On a day when Gov. Steve Sisolak had to cancel an in-person press conference because of possible exposure to COVID-19, he announced that the state is ready to move into Phase 2 of the “Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery” reopening plan starting Friday and reiterated that June 4 is the target date for reopening casinos. Sisolak later reported that his COVID-19 test came back negative.
“I am sorry that I could not be providing these remarks in a traditional press conference,” Sisolak said in a statement Tuesday. “Last week I was at a location where an employee, who was not there on the day I was, subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.”
Sisolak stressed he was feeling fine, and his test came back negative the next day. He was pleased to report that efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus have led him to direct that Phase 2 will begin today, Friday, May 29.
“Our cumulative test positivity rate – which is the number of people testing positive against the total number of tests – has declined to 6.5 percent,” the governor said. “We have been in a downward trend for 31 days, a full month. When it comes to confirmed COVID hospitalizations, we are in a 35-day downward trend.
“According to the Nevada Hospital Association, intensive care and ventilator use remained flat over this past long weekend, and hospitals continue to have enough capacity to manage a surge at this time.”
The governor then outlined the eased restrictions that will come with the implementation of Phase 2.
“We can increase public and private gatherings from no more than 10 people to no more than 50 people, while continuing to follow social distancing,” Sisolak said, specifically mentioning religious services.
“Across the country we have seen houses of worship become hotspots for COVID-19 transmission,” he explained. “Our medical experts advise that bringing together people from different households in a confined space for extended periods of time greatly increases the likelihood of spreading COVID-19.
“That said, in Phase 2, places of worship may reopen their doors for gatherings with a maximum of 50 people attending a service at a time and strict social distancing of at least 6 feet. This aligns with our new guidance on all public and private gatherings.”
Businesses that will be allowed to reopen, including museums, art galleries, zoos, aquariums, pools and water parks, must restrict occupancy to 50% of capacity and maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet. The same goes for indoor malls and each individual retail store within an indoor mall.
Gyms and fitness facilities may reopen with the same social distancing guidelines, but locker rooms will remain closed except for restrooms. “Facilities must close and prohibit use of showers, steam rooms, saunas, portable saunas, vapor baths, salt therapy rooms, hot tubs and any other communal facilities,” Sisolak said.
Bar areas in restaurants may reopen, and bars and taverns that do not serve food may reopen under the same restrictions of 50% maximum capacity and strict social distancing. Patrons will not be allowed to walk up and order at the bars, Sisolak said, but they may sit and be served at a bar top if appropriately distanced from one another.
“State offices may begin to resume some services to the public where necessary, although online services are still available and encouraged,” Sisolak said. “My office is finalizing plans with our agency directors on public offices to reopen initially and will be making those announcements on a rolling basis.”
The governor announced guidelines for salons and other businesses that provide aesthetic or other skin services, including facials, hair removal, tanning, eyelash services, eyebrow threading, salt therapy, estheticians and other services.
“They may open under similar guidelines that hair and nail salons are operating, such as having a partition or wall between each work station, and if there’s not a partition, ensuring the work stations are arranged to ensure 6 feet of separation,” Sisolak said. “It will be appointment only, and estheticians, technicians, and other employees must wear face coverings. Customers or clients should wear face coverings to the extent practicable.”
The governor stressed face coverings should still be a part of every Nevadan’s wardrobe when venturing outside the home.
“During Phase 2, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of continuing to wear face coverings in public and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distancing when you are out in public and around people from other households,” he said. Employees, he added, will continue to be required to wear a face covering.
As for the casinos, Sisolak said the Gaming Control Board held a workshop Tuesday morning and heard testimony from public health experts, leaders of emergency response departments and Nevada COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage.
“The Board was briefed on how these various entities have worked with the gaming industry to ensure that there is a comprehensive plan in place to respond to and mitigate the effects of positive cases of COVID-19 that present themselves in the state’s resort corridors,” Sisolak said.
Live events were addressed by the governor as well, and he said live performances will not be allowed with spectators. Events will be allowed under specific restrictions for the purpose of broadcasting or live streaming, Sisolak said, but they will not include a live audience.
“This may include sporting events, concerts, theater performances or other entertainment-type events,” he said, adding that an operator wishing to hold a closed or spectator-free event must submit an operation plan to the appropriate state authority. “The Gaming Control Board will approve these events on gaming properties, and the Nevada Athletic Commission will approve these events for any athletic competitions that it regulates.”
All other events will be approved by the state Department of Business & Industry.
The governor said he expects youth sports and recreation to return at some point during Phase 2, but the state is working with local youth sports districts to prepare plans to be announced at a later date.
Some businesses will remain closed during Phase 2, Sisolak said, including adult entertainment establishments, brothels and nightclubs and dayclubs.
The governor said specific industry guidance is being finalized by his office and the Local Empowerment Advisory Panel and will be posted soon.
Sisolak closed by urging Nevadans to continue to be vigilant and exercise common sense.
“It’s very simple,” he said. “When you are out in public, wear a mask or face covering, practice social distancing and wash your hands. … It’s our personal responsibility to stay safe for ourselves and others and to work together through this process.”