Nevada governor announces additional restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19

Gov. Steve Sisolak discusses measures to help the public with housing stability amid the COVID-19 public health crisis at a press conference at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas, Sunday, March 29, 2020. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Pool) @rookie__rae

Today, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced increased restrictions to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the State. The measures – informed by public health experts, business and economic leaders – go into effect on Tuesday.  

The mitigation measures will last for the next three weeks, and the Governor and his administration will continue to monitor the COVID-19 trends in the State during that time frame. The emergency directive formalizing these changes will be issued Monday.

As your Governor, I am confident that I did all I could to avoid further restrictions and keep us on the path forward, but now I must act,” Governor Sisolak said.In this defining moment, I implore Nevadans to tap into their independent spirit and consider their own personal responsibility.  

“We decide our distance from others. We decide how long we spend in a high-risk setting.  We decide whether to take the simple step of putting on a mask,” he continued.  “Nevadans know that if it doesn’t feel safe, then it isn’t safe.  And, if it isn’t safe, we shouldn’t be doing it right now.  Ultimately, our individual actions decide whether we are going to prioritize getting our children into the classroom, allowing our businesses to operate under safe measures, and protecting our hospital system and healthcare workers.  

Under the new measures, restaurants, bars, gaming operations, gyms, fitness facilities and other businesses and activities will be limited to 25 percent of applicable fire code capacity, down from 50 percent.  Retail stores – including grocery stores – will remain at 50 percent of capacity, with strict social distancing and additional monitoring requirements. 

Additionally, public gatherings will be limited to no more than 50 people or 25 percent capacity, whichever is less. No large events will be approved during this time frame.

Private gatherings will be limited to no more than 10 people from no more than two separate households, and the State’s face covering requirement will be extended to private gatherings.

Under the new restrictions, Nevadans must wear face coverings at all times, whether indoors or outdoors, when around individuals from outside their households.  

The new measures take effect on Tuesday, November 24thand will last for the next three weeks. During that time frame, the Governor will continue to meet with advisors to evaluate the situation and look for signs of concerns or improvement. 

Highlights from the Governor’s Prepared Remarks

Today, I’m announcing new restrictions, in an effort to get this wildfire under control. I’m not issuing a shutdown order. My goal is to aggressively try to attack this spread, while maintaining some portion of our economy and our daily life.

That’s why I am announcing that effective Tuesday at 12:01 a.m., Nevada will be operating under a STATEWIDE PAUSE, with the following conditions. We will keep these restrictions in place for at least the next three weeks – I’ll talk more about next steps soon.

First, I am strengthening Nevada’s mask mandate across the board. Nevadans and visitors are now required to wear a mask at all times when you are around someone who is not
part of your immediate household — whether indoors or outdoors. This expansion includes requiring masks during private gatherings – I will talk more about private gatherings
in a minute.

In the last month or so, new research has emerged that continues to validate the importance of wearing a mask. They continue to be an essential tool in our fight.

Going forward, we will reduce capacity in certain high-risk areas that have been shown nationally and in Nevada to contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Under this Statewide Pause, no additional businesses will be closed, but capacity limits and new mitigation measures will be imposed on both businesses and gatherings. I will start by
explaining what’s changing:

Restaurants & Bars: Currently operating at 50% capacity.

Under the Statewide Pause, they may continue to operate under strict social distancing requirements at 25% occupancy – indoor and outdoor.

No more than 4 patrons per table and seating at bar or counter tops must continue to be socially distanced under the existing guidelines.

Restaurants and bars should continue to have hand sanitizer available and should be conducting health screenings and/or temperature checks.

For restaurants and bars that serve food, reservations are required – no walk-ins.

I know the majority of our bars and restaurants are doing their best, but these settings are proven to be high risk because they allow the opportunity for people to remove their face coverings in indoor settings around people outside of their household. That’s how the virus spreads.

That’s also why I encourage curbside, delivery, and/or carry out operations, and why our health experts want to remind Nevadans and visitors that you must keep your mask on at
all times when you are not actively eating or drinking, regardless of whether you are six feet away from others or not.

If you chose to dine indoors, keep your mask on as much as possible. I encourage restaurants and bars to try to expand outdoor seating options, and I encourage local governments to work with these businesses to meet this goal. Gyms, Fitness & Dance Studios and places like martial arts studios: Currently operating at 50% capacity.

