Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday the framework the state will use as it plans to roll back restrictions and reopen.
“Before we get to the first phase of our reopening plan, we must make sure we meet criteria set out by the federal government and our team of Nevada experts,” Sisolak said. “We are actively monitoring the criteria now, and once we have cleared this stage, we can begin the the first phase of getting back to business in Nevada.”
To determine whether the state is ready to move into the first phase of reopening, the governor and Nevada experts will look for a consistent and sustainable downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations over a 14-day period. That will be measured by a decrease in the trend of COVID-19 hospitalizations and a decline in the percentage of people testing positive.
Also, Sisolak said that health care and public health systems should be able to maintain hospital capacity without crisis standards of care, have a sufficient public health workforce capacity between the local and state health departments to conduct case contact tracing (detect, test, trace, isolate), have the expanded ability for health care providers to administer tests for symptomatic patients and have sufficient laboratory testing capacity to process COVID-19 testing samples.
There also must be a sustained ability to protect vulnerable populations, meaning that outbreaks are successfully contained and closed in special settings such as health facilities and nursing homes, he said. Finally, the state must confirm protective measures are in place before moving to the first phase of reopening.
Sisolak acknowledged that it seemed as if it would be a long time before even the first phase of reopening could begin, but he shared an analogy that he said a lot of others had been sharing.
“Arguing that the curve is flattening and that we can immediately lift restrictions in one fell swoop is like arguing that the parachute has slowed our rate of descent so we can take it off now,” he said. “We cannot take off the parachute. Experience gleaned from other countries teaches us that we cannot flip a light switch and turn our lives and our economy back on too quickly.
“We still have a responsibility to protect people and to protect our economy.”
Sisolak said that the state is in a better spot than it was six weeks ago and, while lives of Nevadans are more valuable than profit, he understood “what the cost has been to our state, your families, your businesses and our economy.”
Saying he wanted to ensure that the economic reopening will be sustainable, and because the state is “an international tourism mecca, we have an added responsibility to get this reopening plan correct.”
The governor was pleased to say that Nevada is seeing fewer cases and deaths than were predicted by many of the models early in the outbreak, showing “social distancing and other measures are working.”
Sisolak went on to describe what Phase 1 of the reopening would look like.
“We will be able to loosen restrictions on certain activities and businesses, and the loosening of these restrictions will be done in accordance with federal guidance that’s tailored to Nevada’s specific industries, businesses and communities.”
First, in agreement with federal criteria, “all vulnerable individuals should continue to shelter in place” during Phase 1. All individuals should avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 where appropriate social distancing is impossible.
Again repeating federal recommendations, Sisolak said he and the state’s experts agree that individuals should minimize nonessential travel, and the state is currently reviewing the possibility of strengthening the guidance urging Nevadans to wear face coverings.
Sisolak went over Phase 1 recommendations for businesses as well. Under federal criteria, bars should remain closed, and the governor said he and the Nevada Medical Advisory team agreed.
Other specific situations, including gyms, elective surgery, restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship and sports venues are under review, and guidelines will be issued at an appropriate time.