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Gov. Steve Sisolak said bars in some Nevada counties, including Washoe and Clark, will return to Phase 1 restrictions on Friday to fight a spike in COVID-19 cases.
That means they will have to close up shop when the new directive goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Also under Sisolak’s directive, restaurants can no longer serve parties larger than six people and must close their bar areas. He also encouraged restaurants to have people eat outside.
Sisolak said details on the other counties affected will be released Friday.
He said the decision came after a Thursday call with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who advised him that Nevada needed to take swift action to avoid overwhelming its hospital facilities with COVID-19 patients.
Nevada has experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks since the state began its reopening process.
According to the Nevada Hospital Association, 78 percent of staffed short-term acute-care hospital beds are occupied. Additionally, 50 percent of all intensive care unit beds are occupied, and 20 percent of all ventilators are in use.
The known number of Nevadans who have tested positive for COVID-19 reached 24,904 on Thursday morning, according to the Nevada Health Alliance dashboard.
“If we must go out, we’re safer if we wear masks and practice social distancing,” Sisolak said.
“Masks are not partisan, they’re not political, they’re not a joke,” he said. “It is costing lives to have people not mask.”
He said the state needs a 95% compliance with masks for the strategy to be effective.
The full text of his prepared remarks:
Good afternoon. Thank you for being here.
I know much of the focus right now has been on the special session of the Nevada Legislature, where lawmakers are weighing proposals to balance a $1.2 billion budget deficit.
These proposals before lawmakers are not ones that my office or State agencies proposed lightly. Our State agency directors have had to make painful reductions in their own departments, and while necessary, the reductions are difficult to see.
I am proud of the work of my State agency heads, who have dedicated themselves to providing services and helping us navigate an unprecedented situation for the last four months. They’ve also stepped up to help address our fiscal crisis by proposing solutions to our budget shortfall. Just like me, I know this was a daunting and painful task.
As your Governor, I will continue to advocate for federal funding to help provide relief to Nevadans and to our state and local budgets, so we may continue to provide essential services to Nevadans and hopefully restore some of the proposed reductions.
That includes requesting more federal support to retain 600 members of our Nevada National Guard through the end of December. Because of this partnership, Nevada has seen remarkable increases in our ability to conduct community-based testing, lab capacity, contact tracing, and other critical capabilities for our effort to reopen and keep open our State in a safe and responsible manner.
The need for close cooperation and mutual assistance between the Federal Government and Nevada remains greater than ever, and I am hopeful the federal government will grant this request.
These difficult budget situation we are in now is a direct result of the public health crisis caused by COVID-19. And while we must turn our attention to the historic budget shortfall, we cannot forget that we are still in the midst of a highly contagious and deadly pandemic, and that many areas throughout Nevada are currently experiencing a spike.
As you know, we are currently holding in Phase 2 of our Roadmap to Recovery plan, allowing our medical, public health and emergency response professionals to evaluate and analyze new trends that have shown a continuous upward trend of new daily cases.
We have taken steps to help slow the spread, including increasing our contact tracing efforts to make sure that Nevadans who may have been exposed to the virus are aware and can take the appropriate actions to safeguard their health.
We’ve also extended Phase 2 until at least the end of July and implemented a mandatory face covering directive, which took effect at the end of June.
I have been pleased to see State and local officials working with businesses and communities to enforce these important measures. Nevadans, by and large, continue to heed the call to protect themselves, each other and our State.
We are aware it will take several weeks for the mitigations that we have put in place reflect in our case data, but these measures will help us battle this virus.
While we know the case data may take some time to reflect the changes, the State has also been watching compliance information, led by OSHA and complemented by efforts in counties and cities.
OSHA has completed more than 1,500 initial observations so far, with a compliance rate of 79 percent. That means one-fifth of businesses visited by OSHA inspectors are not in compliance with our measures, and this is unacceptable.
We are still watching the continued increase in our confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations as well. As many of you know, the trends are more than concerning in certain counties in our State.
