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Nevada’s bars, gyms, spas, tattoo parlors and a whole host of other businesses can resume limited operations on May 29, when Gov. Steve Sisolak says the state will enter the second phase of its plan to curb colossal economic damage caused by the coronavirus.
Sisolak on Tuesday said the Silver State continues to make steady progress toward meeting virus containment benchmarks spelled out in its reopening blueprint, prompting officials to loosen long-standing restrictions on public pools, water parks, zoos, museums, movie theaters, bowling alleys, indoor malls and many other “nonessential” operations first shuttered in mid-March. The state has targeted a June 4 reopening for its hard-hit casino industry.
Many businesses will have to limit operations to half of their normal customer capacity. Most employees will also be required to wear face masks throughout the latest phase of Nevada’s reopening plan. Church services and other high-density indoor gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 50 people.
Sports venues, brothels, strip clubs and nightclubs will all remain shuttered for at least another two weeks — the earliest date when Sisolak says the state could start phase three. The governor’s office is also reconsidering some aspects of statewide travel advisories imposed during the COVID crisis, though he has not ruled out reimposing strict virus-prevention measures in the event of a sudden spike in cases.
“We are willing to pull back, but we’ve got a pretty robust contact tracing program in place,” he said in a late Tuesday call with reporters. “We welcome visitors from across the country to come here and have a good time as they have in the past, but we’ll remain cautious.
“It would definitely be a setback if there were any type of spike (in cases). … I don’t see that happening. I’m confident in the restrictions that have been put in place.”
The governor made the announcements in remarks released nearly four hours after his office abruptly canceled a planned in-person press conference at the state Legislature.
In a statement, spokeswoman Meghin Delaney said Sisolak called off the event after learning he had visited an unnamed workplace where an employee – who was not in the building at the time – later reported testing positive for COVID-19.
Delaney said the governor is scheduled to take a COVID-19 test on Wednesday morning. He later tweeted he had not experienced any virus symptoms in the five days since the potential exposure. A post to the governor’s Twitter account shows he visited the state’s unemployment office on the day of the virus scare.
Sisolak did not directly answer questions about where he might have come into contact with the virus.
The first-term Democrat has spent the last several weeks gradually relaxing strict coronavirus-prevention measures first implemented in mid-March, starting with last month’s reopening of smoke shops, breweries, liquor stores, pot shops, churches and recreational facilities.
A week later, the state announced it would ease longstanding restrictions on restaurants, retail stores, barber shops, auto dealerships, open-air malls and drive-in movie theaters. Then, late last week, Sisolak targeted a June 4 reopening date for casinos.
Virus-related travel and social distancing protocols have put a stranglehold on the state’s tourism-driven economy in recent weeks, prompting huge waves of casino worker layoffs that overwhelmed the state’s unemployment office.
Casino resort closures also stanched the flow of crucial sales and gaming taxes that pay for most of Nevada’s budget, threatening huge chunks of cash promised to thousands of teachers, health care workers and corrections officers.
State leaders earlier this month raided the Legislature’s rainy day fund to help fill a $911 million, coronavirus-shaped hole in the state’s spending plan.
The massive $401 million transfer left Nevada with less than $120 million for other unanticipated expenditures and revenue shortfalls — enough to cover a little more than one week of budgeted expenses.
State agencies have also been asked to trim up to $687 million from their two-year spending plans as officials brace for a near-total loss of expected tourism and gaming tax revenues.
Sisolak first declared a fiscal emergency two weeks ago, explaining in a statement that he would continue to work closely with state lawmakers on “the timing of any potential special session” meant to address ongoing budget woes.
This story will be updated with further information.
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