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Disease prevention signage and hand sanitizer as seen at the Southern Nevada Health District main facility in Las Vegas on Friday, March 6, 2020. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

With the number of coronavirus cases in the Silver State on the rise, The Nevada Independent will be keeping you up to date on the latest here, both through regular live blog updates and updates to our infographic tracking cases around Nevada. The most recent updates will be posted at the top.

To see previous developments, you can visit our week one live blog here and our week two live blog here. You can also see our live blog tracking economic developments from first week here.

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Note: Deaths are recorded in this spreadsheet separately from previously announced cases; health district officials have not provided specific enough details to be able to match deaths with specific cases.

Tesla Gigafactory worker tests positive for coronavirus

A worker at the Tesla Gigafactory near Reno-Sparks has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to an email sent to Panasonic employees Sunday. The positive test marks the first such case of the virus at the sprawling Tahoe-Reno Industrial Complex, which has temporarily shuttered some operations as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout Nevada. 

The story was first reported Sunday night by KRNV News 4 in Reno.  

According to KRNV, the email sent by Panasonic — which operates the sprawling gigafactory alongside Tesla — said the worker spent one hour at the factory before heading home sick, and has not returned since. 

The email goes on to say that Tesla has initiated a “safety protocol” as a result, including a 14-day quarantine for certain employees and new cleaning measures. 

A request for comment emailed to Tesla was not immediately returned, but a Panasonic spokesperson confirmed to The Nevada Independent that as of Sunday, no Panasonic employee has tested positive for coronavirus. 

Panasonic had already pulled its 3,500 workers from the gigafactory earlier this month over coronavirus concerns, while Tesla announced this week it would reduce its own workforce there by 75 percent.  

Jacob Solis, 3/29/20 at 7:15 p.m.

Nevada COVID-19 cases rise to 920, up 182 from day earlier

The number of positive COVID-19 cases in Nevada has jumped to 920, up nearly 200 from the 738 cases reported a day earlier.

The state reported Sunday afternoon that 11,000 people have been tested. (Update at 3:42 p.m.: A query by The Nevada Independent revealed that the state's total is a rounded number. There have been 920 positive tests and 9,614 negative tests for a total of 10,534 tests administered.)

It comes as the death toll of the disease in Nevada has risen to 15, with a first fatality reported in Washoe County.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/29/20, 3:05 p.m.

Ely officials report first coronavirus case in White Pine County

An Ely resident has been diagnosed with COVID-19, marking the first case in rural White Pine County, officials announced Sunday.

Ely Mayor Nathan Robertson said the positive test result came back Sunday morning. The patient, who is self-isolating at home, was tested at the William Bee Ririe Critical Access Hospital and Rural Health Clinic in Ely, he said. No other information was released to protect the person’s privacy.

Robertson advised community members to continue heeding social distancing and hygiene recommendations given by local health authorities, Gov. Steve Sisolak and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He said they should ask themselves “rational questions first” rather than panicking based off rumors.

Overall, though, the mayor said he has been pleased with the community’s response to the situation.

“By and large, our community has really been doing that,” he said, referring to following health advice. “They’ve done a great job.”

Ely, a remote mining town, sits about 240 miles north of Las Vegas and has a population of roughly 4,000 people. 

— Jackie Valley, 3/29/2020 at 1:02 p.m.

Health officials announce first COVID-19 death in Washoe County

Washoe County has confirmed its first death from COVID-19 — a man in his 40s who had traveled to New York City and been hospitalized since his diagnosis on March 23.

The news came Sunday, as the health district also announced 18 additional cases of the illness and a new total of 111 cases. Health officials said it’s unknown whether the man had any underlying health conditions.

“We’re devastated to learn that a Washoe County resident has died due to COVID-19,” said Kevin Dick, district health officer for Washoe County. “Our thoughts are with the family at this time.”

The death marked the 15th reported fatality from COVID-19 in Nevada. 

At a press briefing Sunday afternoon, Dick called coronavirus “a very real threat to our community" and said the region had not flattened the upward curve of virus cases. He also said he was “disturbed” to learn from investigators that some people who had the illness were out and about shopping, and that some employers were requiring workers to stay on the job in spite of being sick.

"This is also a huge threat to the public health of our community ... and their entire workforce."

He said 14 people remained hospitalized with the illness, but that areas hospitals had not yet tapped into overflow facilities for lack of bed space.

Washoe County also noted that a Reno police officer had tested positive for the virus after first showing symptoms on March 21. The patrol officer has been quarantined at home, and the agency said it learned Saturday evening that the officer tested positive.

Information about people who may have come into contact with the officer has been provided to the county health district.

Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said the department will continue screening employees for symptoms and have them work remotely if possible. 

The officer is one of several recent cases of COVID-19 among law enforcement. They include a Washoe County sheriff’s deputy, an employee of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and a correctional officer at High Desert State Prison.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/29/20, initially posted at 12:16 p.m.; updated at 7:20 p.m.

With 117 additional cases reported, statewide coronavirus cases surpass 700

Seven-hundred and thirty-eight people have now tested positive for coronavirus in Nevada with the number of tests performed hitting about 11,000 on 9,150 people, the Department of Health and Human Services reported Saturday. 

The 738 cases reported by the state Saturday evening marks a 117-case increase since the state data was last reported Friday. 

Earlier in the day, the Southern Nevada Health District reported four new deaths, bringing the number of deaths statewide to 14.

— Daniel Rothberg, 3/28/20 at 8:22 p.m.

Southern Nevada State Veterans Home resident dies of coronavirus

Southern Nevada State Veterans Home announced Saturday evening that one of its residents died of complications related to coronavirus. 

The Korean War veteran was 86-years old and died Saturday after he was admitted to a hospital and tested positive for the virus.

“Our hearts are extremely heavy,” Katherine Miller, director of the Nevada Department of Veterans Services, said in a statement. “We mourn the passing of this Navy Korean War veteran who served our nation with honor and dignity in its hour of need.  He was also a beloved member of our Veterans Home community and will be deeply missed."

