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Sisolak has plan to allow bigger conventions to boost Nevada economy

CARSON CITY — Nevada’s coronavirus-ravaged economy could get a boost come the turn of the year as the state is working on a plan that would allow conventions to have significantly more attendees, Gov. Steve Sisolak said Monday.

“Right now, I am working on a plan to increase capacity to 50 percent for conventions beginning January 1st, 2021, to get business back to the state and get Nevadans back to work, Sisolak said Monday during a news conference.

Conventions, one of the state’s biggest tourism and therefore economic drivers, have been all but shut down since mid-March due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the restrictions put in place to slow the spread.

Under the governor’s current directive that went into effect on Oct. 1, gathering limits are capped at 250 people for most indoor and outdoor events. However, the state has allowed for larger events, such as conventions, concerts and sporting events, to have up to 10 percent venue capacity after submitting a safety plan that has to be approved by state and local regulators.

Plea for conventions

When Sisolak announced the shift to the current gathering guidelines last month, he made a plea to planners of events, conventions and conferences who were considering holding their events in different states, noting Nevada’s recently passed worker protection and business liability protection bill and saying that he believes Nevada will be the safest place for them to host their events.

Increasing conventions to 50 percent capacity would lead to more local jobs returning, more business for the local and resort businesses as well as provide additional tax revenue from the boost in business, Sisolak said during Monday’s conference.

“A lot of these conventions plan months in advance, and I don’t want to lose the whole first quarter and second quarter of next year,” Sisolak said.

Sisolak also said that he’s working with health and education leaders on a plan that would let students return to the classroom across the state. Right now, school districts in the state are using various hybrids, such as Washoe County where elementary school children have returned to in-person classes full time while middle and high school are using a cohort hybrid model, or all digital models, such as in the Clark County School District.

The governor’s announcement comes as Nevada and other parts of the country are seeing another surge in COVID-19 infections and other key trends.

Confident in safety

Sisolak said he doesn’t have “set-in-stone numbers” that he’s looking at to make the determination to allow the conventions to increase the capacity limits, but said that he’s confident that the resorts will be able to transport guests and attendees safely and keep them safe during the conventions.

Asked if he would consider holding off on increasing the limit if Nevada’s numbers don’t reverse course by late December or continue to worsen, Sisolak said he doesn’t “want to play the ‘if’ game.”

“I’m confident that we’re going to be on a downward trend,” he said.

But the governor stressed the need for the public to continue to follow social distancing and other safety guidelines in order for life to return to some semblance of normalcy for Nevadans.

“We’re not going to get here by flipping a coin. We’re going to get there if everyone is willing to put in the hard work to get us there,” Sisolak said. “If it’s important to you that we get our kids back in school, if it’s important to you that we get our conventions to 50 percent, wear a mask and practice social distancing.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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