Reno, Sparks and Washoe County will follow state’s Phase One reopening plan

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Local barber Dee Goodman opens up her business to existing clients despite state order to remain closed due to COVID-19. Reno Gazette Journal

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Washoe County on Friday announced it would be following Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Phase One reopening plan to the letter, which allows most businesses and restaurants to resume operations on Saturday, May 9.

Restaurants, food trucks, barber shops, hair salons, most retail stores and a laundry list of other services the state had previously ordered closed during the COVID-19 pandemic will be allowed to reopen under certain restrictions this weekend.

More: Washoe County’s Phase One guidelines

Restrictions include limits to the number of people allowed inside a given establishment and required face masks and social distancing for employees.

“We have to be smart and extremely cautious … being careful and getting this right is not just important for the businesses that are opening in Phase One, but it also matters for the folks who will come in later phases of the recovery plan,” Reno Vice Mayor Devon Reese said in a Friday press briefing about the county’s plans.

Under the governor’s Phase One reopening directive, individual counties have the option to impose additional restrictions if they feel the need to do so.

Washoe County is forgoing this option, despite concerns over increasing case numbers, COVID-19 hospitalizations and reported PPE shortages at local hospitals.

More: Sisolak: Nevada will start next phase of coronavirus reopening plan earlier than expected

As testing capability expands, the county is anticipating Washoe’s case count to continue to rise, according to Bob Lucey, who chairs the county commission.

And despite hospitalizations not trending downward, Lucey said the region’s hospitals have enough bed space to cope with more sick people. There are also plans to expand hospital capacity if needed.

“Our hospitals are prepared,” Lucey said. “And we have ample capacity in all of our hospitals (that we feel is) necessary if hospitalizations continue.”

Currently, 47 people are hospitalized in Washoe County for COVID-19. As of Thursday, 62 percent of the county’s short-term acute-care hospital beds are occupied, 35 percent of ICU beds are occupied and 19 percent of ventilators are in use.

While most restaurants and retail businesses are allowed to open on May 9, several others — including gyms, bars, nightclubs, casinos and movie theaters — will open in later phases of the plan.

More: Reno restaurants, reeling from COVID-19 shutdown, look to re-opening in an industry forever changed

For those that are opening this weekend, the county has issued specific guidelines for what businesses should be doing to be in compliance with the governor’s orders.

The county has also produced a “COVID-compliant” window sign that can be printed out and placed in a business’s window, declaring that location is requiring face coverings, six feet of social distancing and frequent handwashing.

Reese said there’s no official qualification or check a business has to pass before posting one of those signs. Rather, it’s “scout’s honor.”

Enforcement of the governor’s guidelines will be mostly education based, Lucey said.

Businesses reported to the county for not complying will be visited by code enforcement, who will inform them of the requirements. They’ll then visit again in 24-48 hours to see if they’re in compliance and re-inform them if they’re not.

Citations are a last resort, he said.

“I’d like to personally thank our amazing community, including every single resident and every single business in Sparks, Reno and Washoe County,” Sparks Mayor Ron Smith said at the briefing. “You have sacrificed; you’ve stayed home, closed your doors, altered your business plans and done your part to flatten the curve.”

More: Barbers, restaurants, more: These businesses can reopen in Nevada’s Phase 1 reopening plan

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