Gov. Steve Sisolak debuts Nevada’s COVID recovery plan, details what can and can’t reopen

‘Roadmap to Recovery’ caps a weeklong flurry of announcements from the governor’s office

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Many Nevada retail stores, small businesses and other “low-density open spaces” could  reopen in mid-May or sooner, according to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s plan to fix the state’s COVID-crushed economy.

Sisolak unveiled the plan, dubbed “Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery,” at a much-anticipated Thursday press conference in Carson City, where he said the state is making rapid progress toward meeting a number of COVID-containment criteria that will allow officials to more aggressively lift a lengthy lockdown on nonessential businesses.

Nevada remains in “phase zero” of that effort, Sisolak said, but is expected to move into a new phase around the same time his latest stay-at-home order expires on May 15. 

More: RGJ explains: How Sisolak’s plan to reopen economy will work

Related: Gov. Sisolak: Nevada hospitals, dental offices to resume necessary medical procedures

Officials predict it will take two or three weeks to work through each of the plan’s phases. Sisolak said he wasn’t sure how many phases the plan would ultimately require.  

“I know how most Nevadans are feeling right now,” the first-term Democrat told reporters. “The fog feels like it’s clearing away and many of you are probably asking why you’re sitting at home? Why are schools closed? Why can’t you grab a beer with your buddies or go to a game with your family? 

“I get it. Because we’ve done a good job, the threat of COVID-19 feels distant and abstract – to many, it might not feel as scary anymore. But I have the unfortunate responsibility to remind all of us that the threat remains real.”

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Sisolak repeatedly stressed that said business owners and customers should still wear face masks while shopping at reopened stores and that dine-in restaurants will remain subject to rigid public health guidelines. He said final decisions about how to reopen casinos will be left to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

“We will begin opening back up some outdoor spaces and small businesses, under extremely aggressive social distancing measures,” Sisolak added. “In other words, non-essential businesses, with some exceptions, may voluntarily reopen under restrictions.”

Sisolak later made peace overtures to rural county leaders — some of whom have sought to reopen without his blessing — by announcing the formation of a joint advisory panel meant to ensure “a strong state and local government partnership” through each phase of the reopening plan. He said counties will also play a central role in determining which types of businesses can reemerge in the coming weeks.

Thursday’s finalized reopening plan builds on an earlier, much broader framework for ending the shutdown — starting with gyms, certain restaurants and some outpatient surgery facilities. Sisolak said those operations could look forward to unlocking their doors once the state has, among other things, seen a 14-day decline in positive COVID tests and hospitalizations.

Already, the first-term Democrat has fast-tracked the limited reopening of all retail businesses and pot shops, along with some churches and recreational facilities.  

Sisolak’s latest batch of executive orders also allow smoke shops, breweries, and liquor stores to resume pickup and delivery services starting on Friday. 

The new directives go on to relax restrictions on outdoor activities such as golf, pickleball and tennis, but only if played “safely and in a way that prevents the spread of COVID-19.” Nevada hospitals and dental offices voluntarily resumed necessary medical procedures on Tuesday.

The state’s car, furniture and appliance showrooms will remain closed, as will salons, barber shops, bars, casinos and other nonessential businesses first shuttered on March 17. Houses may still be purchased, though open houses and in-person showings of occupied homes remain prohibited through at least May 15.

Sisolak has faced intense pressure from protesters, pundits and political rivals who want him to fully reopen the state.

Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and South Carolina were the first to lift virus-related shutdown orders on nonessential businesses. 

Colorado — which recently joined Nevada and three other states in drafting a “responsible” plan to restart West Coast economies — loosened some of its restrictions this week. 

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which Sisolak’s taken to calling “the Governor’s Office of Economic Recovery,” has started working with phase one-eligible businesses to iron out the details of how they can get back to work. Agency Director Michael Brown has also started “sector-specific discussions” on reopening plans for other industries in the coming weeks.

READ GOV. SISOLAK’S ENTIRE SPEECH HERE: 

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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