State releases criteria, county list to help slow spread of coronavirus

Gov. Sisolak orders certain bars to close to fight rising COVID-19 infections
Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 7:01 PM PDT|Updated: Jul. 10, 2020 at 1:20 PM PDT
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CARSON CITY, Nev. (KOLO) - UPDATE: Governor Steve Sisolak’s office has released new details about his directive to close bars that don’t serve food in certain Nevada counties to help stop the spread of coronavirus.

On Friday, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services released the elevated disease transmission criteria for determining whether a county must revert back to Phase 1 for bars.

Counties that currently meet at least two of the measures include:

  • Clark County (Criteria two and three)
  • Elko County (Criteria two and three)
  • Humboldt County (Criteria one and three)
  • Lander County (Criteria two and three)
  • Lyon (Criteria one and three)
  • Nye County (Criteria one, two, and three)
  • Washoe County (Criteria two and three)

According to the state, the criteria measures:

  • Average Number of Tests per Day: this is the average number of cases resulted during the previous week in a county, divided by the number of people living in the county. This number is then multiplied by 100,000 to control for varying populations in counties. Counties that average fewer than 150 tests per day will meet this elevated disease transmission risk criteria.
  • Case Rate: this is the total number of cases diagnosed as positive and reported over a two-week period divided by the number of people living in the county. This number is then multiplied by 100,000 to control for varying populations in counties. Counties with a case rate higher than 100 will meet this elevated disease transmission risk criteria.
  • Test Positivity: this is the total number of cases diagnosed as positive averaged over a 7-day period, with a 7-day lag, divided by the number of people living in the county. Counties that have a case rate higher than 25 and a test positivity rate higher than 7 percent will meet this elevated disease transmission risk criteria.

According to the governor’s office, counties will be reevaluated in about two weeks and must show positive trends out of two of the three risk criteria to be allowed to reopen.

In addition to reducing their elevated disease transmission risk, counties must also submit a reopening plan that includes mitigation initiatives and compliance plans to the Department of Health and Human Services for approval to reopen. The first seven counties will be reevaluated on Friday, July 24.

The governor’s office said additional counties who are deemed an Elevated Transmission Risk County may be added to this list based on the criteria at any time, and will be reevaluated on their own two week schedule.

Officials released the following guidance on bar areas within gaming establishments:

Bars, pubs, taverns, breweries, distilleries, and wineries not licensed to serve food and located in a county with an Elevated Disease Transmission shall close and remain closed, including these same establishments located in restricted or nonrestricted gaming establishments. They are permitted to offer curbside delivery and home delivery where permitted by local code or ordinance.

Restaurants and food establishments, and bars, pubs, taverns, breweries, distilleries, and wineries licensed to serve food in a restaurant-type setting, including those in a restricted or nonrestricted gaming establishment, must close bar tops and bar areas to customers, but bar beverages may be served at tables outside of the bar area for onsite consumption. Customers must only be served via table services and may not order from a bar top area.

ORIGINAL STORY: Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday said Nevada’s rising COVID-19 infections will lead him to close bars in Nevada counties where infections are the worse.

The closure goes into effect Friday at 11:59 p.m. Sisolak said his office will name the counties with the closures on Friday, but said Washoe and Clark counties would be among them.

He is also requiring restaurants to not seat more than six people at one table. Restaurants can still serve alcohol to people at the tables, but customers cannot use restaurant bars. The bar closures also apply to casinos and hotels.

Sisolak said at a Carson City press conference he reached these decisions after a briefing from a federal official that if Nevada does not act it is at risk of having COVID-19 patients overwhelming hospitals.

State Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspections show about 79 percent of the businesses checked in Nevada complied with the face mask requirements. For bars, it was closer to 50 percent.

Anthony Fauci, the federal director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said bars are at high risk of transmitting infections, Sisolak said.

Bars and taverns that serve food can remain open to serve food.

He will follow the actions of neighboring states and facilities like gyms and swimming pools could face additional restrictions. Sisolak said places like yoga, Pilates and dance must also require masks.

It will take several weeks for the latest mitigation efforts to show up in the infection statistics, the governor said.

“We cannot forget that we are still in the midst of a highly contagious and deadly pandemic,” Sisolak said.

The governor’s office released the text of his remarks:

Good afternoon. Thank you for being here.

I know much of the focus right now has been on the special session of the Nevada Legislature, where lawmakers are weighing proposals to balance a $1.2 billion budget deficit.

These proposals before lawmakers are not ones that my office or State agencies proposed lightly. Our State agency directors have had to make painful reductions in their own departments, and while necessary, the reductions are difficult to see.

I am proud of the work of my State agency heads, who have dedicated themselves to providing services and helping us navigate an unprecedented situation for the last four months. They’ve also stepped up to help address our fiscal crisis by proposing solutions to our budget shortfall. Just like me, I know this was a daunting and painful task.

As your Governor, I will continue to advocate for federal funding to help provide relief to Nevadans and to our state and local budgets, so we may continue to provide essential services to Nevadans and hopefully restore some of the proposed reductions.

That includes requesting more federal support to retain 600 members of our Nevada National Guard through the end of December. Because of this partnership, Nevada has seen remarkable increases in our ability to conduct community-based testing, lab capacity, contact tracing, and other critical capabilities for our effort to reopen and keep open our State in a safe and responsible manner.

The need for close cooperation and mutual assistance between the Federal Government and Nevada remains greater than ever, and I am hopeful the federal government will grant this request.

