Gov. Sisolak: Nevada Not Ready to Reopen Businesses Closed By Pandemic

Posted on: April 22, 2020, 03:49h. 

Last updated on: April 22, 2020, 09:23h.

While some governors have already announced plans to start reopening their states during the COVID-19 pandemic, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak doubled down on staying the course during a press briefing Tuesday evening.

Nevada COVID-19 reopen
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said on Tuesday that the state is not yet ready to start reopening businesses that have been closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, (Image: KHON)

“We’re not at Phase One yet,” the Democratic leader said, referring to the federal government’s recommended guidelines for allowing more businesses to resume operations.

On March 17, Sisolak issued a 30-day stay-at-home order for Nevada that allowed only essential businesses, such as grocery stores and health care providers, to remain open. That order also closed casinos and limited restaurants to take-out or delivery. On April 1, he extended the order through the end of this month.

The governor’s comments come at a time when Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman has been insistent on a reopening plan for the state’s largest metropolis to start soon, saying the closures of the casinos and resorts and the subsequent unemployment have had a devastating impact on the Vegas economy. The state, like others, has seen protests start, demanding that businesses reopen.

Sisolak said Tuesday that because of Nevada’s place as “an international tourism Mecca,” it’s imperative the state gets the reopening right the first time.

The closure order, which is part of the social distancing effort to curb the spread of the virus, has helped keep the number of COVID-19 deaths down. However, Sisolak compared ending some or most of those restrictions now would be like a skydiver jettisoning his parachute before he lands just because his rate of descent has slowed.

We cannot take off the parachute,” Sisolak said. “Experience gleaned from other countries teaches us that we cannot flip the light switch and turn our lives or our economy back on too quickly. We still have a responsibility to protect people and to protect our economy. Even though the models look good for Nevada right now, we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Getting to a point where Nevada can start the reopening process, the governor added, will require additional testing statewide and better means of tracking who has been in contact with carriers of the virus.

GCB Sign Off Needed on Reopening Plans

The White House’s recommendations do not specifically address how and when casinos should reopen.

In his remarks, Sisokak said he was proud of the gaming and resort partners that have already begun the “thoughtful” process of planning reopening strategies that protect their employees and guests.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board will ultimately sign off on any casino’s reopening plan, Sisolak said, before that property can unlock its doors.

The governor was also asked about a plan put forward by Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox, who, in an opinion piece over the weekend, called for the Las Vegas Strip to reopen in mid-May, with several safety measures in place provided that state meets key benchmarks.

While the governor said he received the plan late last week from Maddox, he declined to speak about the plan other than to say he appreciated the work put into it.

Key Nevada COVID-19 Stats

According to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center, there are 3,937 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nevada. Of those, 163 patients have died. The overwhelming majority, 141, have occurred in Clark County, the home of Las Vegas and the state’s major population center.

Nevada’s unemployment, meanwhile, skyrocketed last month to 6.3 percent, up from 3.6 percent in February.