Coronavirus updates: 3 new cases confirmed in Washoe County

Editor’s note: This content is being provided for free as a public service to our readers during the coronavirus outbreak. Please support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal. This story about how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting Nevada communities was is being updated throughout the day on Saturday, March 21. 

Health officials confirm three new cases in Washoe County 

The Washoe County Health District confirmed three new coronavirus cases on Saturday.

The patients include a man in his 20s who recently traveled internationally and a woman in her 50s who traveled within the country.

That also includes a woman in her 60s who is a contact to a patient in a known case, health officials said in a news release.

All three residents are self-isolating and are in stable condition.

As of 7 a.m. on Saturday, the Incident Management Team was given authority by Reno, Sparks and Washoe County to manage the regional COVID-19 crisis.

The team is expected to support the region’s local governments and partners on logistical, fiscal, planning, operational, safety, and community issues.

As of Saturday, the Nevada State Public Health Lab tested 1,406 patients for COVID-19.

The recent positive cases bring the total to 25 cases in Washoe County. That includes all current cases and patients who have recovered.

Nevada attorney general says Las Vegas must enforce closure mandate 

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and Las Vegas City Attorney Brad Jerbic agreed the city of Las Vegas must enforce Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order to close all non-essential businesses.

On Saturday, Sisolak thanked Ford and Jerbic “for working together to reach the conclusion that the emergency directive to close all nonessential businesses is in fact legal,” according to the governor’s Twitter page.

Sisolak said he is working with local partners to continue to enforce the mandate.

On Friday, Las Vegas city officials said they would not prosecute businesses, defying the governor’s order for a statewide shutdown, according to a report from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The order also left several law enforcement agencies questioning how they would enforce the closure.

At a press conference on Friday, Sisolak said the order would give local governments additional authority to yank licenses and impose fines on noncompliant business owners.

He said state and local law enforcement would also be able to treat shutdown scofflaws as criminals.

He also took aim at unspecified public officials who felt he had flouted a softer Tuesday directive that encouraged nonessential businesses to close their doors.

Sisolak said leaders who weren’t enforcing the mandate and businesses that were ignoring the order were endangering families.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has also been vocal about her misgivings over Sisolak’s initial shutdown declaration.

Law enforcement increases patrol to protect closed businesses

Law enforcement agencies will have extra officers on patrol in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County to help keep watch over closed business amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to the Washoe County Regional Response Team.

Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam, Reno Police Chief Jason Soto, and Sparks Police Acting Chief Chris Crawforth also reminded owners to keep their businesses closed through April 16.

The statement emphasized the closure of all non-essential businesses is in compliance with a statewide effort to reduce the spread of the virus.

Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency declaration outlined specific actions governments can take if business owners chose to violate the state’s directive.

Law enforcement leaders intend to issue warnings to businesses to help spread awareness about the importance of the state’s action, the impact it will have on businesses, and the potential penalties are for violating the mandate.

Balaam, Soto, and Crawforth also encouraged residents to support the businesses that have legally remained open, including restaurants that now over curbside pick-up or delivery.

Anyone with questions or who want to report a violation are asked to contact the city of Reno at 775-334-4636 (INFO); online at www.reno.gov/covid19 or via email at businesslic@reno.gov.

Residents can also contact the city of Sparks at 775-353-5555 or via email at business@cityofsparks.us, or Washoe County at 775-328-3733 or at businesslicense@washoecounty.us.

Sisolak extends school shutdown directive through April 16

Gov. Steve Sisolak has ordered Nevada’s schools shuttered through April 16, adding 10 days to a classroom closure order first issued last week.

The governor’s coronavirus communications team announced the move in a late Friday press release that described the effort as a necessary step to halt the deadly virus’ spread. 

“Each decision we are making in response to the COVID-19 crisis is based on the latest scientific data and recommendations from health officials, which can sometimes change as frequently as every hour,” Sisolak said in a statement.

“I have been working closely with Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert and the Nevada Department of Education to ensure our response to this unprecedented public health crisis is in the best interest of our students, their families, teachers, and all of the essential staff involved in the education of our children.”

More: COVID-19: Sisolak sharpens shutdown order: Most businesses must close by midnight Friday

Related: Coronavirus updates: Clark reports 52 new cases, Washoe reports 4 — includes UNR student

Nevada’s schools are now scheduled to reopen the same day that nonessential business owners and workers are expected to go back to work. 

