Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Pool
Published Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 | 10:24 a.m.
Updated Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 | 8:37 p.m.
Gaming establishments, bars, restaurants and other businesses throughout Nevada will be capped at 25% capacity in an attempt to limit the spread of the surging coronavirus, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Sunday.
The changes go into effect Tuesday and will continue at least three weeks, Sisolak said during a video news conference broadcast on the governor’s YouTube channel. The broadcast originated from the governor’s mansion in Carson City, where Sisolak continues to recover from his own bout of COVID-19.
Event gathering sizes, including at churches and resort showrooms, will be dropped from a maximum of 250 attendees to 50, or 25% of fire code capacity.
Restaurants and bars that serve food are moving down from the current 50% capacity and are required to take reservations, with no more than four people per table. Walk-in diners will not be allowed.
“I know the majority of our bars and restaurants are doing their best, but these settings are proven to be high risk because they allow the opportunity for people to remove their face coverings in indoor settings around people outside of their household,” Sisolak said. “That’s how the virus spreads.”
The state is also limiting private gatherings to 10 or fewer people. Additionally, Sisolak is asking residents to wear a mask at private gatherings if the attendees aren’t part of their immediate household — regardless if the visit takes place indoors or outdoors.
Lastly, adult and youth sports tournaments — many of which are conducted on weekends — will be paused.
Retail establishments including indoor malls and grocery stores can continue operating at 50% capacity, and hair and nail salons will not be affected by the newest round of regulations.
Fitness centers will be required to adhere to the 25% of capacity cap, and clients at those centers must wear a mask at all times unless they are pausing their workout for a drink. If a workout activity is too difficult for someone to perform with a mask on, the governor said, that person will have to find an alternate activity because of the mask mandate.
Seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases of coronavirus, daily deaths and COVID-19 testing positivity all continued to rise in Nevada over the past two weeks, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project and Johns Hopkins University analyzed by The Associated Press.
The average number of daily new COVID-19 cases has risen from 1,019 on Nov. 5 to 1,854 on Friday, while the positivity rate has climbed from 10.2% to 14.4%.
Sisolak opened his remarks with a statistic to put the surge into perspective: 10% of the total COVID cases in Nevada have been recorded in the past seven days, he said. The 2,155 confirmed cases Sunday increased the state’s total to 133,888 since the pandemic began.
He said the state was on a “rapid trajectory” that threatened to overwhelm the state’s health care system and its workers.
“Our case rate growth is at a wildfire level — even outpacing neighboring states, such as Arizona. All available models indicate that Nevada is in a ‘red zone’ and our health experts anticipate continued case growth based on current trends,” Sisolak said.
On Saturday, there were 2,019 new cases and 29 virus-related deaths reported, bringing the number of fatalities to more than 2,000.
Sisolak on Nov. 10 urged Nevadans to stay home for two weeks to combat the surge, saying that if the “deeply concerning” trends were not slowed, he would consider again shuttering parts of the economy. Sunday’s announcement was his response to the continuing surge of cases in the state.
And if rates continue to increase after this three-week pause, Sisolak said he would not hesitate taking further action. “I don’t want to impose further restrictions, but we are too close to the real solution, the vaccines, to give up now,” he said.
In mid-March, the state ordered the temporary closure of all nonessential business, including casinos, which were not allowed to reopen until June 4.
The shutdown resulted in historic unemployment of 30% in Nevada and saddled the state with a $1 billion budget deficit.
Under the new guidelines, casinos will feel a significant impact on weekends, when there have been reports of large crowds, especially on Sundays when NFL games are being contested.
Las Vegas Strip resorts, meanwhile, have seen weaker demand midweek, prompting some to open their hotels only for the weekends.
The Nevada Resort Association, through a statement, said it urges the public to “join us by following recommended practices and behaviors” outlined by Sisolak’s order.
“Like every state in the nation, Nevada faces a grim future if the virus’ spread is not contained and reversed quickly,” the statement read. “With the public’s help, we are optimistic we can move through this situation swiftly and return to the business of bringing people back to work safely and moving our economy forward.”
Sisolak’s announcement is a significant blow to live entertainment, which was slowly starting to come back at various spots on the Strip.
In the last few days alone, Caesars Entertainment announced “Mat Franco: Magic Reinvented Nightly” to begin Dec. 17 at Linq, while ventriloquist and comedian Terry Fator’s new show was set to debut Wednesday at New York-New York.
In a statement MGM Resorts International, which operates New York-New York, said: “This will clearly have a major impact on entertainment and we are working with our partners to determine the path forward. We will share that information as quickly as possible to minimize guest inconvenience.”
Sisolak stressed that while he was asking Nevadans to do more, he said he was hopeful the pandemic was closer to its ending than its beginning.
“We’re not at (the virus’) mercy,” Sisolak said. “We can do so much if we just all work together and everybody does their part.”
Staff writer Bryan Horwath and The Associated Press contributed to this report.