The Southern Nevada Health District reported that the Clark County death toll from the coronavirus had risen to 14 as of Saturday morning. 

– Daniel Rothberg, 3/28/20 at 6:07 p.m.

Washoe County Sheriff Deputy tests positive, health district reports 18 additional cases

A Washoe County Sheriff's Deputy tested positive for coronavirus, the sheriff's office learned Saturday morning, as the number of cases in the county rose to 93.

According to a press release sent Saturday afternoon, the sheriff's deputy had returned to work on Thursday after a week off. She was tested after having coronavirus symptoms and sent home. Washoe County Health District officials are reviewing all contacts that the deputy had "during the short time she was in the office," according to the news release.

Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam is immediately moving staff to single-point entry and instituting screening measures for all visitors and staff. According to the release, measures include temperature checks and "basic screening questions before admittance."

In a daily update, the health district reported 18 additional positive coronavirus cases, bringing the total case number for the county to 93 and the statewide total to 637 cases.

Eighty-three cases remain active in Washoe County. Seven residents in Washoe County have recovered from coronavirus. The health district reported Saturday that two residents have been released from self-isolation. 

— Daniel Rothberg, 3/28/20 at 5:37 p.m.

Las Vegas, Clark County to temporarily use Cashman Center as homeless shelter

The City of Las Vegas and Clark County announced on Saturday that the Cashman Center will be used as a temporary homeless shelter with capacity for about 500 people after the Catholic Charities emergency men’s shelter was shuttered last week due to a positive COVID-19 test.

The two municipalities said the temporary shelter would be located on the upper parking lot of the facility, and will run between now and April 3, at which point the previous shelter is expected to reopen.

The shelter at Cashman will operate from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m., and will be for individuals able to walk to the site from the Homeless Courtyard, which will remain open to serve individuals with fragile health or mobility problems.

Earlier this week, Catholic Charities announced it would temporarily close its emergency men’s night shelter after the Southern Nevada Health District announced that a man who used several homeless facilities in Las Vegas — including Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center operated by the city — had tested positive for COVID-19.

— Riley Snyder, 3/28/20 at 2:16p.m.

Clark County reports four more deaths, 85 more positive COVID-19 cases

The COVID-19 death total in Nevada has risen to 14, including 10 individuals with preexisting health conditions, and is up to 528 cases in populous Clark County as of Saturday morning, according to a dashboard maintained by the Southern Nevada Health District.

The latest update shows 85 additional cases in Clark County as compared to the county’s total on Friday; the number of statewide cases is now sitting at 621. About 17 percent of cases in Clark County (92) have required hospitalization, with another 21 individuals requiring care in an Intensive Care Unit.

Of the 14 deaths, 11 of the individuals were in an ICU unit, and most had an underlying health condition — 5 had diabetes, four had hypertension and two had a chronic kidney disease.

The district also provided an age breakdown of Clark County individuals who have tested positive for the virus, including one person under the age of four, four individuals between the ages of five and 17 and 30 cases in individuals between the ages of 18 to 24.

The largest chunk of positive cases (41 percent, or 218 people) were individuals between the ages of 25 and 49, with another 155 people between the ages of 50 and 64 testing positive and 120 people testing positive over the age of 65.

— Riley Snyder, 3/28/20 at 10:42 a.m.

New COVID-19 cases reported in Carson City, Douglas County

Carson City health district officials announced two new positive COVID-19 cases in Carson City and Douglas County on Saturday morning, bringing the total count of confirmed cases up to five in each jurisdiction.

The new cases involve a female Carson City resident in her 30s and a male Douglas County resident in his 30s, both with recent travel history. Both people were described as stable and self-isolating at home.

The Carson City Health and Human Services Department, which is overseeing coronavirus response in the “Quad County” region — Carson City, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties — is now reporting 11 cases throughout its jurisdiction.

— Riley Snyder, 3/28/20 at 9:20 a.m.

Coronavirus cases increase by 86, bringing statewide tally to 621

Just under 90 additional people have tested positive for coronavirus in Nevada in the past day, bringing the statewide total up to 621, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services reported late Friday.

The previous statewide tally was 535 cases, meaning 86 more people have tested positive in the last day. But 1,826 more people were tested compared to a day ago.

The number of deaths has remained the same at 10.

A total of 8,522 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Nevada. About 7 percent of those tested have received positive results.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/27/20, 9:25 p.m.

3 residents at state-run Boulder City nursing home for veterans test positive for COVID-19

Three residents at a state-run nursing home for veterans in Boulder City have tested positive for coronavirus.

The Nevada Department of Veterans Services announced Friday evening that it had tested 19 residents of the Southern Nevada State Veterans Home on Wednesday who were currently or recently showing cold or flu-like symptoms. It learned of the three positive cases on Thursday.

The agency said it took “immediate and aggressive measures” upon learning the results, including restricting all visitors from the facility except for health care personnel.

The three patients are in isolation and staff is following “established infection disease prevention protocol.”

“We are committed to doing everything in our power to protect our residents and staff from the spread of this virus and will remain vigilant in our efforts to do so,” said Kat Miller, director of the state veterans agency. “We are passionate in our commitment to ensure our residents receive exceptional care; it is our duty to care for and protect Nevada’s heroes.” 

The veterans home is a skilled nursing facility that has capacity for 180 people. It houses veterans, their spouses and Gold Star parents.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/27/20, 7:25 p.m.

Southern Nevada Health District releases underlying medical conditions for hospitalized cases

Of the 80 non-fatal hospitalized coronavirus cases in Southern Nevada, at least 36.25 percent of patients were found to have underlying medical conditions. Twenty percent of those patients have been in the intensive care unit and 13.75 percent have needed intubation.

The more detailed case information was added Friday to the Southern Nevada Health District’s report on the virus. There are 443 confirmed coronavirus cases in Clark County.