Under the Pause, they may operate with no more than 25% occupancy under strict social distancing requirements.

We are also strengthening our mask mandate with no exceptions for indoor exercise. Masks MUST be worn at all times, unless you’re actively drinking. If the activity is too
strenuous to be done while wearing a mask properly, you must seek an alternative. Other businesses that will be moving from 50% to 25% capacity during this pause include the following:

• Museums, Art Galleries, Libraries;
• Zoos & Aquariums;
• Arcades, Racetracks, Bowling Alleys, Mini Golf,
• Amusement and Theme Parks and other similar activities;

Additionally, Gaming operations will be restricted to haveno more than 25% occupancy and must operate pursuant to requirements issued by the Nevada Gaming Control Board,
including health and safety policies. Restaurants and bars within gaming establishments will be restricted to the 25% capacity under the Statewide Pause.

Public Gatherings

Recently, we took great steps to increase gathering size to 250 people or 50 percent, whichever is less. Unfortunately, due to the surge we are experiencing, we must decrease
those limits during the Pause.

Public gatherings will be limited to no more than 50 individuals or 25 percent of fire code capacity, whichever is less, under strict social distancing requirements.

This includes places of worship, indoor movie theaters, live theater performances, casino showrooms, weddings, funerals, milestone celebrations and any other event where members of the public may be gathering together at the same time, in the same place, for the same purposes.

No large gathering plans will be approved during this time. Again, ALL gatherings MUST be limited to 50 people or 25 percent, whichever is less. If larger events have been approved to take place in the next 3-week period, they must be canceled.

Private Gatherings

In addition to public gatherings, this Statewide Pause will also include new and necessary limitations on private social gatherings. We know a significant source of spread is right in our homes – and we must do all that we can to prevent it.

Under the Statewide Pause, private gatherings will be restricted to 10 people or fewer, from no more than 2 households –whether indoors or outdoors.

As I said before, face coverings will now be required in both public and private settings whenever you’re with people outside of your household, even if you’re socially distant.

And while I beg all Nevadans to listen to our health experts and the CDC by only spending Thanksgiving with your household members, if you choose to gather with those you do not live with, you must all wear masks.

Additionally, there will be a pause on adult and youth sports tournaments during this period.

Retail establishments, including Indoor Malls, will not have to change their capacity during this Statewide Pause and can continue operating at 50%.

Retail & grocery stores with over 50,000 sq. ft. capacity will now be required to have employees at all public entrances counting patrons to ensure compliance with capacity limits.

Again, I want to strongly encourage and promote online ordering, curbside, delivery, and/or carry out operations.

As a reminder, every business, venue & gathering space is required to post capacity limits under COVID-19 directives at all public entrances. You can find downloadable capacity signs on the NV Health Response website. WHAT WON’T CHANGE UNDER STATEWIDE PAUSE:

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

Again, retail establishments will not have to change their capacity limit of 50%, but some will have new mitigation requirements in place.

Additionally, the following businesses can continue operating under the current standards and will not have to adhere to new restrictions under the Statewide Pause:

o Hair Salons, Barbershops, Nail salons & Businesses that provide Aesthetic Skin Services
o Spas, Massage Therapy & Massage Establishments
o Body Art or Piercing Establishments
o Finally, Community and Recreational Centers will continue to be able to operate at 50% capacity, understanding they provide critical child care services during this time of need.

I want to be clear that the new public gatherings limits do not apply to our schools districts in Nevada. And I want to take a few minutes to talk about our schools.

The very first Emergency Directive I issued after declaring a State of Emergency back in March was to temporarily close schools. At that time, none of us could have imagined that
we would have some children in our State who had not set foot in a school building for more than 8 months.

Since I first made the difficult decision to close school buildings, we have seen our infection rates and risk factors increase and decrease in response to actions taken.

That includes actions that government has taken in regards to issuing stay-at-home orders, closures and the gradual reopening of our economy.

But it also includes actions we have taken as individuals in response to whether or not all of us are doing everything we can to keep our neighbors and families safe. Whether we wear our masks and refrain from taking unnecessary risks.

