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Pahrump bars to remain closed

Updated August 20, 2020 - 4:32 pm

Bars, taverns, distilleries and other alcohol-serving establishments in Clark and Washoe counties will stay closed at least two more weeks because of persistent elevated risk of coronavirus transmission, the state’s COVID-19 mitigation task force decided Thursday.

The task force voted to retain the closures in the two counties “for the time being” and will revisit them in two weeks.

Bar closures also will remain in effect in Elko County and in the town of Pahrump in Nye County. Washoe and Clark had sought permission to reopen their bars, while Elko’s COVID-19 mitigation plan included extending bar closures there at least a week.

Nye County, where most of heightened COVID-19 transmission risk is in Pahrump, proposed to retain closures there but lift them in other parts of the mostly rural county. The task force accepted the county’s plan.

“We are beginning to see stabilization in our numbers, stabilization in our hospital capacity, stabilization across the board,” said Caleb Cage, the state’s COVID-19 response director, as the task force began reviewing the county-by-county statuses. “What we are not beginning to see is a decline in the number of deaths associated with this virus.”

Nevada on Thursday reported a record one-day death toll from the virus, with 38 deaths. Clark County has accounted for more than 1,000 of the state’s total 1,172 deaths.

The task force also added a seventh county to the list of those flagged at elevated risk of transmission and subject to greater oversight. Churchill County joins Clark, Elko, Humboldt, Lander, Nye and Washoe.

Under the state’s COVID-19 management plan, counties flagged at elevated risk prepare mitigation plans for review and potential action by the task force, which meets weekly to assess those plans and the state’s overall COVID-19 mitigation status.

Cage acknowledged the continued economic impact of the business restrictions, including keeping bars closed.

“All of us have known people who have been affected directly by industry shutdowns and other economic impacts of this virus.” Cage said. “Our job is to find the best ways to balance those two things and make sure that we are working extremely hard to protect lives, particularly among populations that are vulnerable to this disease, to protect our capabilities and capacity to respond to this, as well as support our economy as much as we can.”

Bars, pubs, taverns, breweries, distilleries and wineries in Clark, Elko, Nye and Washoe were ordered closed July 10 in response to increased transmission risk in those counties.

Under the state’s management criteria, a county is considered at elevated risk if it meets two of three conditions based on per capita population: average number of daily tests, case rate, and positivity rate. A county could be flagged if its daily average testing per 100,000 residents is below 150, its case rate is above 200 per 100,000, or its case rate is more than 50 per 100,000 but its positive test rate is 7 percent or above.

Here are county-by-county statuses and actions reported and approved Thursday:

Lander County: Lander maintains a low case rate but still hits two of the assessment criteria due to low testing numbers and small population. It had 14 cases in July and told the task force Wednesday it currently has three active cases. The approved plan includes community-based testing events beginning on August 31, messaging efforts, and ongoing contact tracing.

Humboldt County: Most of the county’s cases are within the Fort McDermitt Tribal reservation – 77 total, with 52 active. Outside of there, Humboldt currently has only 15 active cases and it reports adequate resources for contact tracing, hospitalizations, and protecting vulnerable populations. Under their plan, the task force will continue to get updates on enforcement, public communication and outreach, and collaboration on mitigation with the tribal community.

Elko County: Most of the county’s cases are in the city of Elko, Spring Creek, West Wendover and Carlin. The county has an approved local mitigation plan and is seeing 90 percent compliance with enforcement checks. County officials recommend extending current mitigation measures including bar closures for another week. The task force approved Elko’s recommendations, which will continue for at least an additional week.

Nye County: The county has seen 107 cases since July 29, 104 of them in Pahrump. As of Wednesday, Nye (along with Humboldt and Elko) has hit all three of the elevated disease transmission criteria. The approved action plan calls for Nye to continue ongoing efforts on testing, contact tracing, enforcement, and outbreak interventions. It will keep bars closed in Pahrump but allow them to reopen elsewhere in the county, with provisions in place to reinstitute the closures if necessary. The approved action plan will continue for at least two weeks.

Washoe County: Washoe saw an increase in its test positivity rate over the previous week and reported most cases are associated with workplaces, retail, recreation and dining, and private social gatherings. Its action plan calls for an enhanced enforcement, as well as a public outreach and communication campaign. The task force voted to leave in place the current restrictions, including bar closings,“for the time being” pending subsequent review. The county had proposed to reopen bars as a way to limit house party type events, which county officials said are harder to monitor and regulate than bars.

Clark County: The county continues to have a high positivity test rate of 14.6 percent, though that’s down from last week’s rate of 15.5 percent. The county proposed to increase enforcement by allocating more city and county resources, closing non-compliant businesses, requiring a minimum number of business inspections by jurisdiction, and focusing on “hot spot” zip codes. As with Washoe, the task force voted to retain current restrictions in Clark, including bar closings, as is for the time being, pending subsequent review.

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