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Sisolak expands directive mandating social distancing

Updated April 9, 2020 - 9:16 pm

Golf courses, showrooms and in-home styling services have been shut down under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s expanded social distancing directive announced Wednesday.

The new directive, which went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, greatly expanded the places and situations to which previous directives on social distancing and gatherings should apply.

“From the beginning, I’ve been transparent about my goal: mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to save lives and protect our health care system from being overwhelmed, which could lead to disastrous and deadly results,” Sisolak said. “What the data shows us is if we slow down the spread, we have a real chance of avoiding a situation where we overwhelm our health care system. The key to all of this is strict social distancing; it’s the only way.”

Sisolak mentioned that the “vast majority” of Nevadans are doing their part but that more must be done to contain the virus. The directive announced Wednesday included eight specific sections dedicated to expanded social distancing measures., and Sisolak elaborated on several key parts of the directive.

Sporting and recreational venues were the topic of the first section of Sisolak’s directive, which closed golf courses, public basketball and tennis courts and publicly accessible swimming pools for the duration of the State of Emergency. The governor stressed that does not prevent people from playing on their own courts or swimming in their own pools.

Second was the closing of showrooms at essential businesses used to display items for sale, “including but not limited to cars and household appliances,” Sisolak said. “You can still buy these items if the business delivers to your home, but showrooms encourage customers to wander around and touch products, and that sort of shopping experience can lead to a higher likelihood of spreading disease. That’s just common sense.”

Sisolak next mentioned the section of his directive that orders businesses that are continuing operations to provide adequate protections for their workers that minimize the risk of spread. Grocery stores are prohibited from offering self-serve food stations, salad bars and unpackaged bulk dry goods to customers.

Open houses are now prohibited, as are showings of homes occupied by renters, under the directive.

“Real estate agents can still use technology to virtually stage a home,” Sisolak said. “And you can still make an appointment to see a house in person if it’s not occupied and strict social distancing guidelines are met, but realtors can no longer open a house for a period of time for multiple prospective buyers to visit.”

The governor noted that barbershops and hair salons were designated as nonessential in a previous directive, but the new directive prohibits barbers and stylists from offering in-home services. Bringing those same services into private homes creates more risk and “circumvents the very rationale” for Stay at Home directives.

“I haven’t had a haircut in over six weeks,” Sisolak said. “I’ve adjusted, and the first lady is still sticking by my side. We can do this.”

Sisolak then turned to Section 4 of the directive, which reads “places of worship shall not hold in-person worship services where 10 or more persons may gather, including without limitation, drive-in and pop-up services, for the remainder of the Declaration of Emergency.”

Sisolak said shutting down worship services of more than 10 people was the most difficult part of the new directive.

“This wasn’t easy,” he said Wednesday. “In these trying times, I have clung to my faith to guide me, as I know many of you have as well. It is not lost on me that we are entering the most holy periods of many of the major religions. I know families want to gather to observe these High Holidays, including Passover tonight and Easter on Sunday.

“But I know that if we allow these services to continue as usual, we will see a spike in cases in Nevada, just like we’ve seen in other states. Clusters will appear where people congregate.”

Sisolak referenced a religious situation in California that created a medical issue.

“You might have heard about a religious congregation near Sacramento, California, that health experts believe was the epicenter of a COVID-19 outbreak,” he said. “The church building that congregation belonged to had actually closed its doors on March 18, but small-group religious gatherings in people’s homes led to an outbreak of at least 70 people.”

The governor’s address turned personal when he talked about shutting down worship services.

“As someone who has attended Catholic services my entire life, I fully appreciate the power of in-person services,” Sisolak said. “Hearing a sermon. Speaking with a pastor, rabbi, imam, or other religious leader. Being surrounded by a community of spiritual followers. Religious services are designed to pull people together, to congregate, to commune, to pray. They’re held in sanctuaries, safe spaces. They help us heal.

“I know how difficult this will be.”

Sisolak felt confident faith will continue to play a major role for many citizens during the pandemic.

“I want to thank all of the faith leaders throughout Nevada who I was able to talk to today,” he said. “Your support and guidance helped me make this challenging decision, and I know you’ll all help keep the faith alive and as strong as ever as we navigate these times.”

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