The most common underlying medical condition in non-fatal hospitalized patients has been hypertension, reported in 17 cases, followed by diabetes, reported in 14 cases. Another patient was immunocompromised, one had chronic kidney disease and a third had chronic pulmonary disease. The health district reported that four patients had “other” underlying conditions. 

In the 10 fatal cases reported in Clark County, eight patients were found to have an underlying medical condition. Four patients had diabetes, three patients had heart disease and one patient was immunocompromised. Eight of the 10 fatal cases were in the intensive care unit and seven of the 10 patients who died from coronavirus were intubated, the health district reported. 

— Daniel Rothberg, 3/27/20 at 5:52 p.m.

Washoe County logs eight new cases for total of 75

Washoe County has announced eight additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the county total to date to 75.

The county also said that a fifth person who had been diagnosed with the illness had recovered and was released from self-isolation.

Washoe County is keeping tabs on its cases, including with more granular information about the age and gender of patients, on a new county-specific dashboard

As of its last update Thursday night, the state has had 535 positive cases. 

— Michelle Rindels, 3/27/20, 5:10 p.m.

Metro Police employee tests positive for coronavirus

A Metro Police employee who recently visited a city heavily affected by COVID-19 has tested positive for the virus, officials said Friday.

The employee, however, never returned to work after his vacation and before developing symptoms, authorities said. No workplace contamination occurred. 

A primary care physician determined the Metro employee had COVID-19, officials said.

Metro officials said 31 employees have been tested for the virus and 14 of those tests have been negative. The department is awaiting the results of the other pending tests.

— Jackie Valley, 3/27/2020 at 4:02 p.m.

Regulators require utilities to start tracking COVID-19 response costs 

Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission approved an emergency order on Friday requiring all utilities in the state — such as NV Energy and Southwest Gas — to start tracking costs associated with deferring shutoffs and other responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the commission met briefly Friday to approve the emergency order, which comes after many utilities in the state including electric, gas, water and telecommunication companies announced they would defer shutoffs in cases of nonpayment amid mass layoffs and ordered shuttering of nonessential businesses.

The order requires utility companies regulated by the commission to begin tracking “the costs of maintaining service to customers affected by COVID-19 whose service would have been terminated, discontinued, and/or disconnected under normally-applicable terms of service.”

Those costs will be tracked in regulatory asset accounts in a way that will allow regulators to readily identify costs — essentially ensuring that utility businesses are accurately tracking the data in the case they seek to recover costs through future rate cases.

Commissioners, including PUC Chair Hayley Williams, lauded the “proactive” efforts by utility companies to defer service shutoffs. 

— Riley Snyder, 3/27/20 at 2:56 p.m.

Email: Tesla expects to reduce Gigafactory staff by more than 75 percent

Tesla expects to reduce its Gigafactory workforce by more than 75 percent, according to an email sent to employees and Storey County officials on Wednesday. 

In the March 25 email, a Tesla executive told employees that it was pausing non-essential operations and asking employees to work from home. The Gigafactory employs thousands of employees and is one of the major employers in the Reno-Sparks area. 

"By next week, as we complete further ramp down of non-essential functions in a safe and orderly manner, we expect our total headcount on-site will decrease by more than 75 [percent] from our normal number of employees," wrote Chris Lister, vice president of operations. 

According to the email obtained through Storey County, essential employees will be required to take measures, including temperature checks and social distancing, aimed at preventing coronavirus spread. Essential employees include security, maintenance and "limited critical production" staff.

The Nevada Independent has reached out to Tesla for further comment.

The email was shared with Storey County officials Wednesday evening. Storey County Manager Austin Osborne announced the reductions on the county website Thursday. 

The move comes one week after Panasonic said it planned to cease production at the Gigafactory to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Last week, Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all non-essential businesses to close their operations to blunt the spread of the coronavirus. Although manufacturing and infrastructure operations were allowed to continue, some businesses have reduced their operations or suspended them.

Osborne said other companies operating at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, where the Gigafactory is located, are taking measures "to adhere to the established guidelines while maintaining essential operations." 

— Daniel Rothberg, 3/27/20 at 12:50 p.m.

Humboldt County reports first COVID-19 case, virus now in eight counties

Rural Humboldt County is reporting its first positive cases of the novel coronavirus, making it the eighth county in Nevada to report a case of the virus.

Humboldt General Hospital announced the positive case in a blog post on Thursday, saying it had received a positive test result after a patient was tested earlier this week. The hospital said the patient has been in self-quarantine since the test, and county health officials are working to trace the patient’s close contacts.

“I think the hospital really did a great job in this case,” Humboldt County Health Officer Charles Stringham said in a statement. “The practitioner who saw this patient did exactly what he should to ensure both the patient’s health and the community’s safety.”

The hospital has also enacted a no-visitors policy as of Thursday, excluding only pediatric patients, obstetric patients and those receiving end-of-life care. The county had an estimated population of 16,831 as of 2019.

Although most of Nevada’s positive COVID-19 cases have been centered in populous Clark and Washoe counties, positive cases of the virus have also been detected in Elko, Nye, Carson City, Douglas and Lyon counties.

— Riley Snyder, 3/27/20 at 12:50 p.m.

Southern Nevada Health District: Only 119 coronavirus test kits left

Officials with the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) said federal coronavirus test kit shortages and spotty re-supplies have left them with just 119 test kits.

District officials say they have been conducting roughly 40 tests per-day. 

Those numbers do not include capacity at the state testing lab or private labs, but officials said a backlog in tests at those private labs could extend the time it takes to receive a test result — normally about a two-day wait — to anywhere from five to seven days. 

During a teleconference with reporters Friday, Misty Robinson, a senior public health preparedness planner with SNHD, said the health district has received “very limited” supplies from the federal stockpile, including personal protective equipment (PPE). Robinson added that when shipments do arrive, they are “very spotty” and supplies must be prioritized for hospitals over individual clinics. 

