Gov. Steve Sisolak on Wednesday issued a mandatory face covering policy for all Nevadans and visitors by signing Directive 024.
“I’m proud of the work Nevadans have completed thus far in helping us flatten the curve, but our work is far from over,” Sisolak said. “Today’s directive is our opportunity to limit our risk for exposure and infection and to keep our businesses open and our economy moving. For Nevada to stay safe and stay open, we must make face coverings a routine part of our daily life.”
This directive comes after a four-week climb in cases, at which time the governor asked the Nevada Medical Advisory Team to analyze potential options for slowing the spread, specific to facial coverings. Research done by the MAT and the CDC has indicated that facial coverings are one of the most effective ways to slow the transmission of this disease.
Per this requirement, anyone in any public space throughout the state, including visitors, will need to wear a mask. This includes using public transportation, public facing work environments, when patronizing businesses or interacting with others in any generally publicly accessible space.
“Nevada is continuing to operate in Phase 2 of our ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ plan, allowing our medical, public health and emergency response professionals to evaluate and analyze new trends, including what is now a four-week upward trend of new daily cases,” Sisolak said in announcing the directive. “We are still watching the continued increase in our confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations as well.
“Recently, that number reached 439 cases in Nevada’s hospitals statewide, however, patients requiring ICU beds and ventilators continues to hold steady. The Nevada Hospital Association is regularly evaluating the effects of COVID-19 on staffing, PPE supplies and bed capacity. At this point, the hospital association continues to remain confident they can serve the needs of all Nevadans.”
Sisolak said that reopening the economy, even on a limited basis, proved unworkable because people simply assumed that they didn’t need to be careful any longer.
“To go to Phase 2, our goal was to achieve 14 days of flat or decreasing positive test rate and hospitalizations,” he said. “Many Nevadans acted responsibly, and, after achieving those goals, we reopened much of our economy.
“Clearly for many, the excitement and enthusiasm for escaping our confinement and finally being able to enjoy dinner out with our families, buy new clothes or get a haircut, overshadowed the good judgment we practiced in the previous months.”
Sisolak acknowledged that on one occasion he was one of those lacking “good judgment,” saying that he was seen having dinner without wearing a face covering.
The result is that the state is almost back where it was when the pandemic began.
“So I want to put it to you like this: If back in March, before we shut down the vast majority of our economy, I said to you: we can keep our economy open if everyone agrees to wear masks and maintain six feet in person-to-person distance, who would have not accepted that offer?” he asked rhetorically. “That is exactly what needs to be considered today.”
The directive to require face coverings is based on science, Sisolak said.
“Study after study, worldwide, every notable medical professional from President Trump’s top advisor, Dr. Fauci, to all of our Nevada medical professionals, assert one unassailable conclusion: Wearing face coverings saves lives, period.
“In fact, one study highlighted by my Medical Advisory Team showed that replacing our strict lockdown with social distancing alone, without universal masking, results in an unchecked spread, with potentially devastating results.”
The governor said that while rural areas, such as Nye County, might not have the same percentage of cases as the major cities of Las Vegas and Reno, the alarming rise in cases after an extended period of better numbers requires stronger action.
“We understand that the situation in some areas of the state is not as bad as others,” Sisolak said. “We recognize as well all of the work that everyone across the state has been doing. However, we are seeing a spike in positive cases, and we need to ask everyone around the state to do their very best to keep us all safe.
“This especially applies to indoor activities in which you are near other people, including grocery stores, retail businesses, malls and gaming properties.”
Sisolak lamented how a public health issue has become a political one in much of the nation.
“I don’t know why or when protecting our health and our neighbors’ lives became a political, partisan or even philosophical decision,” he said. “For me it’s none of those … it’s a medical necessity, a human obligation and it’s good for business.”
Sisolak cited studies showing that masking at 50% is not sufficient to prevent continued spread, but masking at at least 80% results in a “substantial reduction of infection.”
“We owe it to each other to accept the fact that wearing face coverings saves lives,” he said. “We owe it to the many workers … health care professionals, retail clerks, restaurant workers and grocery store employees to accept that fact. We owe it to Nevada’s many businesses large and small to accept that fact.
“For Nevada to stay safe and stay open, we must make face coverings a routine part of our daily life.”
Children between the ages of two and 9 are exempt from the requirement, as are those with medical conditions that make it difficult to breathe and those with a disability that prevents them from wearing a face covering.
The governor seemed to anticipate a possible backlash to this new directive.
“Nevada is a state that prides itself on its fierce individualism,” Sisolak said. “It’s part of what makes us great. So I’m asking all of us to take our independent spirit and turn that into our individual responsibility to keep the lights on for businesses throughout our state.”