Sisolak promises long-term Covid strategy: ‘No more phases’

Bars to remain closed in four counties

Gov. Steve Sisolak during a press conference in Carson City July 27. (Legislative Counsel Bureau stream screen grab)

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Monday announced Nevada will soon unveil a long-term strategy for determining what and how businesses can operate amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“No more phases,” he said.

Sisolak said his office would begin rolling out specifics of the state’s new mitigation strategy on Aug. 3. However, he suggested it is being designed to provide businesses and residents “advanced notice and understanding on what direction their county could be heading based on updated criteria.”

Phases “made sense” at the start of the pandemic, the governor contended, but the state needs “to be flexible and responsive to what we are seeing now.” He suggested the new approach would focus more on outbreaks tied to certain businesses and locations rather than the industry-wide mandates that have become the norm since mid-March when business closures began.

The governor on Monday also announced that bars and taverns in Humboldt, Lyon and Lander counties could immediately reopen because those counties saw “enough progress” toward reducing the spread of Covid-19. Bars in Clark, Washoe, Nye and Elko will remain closed. Those restrictions will be revisited in a week, he added.

Bars in those seven counties were shut down earlier this month after the number of cases, hospitalizations and other metrics used by public health officials steadily rose. Some metrics have shown more promising signs in recent days, though Sisolak was quick to note that it was too soon to tell whether it was a trend or merely a blip.

Sisolak said increased and stricter enforcement will play a major role in the long-term mitigation strategy and that businesses with a pattern of non-compliance will be shut down.

“A non-compliant resort could have part or all of their property closed for a period of time,” said Sisolak.  “Water, theme parks, sporting events, gyms and other businesses and venues will be closely scrutinized and treated accordingly.”

When asked by a Reno Gazette Journal reporter whether there was any circumstance in which he would consider closing casinos again, Sisolak responded by first pointing out that casinos are the state’s largest employer. He then said the industry was working with his office to implement all of the required mitigation measures.

“At the same time we’re monitoring them very closely to make sure those are in place,” he said, “and we will continue to monitor them closely, but I don’t want to speculate further.”

Sisolak during his prepared remarks said the goal is to begin looking at Covid trends at the municipal or zip code level — rather than county-by-county.

“We want to transition to targeting specific businesses that may be experiencing outbreaks versus industries as a whole, unless those industries as a whole are shown to pose an incredibly high risk of spread.”

When asked by an Associated Press reporter about the state’s capacity to gather data at such a granular level, Julia Peak of the Department of Health and Human Services said the state is expanding its number of contact tracers by 100 this week, as well as expanding its questionnaire to collect the additional data needed.

“We are at a really good place in Nevada right now,” added Peak, “and if we need to increase that we will.”

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.