As of Thursday, the governor’s office said the state had issued four requests for more testing kits, but had so far received no new federal aid. 

The health district also said it expects to release additional data on hospitalized coronavirus patients, including more information on existing underlying conditions. Hospitalizations in Clark County have decreased slightly over the last few days, a marginally hopeful sign as the number of confirmed cases in Nevada has continued to climb by the hundreds.  

But Dr. Michael Johnson, director of the District’s Community Health Division, said it was “too soon to tell” whether hospitalization data marks a trend and that a clearer picture should emerge as time goes on. 

Jacob Solis, 3/27/20 at 11:50 a.m.

Elko County confirms third positive COVID-19 case

Elio County announced a third positive case of the novel coronavirus Friday. The individual with the virus is not hospitalized and is self-isolating at home, according to a news release from the county.  

The county did not provide any additional information, but officials are conducting an investigation of close contacts to contain the spread of the virus. 

— Daniel Rothberg, 3/27/20 at 11:37 a.m.

More than 90 new coronavirus cases in Clark County pushes total to 443

Southern Nevada health officials announced 93 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, putting the total caseload for Clark County to 443, up from 350 cases Thursday. Statewide totals were not updated as of 9:30 a.m. on Friday, leaving the total confirmed cases at 535. 

Another case was also reported in Douglas County Friday morning - a woman in her 70s with a recent travel history who is now self-isolating at home. It increased Douglas county’s total caseload to four and pushed the total reported cases in the Carson City-Douglas-Lyon-Storey County region to nine. 

Hospitalizations from the virus have steadily decreased in Clark County, however, with 21 such hospitalizations reported on Wednesday, nine on Thursday and just six on Friday. Whether that decrease continues remains to be seen, as some cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, have rapidly worsened in the second week after symptoms appeared. 

So far, county data show 70 individuals remained hospitalized. 

Health officials reported no new deaths, leaving the total killed by the virus at 10, all in Clark County. With the new data from Southern Nevada Friday, the statewide mortality rate dipped slightly to 1.8 percent, down from 2.4 percent Thursday. 

Statewide, nearly 6,700 people have been tested, with roughly 8.2 percent of those results coming back positive. 

Jacob Solis, 8/27/20 at 9:30 a.m.

Coronavirus cases increase by 107, bringing statewide tally to 535

More than 100 additional people have tested positive for coronavirus in Nevada, bringing the statewide total up to 535, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

The previous statewide tally was 428 cases, meaning 107 more people have tested positive.

The number of deaths has remained the same at 10.

6,696 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Nevada. About 8 percent of those tested have received positive results.

— Jackie Valley, 3/26/20 at 9:15 p.m.

State pandemic report shows ventilator use increased over the last week

About 40 percent of Nevada’s ventilators are in use, which is up 9 percent since March 17, according to the state’s latest pandemic situation report.

The statewide hospital capability information included in the report comes from the Nevada Hospital Association. The percentage of intensive care unit rooms occupied during that period dipped slightly — 72 percent as of Thursday compared with 76 percent on March 17.

The percentage of airborne infection isolation rooms occupied, however, notched an increase, from 42 percent on March 17 to 51 percent now, according to the report.

Statewide, 5,117 people have been tested for the coronavirus.

— Jackie Valley, 3/26/20 at 6:55 p.m.

Washoe County reports 10 more cases, moving statewide count to 428

Ten more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Washoe County, officials announced Thursday evening, inching the statewide total up to 428.

Washoe County now has 67 confirmed cases, and four of those people have fully recovered.

Officials from the Washoe County Health District also released a message explaining why it cannot test everyone for COVID-19.

“Widespread community testing is not realistic because we currently do not have the capacity or supplies to collect samples from, or perform a COVID-19 test on, everyone in Washoe County,” authorities wrote. “In addition, a negative COVID-19 test result does not prevent you from contracting the disease later on.”

Health authorities went on to encourage prevention methods such as staying home, washing hands with soap and water and avoiding touching your face and mouth.

— Jackie Valley, 3/26/20 at 5:28 p.m.

Nevada Department of Corrections announces first coronavirus case

An employee at High Desert State Prison has tested positive for COVID-19, leading to inmates being isolated in their cells, the Nevada Department of Corrections announced Thursday.

Prison officials said the employee is self-isolating at home. No other information was given about the patient or how much interaction the person had with inmates. It's the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the state prison system.

Staff will continue observing inmates and employees for signs of the virus, such as coughing, fever and shortness of breath, officials said. A surface sanitation team, meanwhile, is using a “10% bleach concentration solution” to disinfect surfaces at the facility, which sits north of Las Vegas.

“Our top priority is the health of staff and inmates at our facilities,” prison system Director Charles Daniels said in a statement. “Our preparation and response is deliberate and in accordance with agency contingency plans and protocols. Now that we have a confirmed case, our next goal is mitigating and ultimately preventing the sustained spread of COVID-19.”

Prison officials said they’re monitoring the situation and consulting with local and state public health leaders.

— Jackie Valley, 3/26/20 at 4:27 p.m.

Las Vegas mulls options for temporarily homelessness housing, including Cashman Field

The City of Las Vegas is mulling options on how to best house up to 1,000 homeless people after a positive COVID-19 case led to the sudden closure of Catholic Charities’ temporary men’s shelter on Wednesday.

City Manager Scott Adams told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday that the city was considering three options for housing temporary homeless individuals, including construction of separated areas at Cashman Field, placing tents in the parking lot or renting out a vacant building.

City spokesman Jace Radke said in an email that “plans are still being discussed at this time,” and that the city’s Courtyard Homeless Resource Center remains open and had 565 people use the facility last night. 

Catholic Charities announced it would temporarily close its emergency men’s night shelter after the Southern Nevada Health District announced that a man who used several homeless facilities in Las Vegas — including Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center operated by the city — had tested positive for COVID-19.

