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Governor eases COVID-19 restrictions

With Nevada’s COVID-19 numbers trending downward and the vaccine roll-out continuing to pace along in a slow but steady fashion, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed and executed a new directive that eases COVID-19 restrictions across the state, a move that was met with relief and satisfaction by many.

The new directive, No. 37, was signed by Sisolak on Sunday, Feb. 14 with the new mitigation measures going into effect as of midnight on Monday, Feb. 15.

The new directive comes just 10 days after Nye County commissioners approved a COVID-19 resolution asking the governor to reduce his emergency mandates, a resolution that drew unanimous support from commissioners and plenty of backing from local community members.

“It is as important as ever for rural voices to be heard,” Nye County Commissioner Leo Blundo, who sponsored Nye County’s COVID-19 resolution, told the Pahrump Valley Times. “I respect our DA Chris Arabia for the work and guidance his office provided in this resolution. We can throw tantrums and get zero done, or we can get the people’s words, thoughts and voices heard by Gov. Sisolak. Moving forward is about reopening Nye County and getting Nevada safely open and our economy back on track. Our rural voices, when combined, have a real impact across Nevada, for which I am grateful.”

Nye County Commission Chair Debra Strickland expressed her appreciation for the governor’s decision to lessen the COVID-19 restrictions as well, telling the Times, “This gives us hope for the day when we will be back to business as usual. I pray that we continue to be diligent, all doing our part. It’s time to open up, yes, with care and concern for our fellow Nevadans. We do this well and we will stay open.”

Perhaps the most anticipated relaxation of the emergency mandates relates to the restaurant industry, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic. Now, restaurants, food establishments, breweries, distilleries and wineries can allow patrons up to 35% of their overall indoor capacity, with a maximum of six persons per party rather than just four. Outdoor dining does not have capacity limits but both indoor and outdoor dining must be set up to allow for a minimum of six feet of space between tables. Masks are still required whenever patrons are not actively eating or drinking.

Restrictions on public gathering have also been relaxed somewhat as of Monday, with the governor now allowing public gatherings of 100 persons or 35% of the fire code capacity for the area in which the gathering occurs, whichever total is less.

“This provision shall apply to any area, whether publicly owned or privately owned, where the public has access by right or invitation, express or implied, whether by payment of money or not, including without limitation, parks, basketball courts, volleyball courts, baseball fields, football fields, rivers, lakes, beaches, streets, convention centers, movie theaters, libraries, parking lots and private clubs, except that this provision does not apply to houses of worship,” Directive No. 37 reads.

In just a few weeks time, Directive No. 37 will offer even more relief on this front, with the document stating that as of March 15, public gathering caps will be raised to 250 persons or 50% of the venue capacity, whichever is less.

It is much the same for arcades, racetracks, bowling alleys, miniature golf venues, pool halls, amusement and theme parks, as well as gyms, yoga studios, etc, which can now have patrons up to 35% capacity with social distancing observed. This too will be raised come March 15, to allow for up to 50% capacity. The same holds true for gaming establishments, which can allow up to 35% capacity in gaming areas until March 15 when those caps raise to 50%.

Libraries, museums, art galleries, aquariums and zoos, however, are immediately allowed to permit customers to 50% of their capacity, although all hands-on and interactive exhibits must be closed. Houses of worship are also permitted to allow up to 50% of the total fire code capacity at in-person services, so long as social distancing and mask mandates are both followed. As before, drive-up services at places of worship still do not have capacity limitations.

As to indoor private gatherings, those between family and friends, the new directive limits such gatherings to 10 persons, while outdoor private gatherings can include up to 25 persons. At such private events, attendees are required to wear masks or face coverings unless exempted from doing so by previous emergency directives. This provision does not apply to gatherings of persons who reside in the same household, persons who are homeless or to organizations that are providing shelter for those experiencing homelessness.

Anyone wishing to hold a large-scale public gathering now has an avenue to pursue in doing so, with the directive calling for such event organizers to submit a Large Gathering Venue COVID-19 Preparedness and Safety Plan for approval by the state.

The nine-page directive touches on a variety of other aspects of daily life, including retail stores, tattoo parlors and more, and also includes extensive details about regulations that all of the aforementioned entities must observe under the new, eased emergency mandates.

Nye County’s latest COVID-19 update, provided Tuesday, Feb. 16, detailed that there have been a total of 2,728 confirmed cases of the virus in the county, including 2,489 in Pahrump. There have been 39 new cases in the past seven days with 36 in Pahrump and three in Tonopah. Nye County’s death toll is at 91 persons lost to the virus. As of Tuesday, there have been 3,256 vaccinations initiated and 458 completed, for a total of 3,714 vaccines administered.

Contact reporter Robin Hebrock at rhebrock@pvtimes.com

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