Sisolak closed the state’s K-12 classrooms on March 15 and has ordered school district officials to come up with some sort of remote learning program for students by March 23.

Federal officials have waived or suspended several school testing and reporting requirements in light of the ongoing COVID pandemic. Sisolak has also suspended state-specific student exam requirements. 

Next month’s planned reopening of school facilities will require the approval of the state’s chief medical officer, pending a review of virus-related risks on school campuses.

Interim Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill acknowledged the new advisory in a statement released on Saturday.

“District staff members continue to work on plans for launching distance education programs for our students via virtual and hard copy educational materials,” McNeill wrote. “I want to thank all of you for your support and understanding over the past week. As a parent and an educator, I know how challenging this time has been for our entire community, and I appreciate your willingness to work with us.”

More information on Friday’s directive is available at nvhealthresponse.nv.gov

A charitable relief fund has been set up to help individuals, businesses, government services, and nonprofit organizations in the community.

The relief fund was created with the help of the Reno, Sparks, Washoe County and the Community Foundation of Western Nevada, according to a news release on Saturday.

The fund advisory committee includes representatives from local organizations, governments, the foundations and other experts who can advise on the impact of the virus.

The committee will decide and recommend grants to the Community Foundation Board of Trustees.

The goal is to take action to help people in the community.

People are asked to contribute to the relief fund on the foundation’s website, www.nevadafund.org.

The United Way of Northern Nevada and Sierra has also created the United Way Emergency Assistance Fund. For more information, visit the organization’s website at www.uwnns.org.

Nellis Air Force Base confirms 2 positive coronavirus cases

Nellis Air Force Base has confirmed two new positive COVID-19 coronavirus cases, for a total of six cases.

“All members are being treated and entered isolation at the time of symptom onset,” the agency said on its website. “The members will remain in isolation in accordance with CDC protocols.”

The Air Force base, in North Las Vegas, is working with federal, state and local health officials to ensure detection and response efforts are coordinated.

Leadership at the base is also monitoring the situation.

State epidemiologist urges Nevadans to stay home 

Nevada State Epidemiologist Melissa Peek-Bullock urged residents to stay home after seeing a “frightening” increase in testing and more positive case.  

In her announcement on Saturday, Peek-Bullock said health officials have been using an online site to keep count on positive cases.

She referred to the site as the COVID-19 Dashboard, developed by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services Office of Analytics.

“We have seen this week that more COVID-19 testing equals more positive cases, and while it is frightening to see the case count increase, this information allows us to connect with patients and make sure they are being cared for and staying isolated from others,” Peek-Bullock said in a statement.

“We encourage everyone to follow the advice to ‘Stay Home for Nevada,’ as that will help slow the spread in our communities.”

Health officials are updating the page with new numbers Tuesday through Saturday—which aligns with the nationwide updates posted on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention site.

The main page of the Nevada Health Response website has a link to the dashboard, along with updates and information on the state’s response to the outbreak.

Health officials said that, because the data changes rapidly as labs continue to conduct tests and discover new cases, the numbers may not always match the most recent reports released by local health jurisdictions.

The data may also reflect results from patients who live outside of Nevada.

“Those cases will be removed once the epidemiological investigation is performed,” health officials said in the news release.

Nonprofit group announces new COVID relief fund

The Community Foundation of Western Nevada has started a charitable relief fund for those affected by the coronavirus in Northern Nevada. 

The fund — opened with help from officials in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County — will distribute grants to individuals, businesses, governmental services and charitable nonprofits, according to a Saturday release from the foundation. 

Grant winners will be recommended by a panel of virus experts, foundation members and representatives from local organizations and governments.    

“We are in this together and we can come together as a community and contribute to help each other,” Community Foundation CEO Chris Askin said in a statement. 

Contributions to the fund can be made on the foundation’s website, nevadafund.org.       

The Community Foundation of Western Nevada is a Reno-based nonprofit group that distributes grants and scholarships from 240 different charitable funds.

The foundation said its COVID-19 relief effort is intended to “address the larger and long-term picture and take action where it will be most effective at helping people in our community.”

Las Vegas Metro Police to enforce COVID shutdown order

Nevada’s largest police force will carry out compliance checks to support Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mandatory statewide shutdown of nonessential businesses.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department on Saturday announced it’s Special Investigations Section, or SIS, had already started looking in on operations that remain open in violation of the governor’s closure order.

The department says officers will also run down tips relayed via email or through the department’s non-emergency 311 phone line. 