— Riley Snyder, 3/26/20 at 2:56 p.m.

Las Vegas restaurants can offer curbside alcohol with meals under new city permit

The City of Las Vegas announced Thursday that it will immediately begin issuing 30-day permits that will allow restaurants with both alcohol and food service licenses to offer curbside pickup of alcoholic beverages with takeout meal orders.

In a statement, city officials said that restaurants will only be able to sell the kinds of alcohol for which they are currently licensed, meaning restaurants licensed to sell beer and wine will only be allowed to offer beer and wine for takeout with meals. City officials added that alcohol must be in the manufacturer’s sealed container.

The city is planning to waive daily fees and only charge a processing fee of $100 per permit. The new “alcohol time-limited permits,” which will be renewable depending on how long the coronavirus pandemic lasts, can be applied for through businesses’ online licenses accounts. Permits are expected to be processed in one to two business days.

Under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s emergency directive, liquor stores, pubs, wineries and breweries are all considered non-essential businesses and have been shuttered in light of the ongoing pandemic. 

— Megan Messerly, 3/26/20 at 10:55 a.m.

Las Vegas backs off aggressive park cleaning regimen

Two days after announcing a new cleaning and disinfecting protocol for its 70 city parks, the City of Las Vegas is rolling back the enhanced cleaning schedule because of a nationwide shortage of protective equipment and disinfectant.

The city announced Thursday morning that it would cancel an aggressive cleaning schedule — including dispatching 12 crews of five to 10 people to clean and disinfect all city parks twice a day, seven days a week — because of a “community shortage” of protective gear and disinfectant, which the city said will be conserved for “first responders and for other more vital needs.”

Restrooms in city parks will remain open, but city officials are “discouraging the use of high-touch areas (playgrounds) and park equipment” and plan to post signs stressing the importance of six-foot social distancing and an admonition to avoid congregating in groups of 10 or more people.

Keeping park facilities open sits in contrast to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive on Tuesday prohibiting members of the public from gathering in groups of 10 or more in any indoor or outdoor area. 

Specifically, the state directed that local governments “shall limit the Nevada general public’s use of recreational equipment, including without limitation, playground equipment, basketball courts, volleyball courts, baseball fields, beaches, or football fields, in a manner that causes the congregation of ten or more persons in a manner contrary to best COVID-19 disease mitigation social distancing practices.”

The directive also authorizes all local, city and county governments to enforce the ban on large public gatherings.

— Riley Snyder, 3/26/20 at 10:08 a.m.

More than 93,000 Nevadans filed for unemployment last week; 40 times the number for first week of March

Nevada logged 93,036 initial claims for unemployment in the week ending March 21 — a 40-fold increase from the number of claims filed in the first week of the month and a 14-fold increase from the week earlier.

The figure comes in a report released Thursday by the Department of Labor that logged about 2.9 million initial unemployment claims last week — a figure that is not seasonally adjusted. Nationally, the seasonally adjusted number of initial unemployment claims filed last week is the highest on record and nearly five times the previous peak, which was logged in 1982.

It is the first data released about unemployment that reflects Gov. Steve Sisolak’s March 17 directive that all “nonessential” businesses, including casinos, close for 30 days.

The state office handling “unprecedented volumes” of demand for unemployment insurance says it continues to add resources daily to try and meet the need.

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation on Tuesday acknowledged that some people are struggling to get through to staff by phone — a problem “due to the volume of people attempting contact.”

“We are aware of the issue and we are adding resources each week to address the access issue,” said spokeswoman Rosa Mendez. “Additionally, we are researching other alternative solutions and hope to provide updates out as soon as possible.”

The state received $5 million from a bill Congress passed last week to ramp up technology and staffing of unemployment offices. 

The agency said it is taking advantage of all possible flexibilities on eligibility for unemployment insurance. In addition to Sisolak waiving the requirement that people actively search for work while receiving benefits and a seven-day waiting period for a check, the Department of Labor authorized states to pay out benefits to people not working because their employer ceased operations, they’re in quarantine, they fear infection or are caring for a family member.  

“Nevada is taking advantage of the flexibilities provided by the Department of Labor guidance on the interpretation of all definitions,” Mendez said. 

The department said it doesn’t yet have updated projections on how unemployment insurance claims or the unemployment rate will go up because of mass business closures. The firm Applied Analysis has warned that Nevada’s tourism-dependent economy could see unemployment rates of more than 30 percent.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/26/20 at 9:18 a.m.

Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Nevada reach 420; death total remains at 10

Nevada now has 420 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus statewide, including 350 in Clark County, according to updates provided by state and local health officials Thursday morning.

Southern Nevada Health District officials also announced that four deaths reported by the state late Wednesday evening were all in Clark County. They include four men, three with underlying medical conditions in their 60s, 80s and 30s and one with no underlying medical conditions in his 60s.

Ten people have died statewide from the novel coronavirus, all of them in Clark County. The death of the man in his 30s marks the first death in the state of someone under the age of 50.

The 350 cases in Clark County additionally include 74 individuals who have been hospitalized, or 21.1 percent of the county’s total positive cases. That number is up nine from 65 when the county last provided a case update on Tuesday.

Carson County Health and Human Services also announced two more cases Thursday morning, a female Carson City resident in her 60s who had close contact to a confirmed California case and a male Carson City resident in his 40s with travel history. Both are self-isolating in their homes and "doing well," according to a city spokeswoman. The total number of cases in Carson City is now four.

Statewide, about 8.2 percent of people who have been tested for the novel coronavirus have gotten positive results, and of those who have tested positive 2.4 percent have died.

— Megan Messerly, 3/26/20 at 8:40 a.m., updated at 9:16 a.m.

Statewide coronavirus cases jump to 405 positive tests, deaths increase to 10

Numbers from the state Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 tracking website show confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus spiked to 405 Wednesday night, up from 321 cases as of Tuesday evening. 

