Gov. Steve Sisolak has issued Nevadans a clear ultimatum: Shape up in two weeks, or expect steps toward another shutdown meant to halt a recent surge in coronavirus cases.
Sisolak, speaking during a Tuesday press conference at the state Capitol, told reporters the state “must see a significant reversal of the current trends” in order to keep the state’s economy up and running. He also asked local governments to step up enforcement of the state’s existing COVID-containment measures and urged employers to allow telework whenever possible— all in order to “mimic” much stricter shelter-in-place orders issued at the start of the pandemic.
The first-term Democrat has practically begged residents to follow Nevada’s mask-wearing and social distancing orders during recent virus-related press events.
Now, he says he’s no longer asking.
“As you are all aware our country and state are on a very rough course right now,” the governor added. “The fall spike predicted by medical experts is now our reality.
“Nevadans need to change behaviors immediately. …Again, if we don’t make progress over the next 14 days, I will be forced to take stronger action.”
Sisolak urged Nevadans to shelter in place as much as possible, describing it as “stay-at-home 2.0.” But he stopped well short of telling tourists to stay home, adding that he was simply demanding that visitors play by the rules.
In March, Sisolak shuttered all nonessential businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19, issuing strict stay-at-home orders that were gradually rolled back as the case curve started to flatten in late July.
The governor in September raised the statewide limit on large gatherings to 250 people, and said he would allow well over 1,000 people to attend conventions, trade shows and other events that submit a large gathering plan approved by state and local health officials.
Late last month, he said he “hoped to never get” to a point where officials would have to reimplement stricter rules imposed earlier in the pandemic.
But Nevada, like much of the rest of the country, has been hit by a dramatic autumn swell in new cases that health officials fear could soon overwhelm the state’s hospitals.
Renown CEO Tony Slonim, who helms Northern Nevada’s largest health care provider, expects his hospital will soon open an emergency wing in its parking garage to treat the potential rush of patients.
He joined Sisolak in issuing a grim warning about the virus’ resurgence.
“I think we can do more as we try to stomp out this terrible disease,” Slonim said. “I am very, very concerned. We’re unable to keep pace with the virus in our community. We need you to help us.
“I’m asking you to please, please do the right thing: Stay home, wash your hands, wear a mask.”
Slonim prefaced his remarks by recalling his father’s death from COVID-19 earlier this year.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said in a Tuesday media call that she may issue fines and shutdown orders to residents and businesses who fail to redouble their efforts to fight the virus.
Nevada’s combined number of confirmed and suspected coronavirus hospitalizations grew from about 600 on Oct. 30 to about 900 on Monday.
One day later, Nevada’s COVID-19 task force declared more than half of the state’s counties were a “high risk” for transmitting the deadly disease. That list includes Washoe County, which set new records for active cases in 17 of the last 19 days. A record 141 people with coronavirus were hospitalized as of Monday.
Officials have reported 110,982 cases and 1,852 deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic.