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Sisolak outlines steps to reopening business in Nevada

Updated April 23, 2020 - 9:02 am

CARSON CITY — Gov. Steve Sisolak provided more detail Wednesday on how and when Nevadans might gradually resume normal routines amid an anticipated receding threat of COVID-19 infection, clarifying the time frame and conditions for lifting directives that have constrained public life and commerce in the interest of public health since mid-March.

Speaking via Skype to the Review-Journal, the governor specifically addressed how the state will determine the date for allowing businesses to reopen and how the reboot of the state’s economy might be staged across the broad range of businesses.

In an interview where he also condemned “outrageous” comments from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman on reopening that city to business, including gaming and tourism, Sisolak also responded to questions on whether lifting restrictions and reopening businesses could be staggered across the state based on different criteria.

The governor on Tuesday laid out the 14-day time frame of declining COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that his health advisers say must occur before any restrictions are lifted. In Wednesday’s interview, he again said the state will not know when the 14-day clock starts ticking until perhaps several days into the process.

“You can’t tell if you have a downward trajectory until you’re a few a days into that trajectory,” Sisolak said. “We have not seen that yet. We’re seeing the stabilization — we’re just kind of moving along with a steady flat pace. When we see that downward trajectory begin, then I’d be able to say, hey, look, we’re seven days into the trajectory. If we maintain this downward trajectory for the next seven days, we’ll be able to move into Phase One. We’re not there yet. We have not started a downward trajectory. So I can’t give you that day.”

Because of that uncertainty, it is likely that several directives that are set to lapse on April 30 will have to be extended.

“We certainly won’t get 14 days in before the 30th, but by the 28th or 29th, who knows, we might be at Day 5 or 6 of a downward trajectory,” the governor said. “When we get closer to the 30th, we’ll be able to tell you that. But I can tell you for certain some of the directives will have to be extended. We’re clearly not going to be opening up any gaming establishments, and some of the other businesses, we’re gonna have to continue with the social distancing and the avoidance of large group gatherings and whatnot regardless.”

Staggered reopenings

Nevada’s most populous areas, Clark and Washoe counties, have been hardest hit by COVID-19 outbreak. Sisolak said he discussed with other governors Wednesday how states were responding to calls from counties and other localities less affected by the outbreak who want to ease restrictions sooner.

“That’s a difficult thing to do, and I have not been able to come up with a way that that would be possible yet. We’re still exploring that,” Sisolak said.

To illustrate the dilemma, Elko Mayor Reece Keener said in a open letter published Tuesday in the Elko Daily Free Press that a “‘one size fits all’ approach does not work for a largely rural and sparsely populated Nevada.”

“A statewide extension mandate will further deepen the economic damage that we have already incurred, plus it will be a huge psychological blow to the citizens that have diligently complied with the orders,” Keener wrote.

Using Elko County as an example, the governor said, “If you open up Elko County, and you don’t open up Clark County or Washoe County, and in Elko all the stores are open, the restaurants and bars, all the entertainment’s open, well, then the people from the other counties are going to go to Elko County because they’re tired of being locked up in their houses, and they want to experience that, and they’re all going to go back to their counties and then the virus is going to continue to spread. So that wouldn’t work.”

“It’s not just that we don’t want them to open,” he added. “It’s just that it has to be done in a way that it doesn’t negatively impact that county or the surrounding counties.”

State budget, business concerns

Sisolak discussed the likelihood of convening a special legislative session at some point to make crucial decisions related to state spending. In “an ideal world,” he said he hoped to get through the first or second phases of the reopening process before that session would be called.

The governor said he is in talks with the state’s congressional delegation and Vice President Mike Pence’s office about providing financial aid, which would have to be factored into the state spending decisions.

As for restarting the economy, Sisolak said some industries face greater challenges in reopening than others. Members of his Cabinet are meeting with licensing boards and trade associations to figure out the best way forward.

The governor, whose wife cut his hair this week, used hair salons as an example of one such challenge.

“I do not understand how you could cut someone’s hair and maintain social distancing,” Sisolak said. “Now I’m going to have to go to the cosmetology board and so forth and say, ‘OK, how would you propose that this would work in a hair salon?’ ”

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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