Those numbers include an additional four deaths, bringing the state’s total deaths from the novel coronavirus to 10 and the overall mortality rate to just under 2.5 percent. 

Combined with 15 cases reported in the morning, Wednesday’s 99 new cases mark the largest single-day increase seen so far in Nevada. 

The new positive cases come after nearly 300 new tests were administered by the state. To date, health officials had tested 4,862 people, with a little more than 8 percent testing positive for the virus. That’s a slight jump from Tuesday’s figures, when roughly 7 percent had tested positive. 

Jacob Solis, 3/25/20 at 9:00 p.m.

Client of closed emergency shelter reports crowded Courtyard, poor planning

After Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada announced on Wednesday that it was temporarily closing its 524-bed emergency shelter to ensure the health of staff, volunteers and clients, one client reported to The Nevada Independent that he and others were directed by police officers to go across the street to the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center. 

The emergency shelter’s closure came after Southern Nevada health officials confirmed that a man who tested positive for COVID-19 had used facilities at Catholic Charities and at the Courtyard while he was symptomatic.  

“If the governor wants social distancing, this is not happening here at the Courtyard … this is poorly planned” said John in an email on Wednesday, who asked that his last name not be used, for fear of repercussions. 

The closure of the Las Vegas emergency shelter comes after an emergency directive issued by the governor Tuesday night, to limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to no more than 10 people. The governor said that the directive “does not apply to our state’s homeless population.”

City of Las Vegas spokesman Jace Radke told The Nevada Independent last week that staff would begin screening people entering the city-run Courtyard this week by taking their temperatures before they entered. The Courtyard is a 0.6-acre, open-air facility, which city officials say has a sleeping capacity of 450 people. 

John said he spoke with several officers and paramedics who were on the scene, and deduced from those conversations that “nobody’s been tested.”  

He added that he heard the announcement from three Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officers that Catholic Charities would be closed for the night, when he and other clients were already lined up for the daily 6:00 p.m. intake. When he attempted to find shelter at the Las Vegas Rescue Mission and at the Salvation Army, he said that it was past check-in time and that the shelters "wouldn't let anyone in or out.”

He said that officers have told unsheltered clients that they may sleep on the sidewalk so long as they do not erect a tent. 

Dan Kulin, spokesman for Clark County, said in an email on Wednesday evening that the county was working with the city and the Southern Nevada Health District to expand the Courtyard’s service area into the adjacent street, Foremaster Lane, to provide space for approximately 750 people to sleep on Wednesday night.

Shannon Miller, 3/25/20 at 8:45 p.m.

Pharmacy Board clarifies emergency order restricting prescriptions of malaria drugs praised by Trump as as-yet untested COVID-19 treatment

The Nevada State Board of Pharmacy released a statement Wednesday that sought to clarify an order from Gov. Steve Sisolak that restricted new prescriptions of two malaria drugs that President Donald Trump touted as effective treatments for the coronavirus — even as little testing has been done to prove the president’s claims. 

In a release, the board said that the emergency order, adopted Tuesday, prohibited the prescription of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for any new diagnoses. It added that these restrictions do not apply to inpatients at hospitals or other “institutional settings,” meaning patients being treated for COVID-19 at state hospitals will keep receiving those drugs as treatment. 

The board also said that the emergency order does not apply to any existing diagnoses made before March 24, but that prescriptions made under those diagnoses are capped at 30 days and must come with a so-called “ICD-10 code,” or a code used by the World Health Organization to classify different diseases, illnesses or symptoms. 

The clarification comes after a flurry of online criticism from the president’s defenders, many of whom charged that Sisolak, a Democrat, would deprive COVID-19 patients of experimental drugs as a political ploy to spite the president. 

That includes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who said in a tweet that Sisolak’s order was tantamount to “practicing medicine without a license.”

Sisolak later fired back in a tweet-thread of his own, which in part called on Cruz to “forget the partisan politics.”

Jacob Solis, 3/25/20 at 8:12 p.m.

Washoe County announces seven new coronavirus cases

The Washoe County Health District confirmed seven additional coronavirus cases Wednesday afternoon, bringing the county's total to 57. 

The health district did not release any additional personal or demographic information about the cases. The health district reported that the total number of recoveries stayed at four.

The state has reported 321 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Daniel Rothberg, 3/25/20 at 4:56 p.m.

Construction worker at Allegiant Stadium site tests positive for coronavirus

A worker at the Allegiant Stadium construction site near the Las Vegas Strip tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday, the latest positive case to hit the essential industries that have remained open during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Today’s case follows an announcement from this week that a worker at the Resorts World project on the Strip also tested positive for the virus. 

In a statement released by Mortensen and McCarthy, the two companies spearheading stadium construction, officials say the worker stayed home after feeling ill last week and has not been back to work since. He is now remaining in self-isolation and will not return to work until being cleared. 

The statement also said the employee had not come into close contact with other workers, and his work area and the surrounding vicinity have since been closed and sanitized. 

Major construction projects have continued progress as “essential industries” under an emergency order issued by Gov. Steve Sisolak earlier this month. 

But concerns have mounted nationwide this week as workers for those industries, especially delivery drivers, have protested poor sanitation guidelines and the possible increased exposure to the virus inherent to those jobs. 

Jacob Solis, 3/25/20 at 4:40 p.m.

State extends Medicaid, SNAP benefits for at least two months

The Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services announced Wednesday an extension in Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as SNAP, to address increased assistance caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press release, the division announced that "re-determinations have been extended for at least two months" in all cases set to close on April 1 or May 1.

Steve Fisher, the division's administrator, said in a statement that the agency was "confident that this extension will provide some breathing room for the people we serve."

Because of measures aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19, welfare services are currently only available online and over the phone. 

— Daniel Rothberg, 3/25/20 at 4:00 p.m.

Man using homeless services in Las Vegas tests positive for COVID-19

Southern Nevada health officials announced Wednesday that a man who had utilized several homeless facilities in Las Vegas — including Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and the Courtyard Homeless Resource Center operated by the city — had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. 

