May 26, 2020 - 3:11 pm
Updated May 27, 2020 - 10:31 am
CARSON CITY — More of Nevada’s daily routines will return Friday, with limits, as Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Tuesday night the further easing of COVID-19 restrictions, including gatherings for church services and the reopening of more businesses, such as bars and health facilities.
The governor, who canceled his live briefing late Tuesday afternoon because of a possible exposure to the coronavirus, made the announcement in a news release and a short conference call with reporters. Nevada will enter Phase Two of its plan to reopen the state economy and resume other aspects of daily life placed on indefinite hold 10 weeks ago amid the spreading pandemic.
And the governor confirmed a pre-Memorial Day prediction that the state’s casinos and other tourist attractions could resume June 4.
“We will certainly be welcoming visitors back to Nevada on June 4,” he told reporters. “We’ve taken every precaution possible. I don’t think you’re going to find a safer place to come than Las Vegas on June 4 with the protocols that we’ve put in place, the testing that we put in place.”
Entering Phase Two brings a significantly wider array of businesses back into operation, adding to those given the go-ahead in Phase One on May 9, including food establishments, The newly added businesses include:
— Bars that don’t serve food
— Gyms and other health and fitness facilities
— Spas, massage therapy and aesthetic service establishments
— Tattoo and piercing shops
— Recreational areas and pools
— Movie theaters, bowling alleys, arcades and similar establishments
— State parks for limited day-use and overnight stays
— Sporting events, concerts and theater performances without an audience
Among those that remain closed:
— Events with live audiences
— Strip clubs and other adult entertainment establishments
— Nightclubs and dayclubs
Sisolak said youth sports would also return in Phase Two “at some point,” pending more review.
“There are a lot of considerations at play here, and for our youth, we want to make sure we have a strong, safe plan in place,” he said.
Sisolak is said he would modify his rules for public gatherings, raising the size limit to 50, from 10. With that change, the governor also announced that places of worship will again be able to hold in-person services as long as they keep in-person attendance to under 50 and adhere to social distancing guidelines, including keeping people 6 feet apart.
“I am confident faith leaders will follow the guidance and restrictions necessary to protect the health and welfare of their communities,” the governor said in his remarks.
The governor noted the positive trends across the board that made moving to Phase Two possible: The rate of people testing positive has declined for 31 days and is now at 6.5 percent. Hospitalizations have declined for 35 days. Testing and lab capacity continue to expand and have surpassed the goal of 4,000 tests per day. Monday saw 9,325 test results reported, Sisolak said. Contact tracing efforts are also expanding.
Despite the additional rollbacks, the governor again urged people to wear face coverings in public and “maintain at least six feet of social distancing when you are out in public and around people from other households.”
Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, the governor said the time frame for Phase Two would be similar to the initial phase, lasting two to three weeks.
“It could go a little slower than that. We could have to roll things back if data doesn’t continue to come in the way we like to see it or numbers don’t look good,” he said. “You need 14 days to get a sense of how these things are progressing.”
The governor’s staff said that official directives and guidance for industries will be issued Wednesday.
Sisolak initially had scheduled a 5:30 p.m. news conference to make the announcement but canceled it shortly before that start time after he was informed that he may have been exposed to the virus during a visit he made to a workplace last week “where an employee — who was not in the building at the time — has since reported testing positive for COVID-19.”
“I want to be clear: I feel fine and I am not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19,” the governor said in his statement. “I hope Nevadans can use this as a learning lesson, if you have been exposed, or if you know someone who has been exposed, go get a test, even if you’re asymptomatic. It’s that easy.”
He later declined, when asked by reporters, to give more details on the circumstances of his possible exposure.
The cancellation, and later technical difficulties that prevented a prerecorded video announcement the governor had planned, drew widespread consternation and criticism on social media — much of it a reflection of how much the announcement had been anticipated.
Some Las Vegas small-business owners welcomed the news but still had questions.
Geno Hill, owner of Rum Runner and two other bars in Las Vegas, was preparing his establishments to open with gaming on June 4 but was confused about the new rules on crowd size. He also complained about the “terrible” short notice.
“Granted, we all wanna get open, but how are we supposed to prepare to be open in a short period of time?” Hill said.
Chad Cole, co-owner of a gym that protested the statewide shutdown, said he would reopen with more stringent safety precautions in place. He said he believed businesses such as his “forced the governor’s hand.”
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at email@example.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter. Contact Capital Bureau chief Colton Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Staff writer Mike Shoro contributed to this report.