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‘Getting us back to normal’: Clark County sets date for full reopening

Updated May 18, 2021 - 4:16 pm

Clark County will fully reopen June 1 and face masks will no longer be required in many cases for fully vaccinated people, signaling a major milestone in the year-plus fight against the coronavirus for Nevada’s most populous region.

The county commission’s decision Tuesday to move to pre-pandemic rules starting next month comes amid sustained declines in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, coupled with the ongoing availability of vaccines, according to Dr. Fermin Leguen, the chief health officer for the Southern Nevada Health District.

The commission opted to follow federal guidance on face coverings for fully inoculated people after the state did the same nearly immediately once the guidance was issued late last week.

“I think we do still have to stay on top of this because nobody wants to go backwards,” Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said about the virus.

She said the county will keep close watch over public health metrics and could restore protections in the event that hospital capacity rises. Leguen acknowledged that monitoring the virus was “going to be a long-term effort.”

The commission’s move to repeal pandemic restrictions, including on capacity, large gatherings, dancing and more, was supported by city, school, hospital and health officials in Southern Nevada.

It also represented the fulfillment of a full reopening goal set by Gov. Steve Sisolak when the state transitioned local control over the pandemic to counties on May 1.

Vaccination marker not met

But a full reopening is also now set to occur despite the county likely failing to reach a countywide vaccination rate threshold detailed in its local multi-agency mitigation plan, which the county will entirely delete effective June 1. Officials had sought to advance beyond the current 80-percent capacity limit only when 60 percent of eligible people had received at least one dose of a vaccine.

The figure now is at about 52 percent, according to Kirkpatrick.

Still, much higher immunization rates among older, more vulnerable populations made officials comfortable to proceed with rescinding existing rules, Kirkpatrick said.

Eighty percent of people at least 70 years old have been fully vaccinated in the county, she said. The same is true for more than 70 percent between 60 and 69 years old, and just about 60 percent of people in their fifties.

However, people between 20 to 39 years old were “still struggling,” she acknowledged, with vaccination rates among the younger groups hovering in the 30 to 40 percentile.

“There’s only so much that government can do,” she told the Review-Journal following the commission meeting.

She vowed that the county would continue to offer vaccinations throughout the year and try new venues in an effort to encourage more to get their shots.

Similarly, Commissioner Tick Segerblom promised that a “full court press” would not cease in seeking to continue to make vaccines available in poorer communities.

Some rules still apply

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance last Thursday that those fully inoculated against the virus may stop wearing face coverings outdoors in crowds and in most indoor locations unless otherwise prohibited.

The federal recommendations still call for masks in crowded indoor settings including on buses, planes and trains, and in places such as hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters. And Nevada businesses are still permitted to continue mask requirements for customers and employees.

Additionally, the guidance recommends that people who have not been vaccinated continue to wear masks and follow other public health precautions until they have been inoculated. Any rules set by the state and agencies such as OSHA and the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which oversees casinos, will continue to apply.

“The pandemic is by far not over,” Kirkpatrick said, “but this is at least getting us back to normal so that we can maintain some normalcy and continue to be responsible.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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