Across the country, we have seen far too many instances where hospital capacity appeared fine one day and then were overwhelmed the next with increased COVID-19 patients.
We do not want that to happen here. So we will do what we must to make sure that our hospitals are able to provide the best possible care to all patients.
Today, my Office had a call with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
While discussing Nevada’s data and using other state’s data as guides, the federal representatives advised that if Nevada did not take swift policy action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our state, we would likely soon be in a precarious condition where hospitals are overwhelmed with patients in the very near future.
This information, based on the increasing trends we’ve been experiencing, led me to my decision today. The decision is based on targeting high-risk areas where infection is more likely to occur.
That’s why, tonight, I am announcing that as of 11:59pm tomorrow, Friday July 10th, bars in certain counties in Nevada will be returning to similar restrictions laid out in Phase 1 of our Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery.
We know that COVID-19 can easily spread when people are congregating for long periods of time, like inside a bar. In states where we have seen significant spikes, such as Arizona, Texas and Florida, they have all taken actions to roll back bars. Recently, Dr. Fauci, the US’s top infectious-disease expert, advised that congregating in bars poses a significant risk and is one of the most dangerous things people could do right now. We must heed his advice.
Additionally, I am concerned because based on our inspections thus far, fewer than half the bars that OSHA inspectors have visited have been found in compliance.
Right now, our HHS teams are confirming the criteria that would designate a county in Nevada as a hotspot. Tomorrow, I will be releasing that criteria and the names of the counties that will be required to close bars tomorrow at 11:59pm, per this directive.
Just like in Phase 1, this applies to bars and taverns that do not serve food. They can still provide curbside pickup and delivery where allowed locally, but they can no longer have patrons on the premises.
Restaurants with bar areas must close the bar areas to patrons and continue to limit capacity to 50%. Customers seated at tables can still be served alcohol, but they cannot congregate in bar areas or be served at the bar. All bartops will be closed, regardless of whether they have gaming machines installed.
In addition to the rollback on bars in certain counties, I am also adding new statewide restrictions in this directive: all restaurants and other food establishments, like pubs, breweries, distilleries, and wineries which are licensed to serve food may not seat parties larger than six people — indoors or outdoors.
And while this directive does not prohibit indoor dining, I am strongly encouraging all food establishments to promote outdoor dining as much as possible as well.
This measure will go into effect Friday at 11:59pm, and will stay in place until further notice. I am hopeful we will see a downward trend in numbers so we can continue to reopen safely.
And while not in the Directive today, I want to assure all Nevadans and visitors that we are monitoring other areas where fellow States have taken action, like swimming pools and gyms.
I want to be crystal clear: unless you are actively walking into a pool, swimming in a pool, or walking out of a pool, you should have a face covering on at all times. It’s a simple as that.
And when it comes to gyms, you must wear a face covering at all times, unless you are actively engaged in a high intensity workout. And if that’s the case, you must be at least six feet apart from other people.
We will continue to monitor compliance in these areas, as well as follow the COVID-19 data, and continue to evaluate and take action as necessary.
Again, these are not decisions that I like to make, but I assure you, I am not making it lightly. Especially while lawmakers just down the way are evaluating the budget reductions the State has put forward. We know that additional business closures will further effect our economy and impede our recovery.
When we began reopening, I committed that we would remain flexible, and let data and recommendations of public health and emergency management professionals dictate the best course of action for protecting Nevadans.
I have committed to being transparent and honest with Nevadans since this all started, and that’s exactly why I am here today.
Protecting the health and safety of Nevadans is and always will be my top priority. Right now, that means reimplementing some of these restrictions in order to save lives and protect our health care system.
And it means reminding Nevadans of some simple truths that have not changed throughout this pandemic: we are safer at home. If we must go out, we are safer when we wear masks and practice social distancing. And we must remember to wash our hands and avoid touching our faces.
Thank you for your time today. I will now take a few questions.