Sisolak enacts new restrictions to stem COVID spread

(Photo: Daniel Clark)

Las Vegas visitors planning to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal at local restaurants may want to check their reservations, given new restrictions announced Sunday by Gov. Steve Sisolak. 

Restaurants, which may currently seat only 50 percent of their capacity, will be limited to 25 percent come Tuesday — just in time for the holiday that focuses almost entirely on the feast.

And that home gathering you’re planning? Indoors or out, the governor wants it limited to no more than ten people from two households. 

“We are on a rapid trajectory that threatens to overwhelm our health care system,” Sisolak said of Nevada’s surge in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.  

The state’s COVID-19 positivity rate is at a “record 16.5 percent,” according to Sisolak, who noted Nevada set a record this week for 2,416 new cases in one day.  The previous record of 1,639 cases was set in July.  

“Every minute, a Nevadan is diagnosed with COVID-19,” the governor said. Hospitals are “experiencing record numbers” and some have staffing shortages because of infected or isolated medical personnel. 

“Whether you believe in the science of COVID or not, the reality is this: It’s simple. COVID is filling our hospital beds.”

Sisolak said the state has been “in a no-win situation for nine months now” repeating the challenges of balancing the health of Nevadans with economic demands in a “one-industry town,” a reference to Las Vegas, which is almost entirely dependent on tourism and hospitality.  

“No state suffers more than Nevada,” Sisolak said.

The new restrictions go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday and will remain in place for at least three weeks, at which time Sisolak says he may impose additional measures, including a prohibition on indoor dining, and closing gyms and fitness facilities. 

Masks are now mandated in the presence of those outside your immediate household, indoor or outdoor, including private gatherings, the governor said, citing new research that he says validates the extensive use of masks.

Restaurant patrons must keep masks on at all times, Sisolak said, except when “actively eating and drinking, even outside six feet.”

Gyms, fitness and dance studios, and martial arts studios, which are currently limited to 50 percent capacity, will be cut to 25.  

“If the activity is too strenuous to wear a mask, you must choose another activity,” the governor said.

Casinos will be restricted to no more than 25 percent occupancy. Hotel occupancy is not limited by the state.  

Public gatherings including at places of worship, live performances, casino showrooms and “any event where people are gathered at the same place for the same purpose” will be limited to 25 percent instead of the current cap of 50 percent.  

“Larger events approved to take place in the next three weeks must be cancelled,” Sisolak said. 

The state is putting a “pause” on all adult and youth sport tournaments, as well.

Retail malls may continue to operate at 50 percent, the governor said, however, grocery stores over 50 thousand square feet will have to post employees at each door to enforce capacity limits.    

Brothels, adult entertainment venues, and day and night clubs will remain closed.  

The status quo prevails at some businesses, including barber shops, nail salons, spas, massage parlors, and body art and piercing studios.  

Community and recreation centers will remain at 50 percent capacity restrictions “because they perform critical child care” functions, the governor said.  

Schools, which are temporary closed, may be headed for reopening, according to Sisolak, who noted the perils facing children after eight months outside the classroom. 

“They too are vulnerable in this pandemic and they desperately need our support,” Sisolak said, noting a cluster of student suicides this fall. 

“Let’s be honest,” Sisolak said.  “Our casinos, our hotels, restaurants and bars are open so we can protect our economy” but with schools closed “children are suffering.” 

“We must reprioritize getting our kids in the classroom,” the governor said. “As long as school buildings are closed, our economy cannot be fully open.”

“We’re closer to the end than we are to the beginning,” Sisolak said of the nearly ten-month long saga that began in early March with the first positive case of COVID-19 in Nevada and is expected to end with the widespread distribution next year of several vaccines. “I know I’ve asked a lot and I’m asking more.”   

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.