These difficult budget situation we are in now is a direct result of the public health crisis caused by COVID-19. And while we must turn our attention to the historic budget shortfall, we cannot forget that we are still in the midst of a highly contagious and deadly pandemic, and that many areas throughout Nevada are currently experiencing a spike.

As you know, we are currently holding in Phase 2 of our Roadmap to Recovery plan, allowing our medical, public health and emergency response professionals to evaluate and analyze new trends that have shown a continuous upward trend of new daily cases.

We have taken steps to help slow the spread, including increasing our contact tracing efforts to make sure that Nevadans who may have been exposed to the virus are aware and can take the appropriate actions to safeguard their health.

We’ve also extended Phase 2 until at least the end of July and implemented a mandatory face covering directive, which took effect at the end of June.

I have been pleased to see State and local officials working with businesses and communities to enforce these important measures. Nevadans, by and large, continue to heed the call to protect themselves, each other and our State.

We are aware it will take several weeks for the mitigations that we have put in place reflect in our case data, but these measures will help us battle this virus.

While we know the case data may take some time to reflect the changes, the State has also been watching compliance information, led by OSHA and complemented by efforts in counties and cities.

OSHA has completed more than 1,500 initial observations so far, with a compliance rate of 79 percent. That means one-fifth of businesses visited by OSHA inspectors are not in compliance with our measures, and this is unacceptable.

We are still watching the continued increase in our confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations as well. As many of you know, the trends are more than concerning in certain counties in our State.

Across the country, we have seen far too many instances where hospital capacity appeared fine one day and then were overwhelmed the next with increased COVID-19 patients.

We do not want that to happen here. So we will do what we must to make sure that our hospitals are able to provide the best possible care to all patients.

Today, my Office had a call with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

While discussing Nevada’s data and using other state’s data as guides, the federal representatives advised that if Nevada did not take swift policy action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our state, we would likely soon be in a precarious condition where hospitals are overwhelmed with patients in the very near future.

This information, based on the increasing trends we’ve been experiencing, led me to my decision today. The decision is based on targeting high-risk areas where infection is more likely to occur.

That’s why, tonight, I am announcing that as of 11:59pm tomorrow, Friday July 10th, bars in certain counties in Nevada will be returning to similar restrictions laid out in Phase 1 of our Nevada United: Roadmap to Recovery.

We know that COVID-19 can easily spread when people are congregating for long periods of time, like inside a bar. In states where we have seen significant spikes, such as Arizona, Texas and Florida, they have all taken actions to roll back bars. Recently, Dr. Fauci, the US's top infectious-disease expert, advised that congregating in bars poses a significant risk and is one of the most dangerous things people could do right now. We must heed his advice.

Additionally, I am concerned because based on our inspections thus far, fewer than half the bars that OSHA inspectors have visited have been found in compliance.

Right now, our HHS teams are confirming the criteria that would designate a county in Nevada as a hotspot. Tomorrow, I will be releasing that criteria and the names of the counties that will be required to close bars tomorrow at 11:59pm, per this directive.

Just like in Phase 1, this applies to bars and taverns that do not serve food. They can still provide curbside pickup and delivery where allowed locally, but they can no longer have patrons on the premises.

Restaurants with bar areas must close the bar areas to patrons and continue to limit capacity to 50%. Customers seated at tables can still be served alcohol, but they cannot congregate in bar areas or be served at the bar. All bartops will be closed, regardless of whether they have gaming machines installed.

In addition to the rollback on bars in certain counties, I am also adding new statewide restrictions in this directive: all restaurants and other food establishments, like pubs, breweries, distilleries, and wineries which are licensed to serve food may not seat parties larger than six people -- indoors or outdoors.

And while this directive does not prohibit indoor dining, I am strongly encouraging all food establishments to promote outdoor dining as much as possible as well.

This measure will go into effect Friday at 11:59pm, and will stay in place until further notice. I am hopeful we will see a downward trend in numbers so we can continue to reopen safely.

And while not in the Directive today, I want to assure all Nevadans and visitors that we are monitoring other areas where fellow States have taken action, like swimming pools and gyms.

I want to be crystal clear: unless you are actively walking into a pool, swimming in a pool, or walking out of a pool, you should have a face covering on at all times. It’s a simple as that.

And when it comes to gyms, you must wear a face covering at all times, unless you are actively engaged in a high intensity workout. And if that’s the case, you must be at least six feet apart from other people.

We will continue to monitor compliance in these areas, as well as follow the COVID-19 data, and continue to evaluate and take action as necessary.

Again, these are not decisions that I like to make, but I assure you, I am not making it lightly. Especially while lawmakers just down the way are evaluating the budget reductions the State has put forward. We know that additional business closures will further effect our economy and impede our recovery.

When we began reopening, I committed that we would remain flexible, and let data and recommendations of public health and emergency management professionals dictate the best course of action for protecting Nevadans.

I have committed to being transparent and honest with Nevadans since this all started, and that’s exactly why I am here today.

Protecting the health and safety of Nevadans is and always will be my top priority. Right now, that means reimplementing some of these restrictions in order to save lives and protect our health care system.

And it means reminding Nevadans of some simple truths that have not changed throughout this pandemic: we are safer at home. If we must go out, we are safer when we wear masks and practice social distancing. And we must remember to wash our hands and avoid touching our faces.

Copyright 2020 KOLO. All rights reserved.

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