trusts Metro to do its own investigation. 

“I’m troubled by what some of the reports were,” he said.  “I understand Metro is undergoing an investigation as it relates to that situation specifically with legal observers and what their position was at the time and what happened and didn’t happen.”

“Hopefully this can be done quickly.  There should be a lot of body camera footage and they can see what happened,” he said of police.

“When officers issue dispersal orders, as was the case during Saturday’s protest, people who choose not clear the area are subject to being detained, cited or arrested,” Metro said in a statement late Monday, noting a news conference will be forthcoming.

The governor said he will “have another announcement before June 30” regarding emergency order provisions such as the moratorium on evictions.

Sisolak also said there will be a special session “in the next fifteen days” to address the state’s projected $800 million budget shortfall.

He would not rule out a tax increase.

“It’s going to have to be done through a combination of the revenue side and the expense side,” he said.  “It’s hard for me to even think about raising taxes when I’ve got families who are still unemployed.”

Sisolak, who says he can’t act alone to remove vulnerable prisoners from Nevada detention facilities, noted he was “a little surprised” a proposal from the Nevada Sentencing Commission to do so “was going to cover a handful, I mean like five or six people.”

“They know the law,” he said of the members of the Pardon Board.  “I would like to get vulnerable people in a safer environment if I had my way.”

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 is the mother of four adult children, three cats, three dogs and a cockatoo.