Let’s be honest: our casinos, hotels, restaurants, and bars are open with strict restrictions so that we can protect our economy. Meanwhile, the majority of school buildings across our State are closed and our kids are suffering as a result. Our education system and our economy are not mutually exclusive – they are tied together.

And as long as school buildings are closed, our economy can’t be fully open. Mom and Dad can’t go to work if they have children learning from home who need supervision. We must reprioritize keeping our kids in the classroom or getting them there.

Throughout this crisis, we have been talking about protecting our vulnerable populations. While children are not as physically vulnerable to COVID as the elderly or medically at-risk, that certainly doesn’t mean that they are immune to its effects. They too are vulnerable in this pandemic, and they desperately need all of our support.

As I said, we have students who have not been inside a school building in over 8 months. And while we are doing everything we can to provide community support, for some children, that could mean that they have not had access to reliable food, to safe shelter, or
to caring adults who can intervene immediately if something isn’t right in over 8 months.

We’ve talked about wearing masks to protect our elderly parents and grandparents. And we’ve talked about staying home so we can keep our economy open.

Today, I am asking you to not only follow through with these tougher restrictions during the Statewide Pause for the vulnerable and our economy, but to do it because our children deserve our support.

We have seen more deaths by suicide among students this fall than in years prior, and it breaks my heart to share that victims have included students as young as 8 years old.

We are in a pandemic, which caused an economic crisis, which has created a mental health crisis. And getting children back into school buildings is a key way that we can ensure
they are getting the education and support they desperately need.

That’s why we must do everything we can to help prevent the spread and that’s part of why I am putting Nevada in a 3-week Statewide Pause with restrictions I just spoke about.

The restrictions I outlined tonight apply statewide- they are baseline standards for all our communities. But I would be remiss to not remind local governments of their ability to
enact stronger measures – especially if your local public health officials are giving you recommendations, or if your hospitals become overwhelmed, or you experience outbreaks
in your counties – take action.

The measures I am announcing tonight – our statewide pause– will be in effect for a three-week period.

Throughout this pause, we will be evaluating our situation and looking for signs of concerns or improvement. We will monitor our transmission rate, the slope of the epi curve, and
our percentage increase of cases. Depending on the trends, Nevadans can expect a few outcomes:

If our percentage increase of cases begin to slow and our epi curve begins to plateau, we will make an evaluation of whether it’s a consistent trend, or whether we need more
time under these restrictions to ensure that the downward trajectory stays in place.

Or, we may consider slowly loosening back to the restrictions currently in place. The numbers and the virus – as well as our individual and collective actions – determine the timeline.

If this is not taken seriously and our situation worsens in the next three weeks – continuing the current trajectory that threatens our health care infrastructure — I will be forced to intervene and to take stronger action.

Stronger action will be targeted at high-risk settings, and may include:

o Prohibition of indoor dining and service at restaurants and bars.
o Closure of gyms and fitness facilities.
o Severe restrictions on gathering sizes
o That is what is in our future if our trends do not improve.

As your Governor, I am confident that I did all I could to avoid further restrictions and keep us on the path forward, but now I must act.

But I am hopeful that these restrictions announced today going into effect on Tuesday will help reduce our caseload. I don’t want to impose further restrictions, but we are too
close to the real solution, the vaccines, to give up now.

I remain encouraged by the developments with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and we are getting closer. But we don’t have a vaccine yet.

There’s not doubt that this surge is a global and national problem – but it’s our problem as Nevadans to fix within our own State.

So in this moment, with these new restrictions and with that optimism on vaccine progress in mind: I’m asking all of Nevada’s leaders – business, labor, religious, elected, associations, academic, and many others – to intensify your efforts even more, to educate, inform and model what is required of all of us to bridge to the vaccine, to fully reopen
our lives and to propel Nevada forward, again.

I implore you to tap into Nevada’s independent spirit in this moment and consider your own personal responsibility. WE decide our distance to others. WE decide how long we spend in a high-risk setting. WE decide whether we are going to prioritize getting our kids into the classroom, allowing our businesses to operate by following responsible measures, and protecting our hospital system. If it doesn’t feel safe, it isn’t safe.

Be determined, offer help and hope to others, believe in our future and know we are closer to the end than the beginning of this terrible pandemic.