In a release, officials said the man visited those facilities while he was symptomatic, though he is now asymptomatic and no longer considered to be at risk of exposing others to the virus. 

As a result, Catholic Charities announced it will temporarily close its emergency men’s night shelter while it works with city officials to relocate shelter services. 

The positive test comes as concerns have mounted over how the deadly coronavirus may impact vulnerable homeless populations across the country, which largely lack the ability to socially distance as a means of avoiding catching or spreading the virus. 

Jacob Solis, 3/25/20 at 3:50 p.m.

Nevada colleges, universities will stick to online learning through spring semester, must prepare ‘virtual’ graduation ceremonies

Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Thom Reilly said the state’s colleges and universities will need to continue online “remote instruction” through the rest of the spring semester and prepare to hold “virtual” graduation ceremonies in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In a memorandum published Wednesday afternoon, Reilly said that all NSHE institutions will need to continue online learning through the end of the semester, save limited case-by-case courses where remote learning isn’t possible, such as health care clinicals or career and technical education labs. Reilly said continuing remote learning into summer or fall semesters would be revisited at a later time.

Colleges and universities are also required to find an alternative to in-person graduation ceremonies at the end of the semester or reschedule them for later dates.

Reilly also says in the memorandum that he will ask the system’s Board of Regents to temporarily suspend a requirement prohibiting students with delinquent or overdue accounts to receive a transcript, diploma, a certificate or report of semester grades.

“The temporary suspension of this provision will allow students facing financial hardship to register for summer and fall courses and obtain transcripts and other academic records,” he wrote.

It also states that faculty will not receive extra compensation for moving to remote learning.

— Riley Snyder, 3/25/20 at 3:07 p.m.

Dispensary association backs nonessential business shutdown, supports delivery-only cannabis sales

The top trade group for legal marijuana dispensaries in the state says it backs Gov. Steve Sisolak’s nonessential business shutdown order — which allows dispensaries to continue operating by delivery only — and said it will kick out any member that fails to follow the guidelines.

In an open letter published by Nevada Dispensary Association head Riana Durrett on Wednesday, the association said the group and its members “are committed” to following the nonessential business shutdown, and commended the state for “quickly implementing a virtual vehicle inspection to help dispensaries quickly obtain certification for delivery vehicles.”

“While it is anticipated that all NDA members are following, and will continue to follow, the Governor’s Executive Order issued March 21, 2020, any NDA member found in violation of the order will be terminated as a member,” Durrett wrote in the letter.

Open Letter Re Following Executive Order by Riley Snyder on Scribd

— Riley Snyder, 3/25/20 at 1:50 p.m.

Two UNLV employees test positive for COVID-19

Two employees at UNLV have tested positive for COVID-19, the university announced Wednesday afternoon.

The two confirmed cases include an employee who tested positive for the virus in another state, has been working remotely for an extended period of time and was last on campus on March 10, and did not indicate contact with anyone on campus.

The other positive test was an employee who traveled out of state for university business earlier this month and was last on campus on March 11. UNLV said that the individual is self-isolating, and that individuals who came into contact with the employee have been notified.

“We knew this day would come as the number of cases continues to grow in Nevada and across the nation,” UNLV acting president Marta Meana said in a statement.

UNLV announced weeks ago that it will transition to online-only, remote instruction beginning this week to avoid risking further spread of the virus. 

— Riley Snyder, 3/25/20 at 1:20 p.m.

Poll: Nevadans support school closures, Sisolak’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic

A new poll by the Retail Association of Nevada shows a majority of Nevadans approve of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, and decisions to close schools and other public places and events to limit spread of the virus.

The consumer opinion poll also found a majority of Nevadans are extremely concerned about the coronavirus, have had some difficulty in finding products at local stores and expect to work fewer hours in the weeks ahead.

“While Nevadans are very concerned of COVID-19, they are generally supportive of how it has been handled to date, giving high marks to the local retailers who have worked tirelessly to keep grocery stores open and as many products available as possible,” Retail Association of Nevada executive Bryan Wachter said in a statement.

Poll respondents were asked how Sisolak “has handled the coronavirus outbreak in Nevada” and responded positively — 64 percent said “very well” or “well,” compared to just 18 percent who said “poorly” or “very poorly.” 

President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak fared somewhat worse but was still overall positive — 50 percent of respondents said the president was handling the situation “very well” or “well,” with 41 percent calling his response “poor” or “very poor.”

The poll also found a majority of Nevadans — 53 percent — to be extremely concerned with the virus on a scale of 1 to 9, with “9” being the most concerned. Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) said they were already working fewer hours, with another 35 percent expecting fewer hours worked over the next four weeks.

Strong majorities of poll respondents said they favored steps taken by the state to mitigate spread of the virus, including:

  • Closing public spaces and events (82 percent support or strongly support, 8 percent oppose or strongly oppose)
  • Closing college campuses and converting to online learning (82 percent support or strongly support, 7 percent oppose or strongly oppose)
  • Closing all K-12 schools (82 percent support or strongly support, 7 percent oppose or strongly oppose)

The poll was conducted by Amplify Relations on March 23 of 385 Nevada residents who reported being employed full or part-time as of March 1, with a margin of error of 5 percent. 

— Riley Snyder, 3/25/20 at 12:15 p.m.

RAN COVID Survey Results (2) by Riley Snyder on Scribd

Las Vegas police: Some inmates released for COVID-19 testing, crime statistics largely unchanged

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Joe Lombardo said there have been no confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 cases among the agency’s nearly 6,000 employees or among inmates at the Clark County Detention Center, though several dozen police employees are self-quarantined and at least three inmates have been released for testing.

Lombardo, who spoke at a press conference Wednesday morning along with Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, said police agencies in Southern Nevada are taking proactive steps to address and prepare for mass business closures and limits on public gathering ordered by Gov. Steve Sisolak to mitigate spread of the virus.