Washoe commissioners cancel upcoming meeting

The Washoe County Board of Commissioners has canceled a regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting to comply with coronavirus prevention guidelines from Gov. Steve Sisolak. 

County officials announced the postponement in a Saturday statement that cited limits on public gatherings laid out in Sisolak’s recent statewide emergency declaration.

The announcement comes after the Reno City Council limited attendance at its Wednesday meeting to just 25 people, including city staff. The Washoe County School District last week canceled a meeting scheduled to discuss athletics.

Information on future county board meetings is available at washoecounty.us.

Officials remind residents there’s no such thing as a ‘flushable’ wipe 

Nevadans panic buying toilet paper during the coronavirus may want to consider sharing some of their spoils in Fernley, where sewer workers are grappling with blockages caused by creative alternatives to regular old TP.

A Saturday tweet from the Washoe County Health District offered a graphic reminder not to flush baby wipes, shredded t-shirts or anything else down the toilet — even if you can’t find any Charmin on your local store’s shelves:

DMV: 90-day extension for drivers with expiring licenses, vehicle registration 

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles extended an automatic 90-day extension for drivers with expiring licenses, vehicle registrations, and other documents.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a declaration of emergency authorizing the extension Friday afternoon, according to a news release from DMV.

“The extension provides some reassurance to Nevada drivers that, while the DMV continues to conduct business online, any processing delays caused by the DMV physical office closures will not result in penalties for expired driver’s licenses, registration, or other DNV documents in the near future,” Sisolak said in a statement.

“We will continue to explore and implement creative solutions to relieve some of the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis.”

The DMV is granting an extension for documents that have an expiration date between March 16 and April 30, officials said. That includes all types of driver’s licenses and ID cards, vehicle registrations and movement permits, business licenses and motor carrier credentials.

The extension does not include vehicle liability insurance or any SR-22 requirements.

Drivers are still required to have insurance coverage.

“No one is going to face a penalty because they are unable to complete a DMV transaction,” said DMV director Julie Butler. “At the same time, however, we’re encouraging customers to complete their business online, if at all possible, to help avoid backlogs once services are fully restored.”

Online transactions include:

  • Vehicle registration renewals
  • Registration of vehicles purchased from a state dealer
  • Registration cancellation
  • Insurance verification and reinstatement
  • Driver history printouts
  • Duplicate driver’s licenses and registration decals

Residents can visit the DMV website (www.dmvnv.com) to download an extension letter and to view a complete list of online services.

Sisolak stiffens shutdown order, four new cases confirmed in Washoe

Gov. Steve Sisolak is no longer asking nonessential Nevada businesses to close.

Sisolak on Friday ordered the closure of most Silver State storefronts, including bars, restaurants, malls and other operations that he had previously asked to shutter during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. 

“Today, I’m taking that next step,” Sisolak said during a press conference live-streamed on his Facebook page. “I’m no longer asking nonessential businesses to close. I repeat, if you are not an essential business, I’m ordering you to close.”

“There should be no confusion, and there’s none in my mind: You must shut down.”

The first-term Democrat has carved out some exceptions to the otherwise sweeping executive order

Restaurants, for example, will still be allowed to operate via takeout, drive-through and delivery services, while state-licensed pot shops will have to temporarily shift to a delivery-only model.

Sisolak on Thursday signed a separate order that also allows casinos and resorts to remain open for “essential or emergency purposes,” such as housing a potential influx of doctors and emergency personnel fighting against the virus.

The governor’s latest COVID-19 prevention directive went into effect at midnight on Friday and will remain enforceable through April 16. It gives local governments additional authority to yank licenses and impose fines on noncompliant business owners. State and local law enforcement will also have the ability to treat shutdown scofflaws as criminals. 

A detailed list of essential and nonessential businesses subject to the order is available at nvhealthresponse.nv.gov.

Health officials are reporting a total of 109 confirmed cases – including two confirmed deaths – of the respiratory ailment in Nevada.

A demographics table released by the Southern Nevada Health District reveals more than half of the patients in the state’s largest population center are between the ages of 25 and 49.

Washoe County also announced its first hospitalizations since the coronavirus reached Northern Nevada. Two of the four new cases announced Friday are in the hospital: a man in his 70s and a man in his 50s.

In brighter news, health officials on Friday announced that one of the 22 people infected with the virus in Washoe has fully recovered and has been released from self-isolation.

James DeHaven is the politics reporter for the Reno Gazette Journal. He covers campaigns, the Nevada Legislature and everything in between. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here

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