Nevada Governor cracks down on nonessential business closure, test kits and acute-care beds at a premium

Associate Nevada Justice James Hardesty administers the oath of office to Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak on January 7, 2019 - image - The Sierra Nevada Ally

On Tuesday March 18, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, under emergency declaration, closed all nonessential businesses in Nevada. At a Las Vegas City Council meeting on Wednesday, Mayor Carolyn Goodman and her lawyer offered testimony to the Council and called on the Governor to reconsider his nonessential business closure order. In a rambling statement Goodman downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic saying businesses could safely remain open and would work within set social distancing parameters. Goodman said she was going to keep people working.

“Thus my full efforts will be focused on keeping as many of our people as possible employed and asking the Governor to shorten the projected shutdown.”

Governor Sisolak says he has consulted and considered advice from leading healthcare professionals and researchers, and his social distancing policies are consistent with the latest COVID-19 transmission suppression science. In a live Facebook press conference earlier today, the Governor did not request, but ordered the state’s nonessential businesses to close by midnight tonight or face monetary and potentially criminal penalties. He acknowledged what the shutdown means for the economy and families and individuals.

“I also know that if we don’t take another step, we will lose many more Nevadans when we can’t afford that in the state. We can’t. I won’t let my inaction make this crisis worse. I won’t look back in the months ahead and say I wish I did more sooner.

“So today I’m taking that next step. Previously I asked nonessential businesses to close, close their doors to the public. I am no longer asking them to do that. I am directing all non-essential businesses to close. I repeat, if you’re not an essential business, I’m using my power as Governor under the emergency declaration to order you to close. I’m signing a new emergency directive.”

Observations in China and South Korea and recent research from the Imperial College in London show that social distancing half measures or “mitigation” will result in an avalanche of patients in need of hospitalization. The Governor said the number of infected will get worse before it becomes better, and more, Sisolak warned that there’s not much headroom in the state’s acute healthcare system.

“Statewide, we have fewer than 5,000 acute care beds. Of those 5,000 beds, fewer than 700 are intensive care unit beds that are better equipped to handle the severe cases of COVID-19. Right now, more than 80 percent of all those beds are occupied with a mix of COVID-19 and other patients. That means, we have only 20 percent of beds available. We have similar limits when it comes to ventilators.”

The demand for testing kits is distinct and unrequited. A shortage of kits means officials really do not know how many people are infected. Potentially, many are at-large and contagious and oblivious.

“Despite countless calls and around-the-clock work to push for, and even beg, the federal government for additional test kits and supplies, the NV Division of Public & Behavioral Health received a notice yesterday that all of Nevada’s requests to the federal government regarding drive-thru swab testing pods, swab test kits, and testing reagent kits are on an indefinite backlog without any estimate of a timeline for delivery,” Governor Sisolak said. “This is our unfortunate reality, Nevada. It’s up to us. While we look to access federal and state resources, I also know that when I make more calls over the coming days for support and resources from our community partners, you will step up.”

Working with the state’s subsidiary municipalities, the Governor drew the clearest line to date regarding the definition of an “essential business.”

The City of Reno is working under the Governor’s Nevada Health Response COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Initiative. Nonessential businesses are defined thus:

Entertainment & hospitality, including but not limited to strip clubs and brothels, casinos, concert venues, arenas, auditoriums, stadiums, large conference rooms, meeting halls, and cafeterias.

Recreation and athletic facilities, including but not limited to community and recreation centers, gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, yoga, barre and spin facilities.

Beauty and personal care services and facilities, including but not limited to barber shops, beauty, tanning, waxing hair salons, and nail salons and spas.

Retail facilities, including shopping malls except for pharmacy or other health care facilities within retail operations. Retailers are encouraged to continue online operations with pickup and delivery.

Penalties

From the City of Reno:

The City of Reno is requesting and hoping that this current crisis can be addressed in collaboration with all our residents and business owners. The City of Reno has no desire to take enforcement action on businesses. However, under the authority provided in NRS 414 and RMC Chapters 4.04 and 8.34, the City can enforce the Governor’s order through multiple actions, which include, but are not limited to:

Citations up to $1,000 per day

Misdemeanor citations

Summary suspension of a business license

Revocation of a business license

Enforcement action may be taken against owners or employees in control of the business.

The Governor and elected officials everywhere must in the end act in service to priorities. For Governor Sisolak, it’s saving lives.

“The health and the well being of Nevadans is more important than these businesses staying open to make a few dollars,” Sisolak said on Facebook live today. “I’m not putting a value on these lives.”