Lombardo said there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Clark County Detention Center, but that police had released three individuals who showed symptoms of the virus. He said one of the inmates had tested positive for a coronavirus and is recovering, but did not know what strain of the virus he had tested positive for. Lombardo said the inmate was in the detention center for 11 days before he started exhibiting symptoms.

He added that 28 employees of the police agency are self-quarantined at home because of potential exposure, symptoms or travel history.

Lombardo also said that Metro had begun placing officers at food distribution sites and grocery stores, and that his office was prepared to enforce Sisolak’s directives prohibiting large in-person gatherings and nonessential business operations.

“We have to marshal our resources, per se, to ensure that we’re covering all calls for service on what we do on a daily basis, and address those secondary,” he said. “I think criminal acts will take priority to that, and then we’ll do everything within our resources to continue to address people in violation of the governor’s directives.”

He added that most crime statistics had not substantially changed since Sisolak ordered the nonessential business shutdown, noting that overall volumes of calls for service had decreased by five percent. He also said domestic violence calls had not substantially increased but that reports of aggravated assaults had slightly risen over the last week, but that the “data is still too fresh to make a determination.”

Wolfson said that the district attorney’s office was operating with a “skeleton crew” and had been forced to re-prioritize its workload because of courtroom closures, but that the office was still dedicated to filing charges in less serious cases (such as property crimes).

“The public should know that just because we may not file a case in the usual course, it doesn’t mean that we won’t ultimately file the case, because we are still going to be processing cases in the criminal justice system,” he said.

— Riley Snyder, 3/25/20 at 11:29 a.m.

COVID-19 cases now in seven counties as new cases reported in Lyon, Douglas county

Carson City health officials are reporting two new positive cases of the COVID-19 virus in rural Lyon and Douglas counties, with the virus now confirmed in seven of the state’s 17 counties.

The health district, which is coordinating the response to the virus for Carson City, Lyon County, Douglas County and Storey County, reported the two cases in a press release on Wednesday. 

The additional patients include a male Lyon County resident in his 60s with recent travel to the Bay Area in California, and a female Douglas County resident in her 60s with no recent travel history. It’s the first confirmed cases of the virus in Lyon County, and the third in Douglas County.

The health district said that both cases, as well as four others reported in the region, are self-isolating in their homes and are currently in stable condition.

— Riley Snyder, 3/25/20 at 9:11 a.m.

Nevada now reporting 321 cases of the novel coronavirus, up 15 from prior day

The state of Nevada is now reporting a total of 321 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus statewide, up 15 from Tuesday evening.

According to the state’s COVID-19 tracking website, the state has now tested a total of 4,572 people for the novel coronavirus. A little more than 7 percent of the total number of people tested have been positive for the virus, up from about 6.6 percent the previous day.

— Megan Messerly, 3/25/20 at 7:32 a.m.

UNR moves commencement online, announces all classes will remain online even if stay-at-home order lifted

The University of Nevada, Reno is canceling its in-person spring commencement and moving all ceremonial activities online in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The university, in a statement late Tuesday afternoon, said that its scheduled May commencement will occur in a virtual fashion and that more details will be announced. 

School officials also announced that all for-credit courses will be delivered remotely for the rest of the spring 2020 semester, even if Gov. Steve Sisolak lifts his stay-at-home-order on April 16, when it is currently set to end. Sisolak said at a news conference on Tuesday that any decisions to lift restrictions on Nevadans’ everyday lives would be made in consultation with medical professionals.

The university has yet to make any decisions about its summer and fall courses.

— Megan Messerly, 3/24/20 at 6:15 p.m.

Two more Nevadans die after contracting coronavirus, bringing death total to six; cases reach 306 statewide

Two more Nevadans have died after contracting the novel coronavirus, bringing the total deaths in both Clark County and statewide to six, the Southern Nevada Health District announced late Tuesday afternoon.

The two people who died included a man in his 70s with underlying medical conditions and a woman in her 50s with underlying conditions.

The Southern Nevada Health District also announced 37 new cases of the novel coronavirus in Clark County, bringing the countywide total to 249. Of the patients who have tested positive in Clark County, 65 are hospitalized, or 26.1 percent.

Washoe County Health District also announced six additional coronavirus cases Tuesday evening. Collectively, the new cases in Clark and Washoe counties bring the statewide totals to 306.

— Megan Messerly, 3/24/20 at 5:05 p.m., updated at 5:36 p.m.

Nevada ranks high for effective social distancing via location data

Nevada ranked third, right behind Washington, D.C. and Alaska, for effectively social distancing based on data from March 20.

The Washington Post posted a piece Tuesday afternoon citing information from Unacast, a company that took GPS data from smartphones and analyzed it to create a social distancing scoreboard.

Places that reduced overall movement by 40 percent or more received an A and places that reduced by 10 percent or less were awarded an F. Reduction of movement was calculated using their data that showed a decrease in the average distance traveled.

The United States as a whole received a B with 32 percent reduction in movement on March 20. On March 21 the country dropped to 40 percent reduction in movement while Nevada dropped from 48 percent to 51 percent.

The counties in Nevada in order from best to worst social distancing are Clark at 61 percent reduction, Carson City at 52 percent, Douglas at 50 percent, Washoe at 34 percent and Churchill at 20 percent. There was another story published by The New York Times earlier in the week that showed Nevada at number 10, based on information collected from a data collection company called Descartes Labs, a geospatial data company. The data was gathered between March 6 and March 20.

— Joey Lovato, 3/24/20 at 4:20 p.m.

Tribal nations declare state of emergency during coronavirus outbreak

The Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada, Inc. issued a resolution Tuesday supporting the Tribal Nations’ declaration of a state of emergency amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The resolution requests immediate access to COVID-19 tests as well as assistance from the Indian Health Service (IHS), emergency health teams, state welfare teams, food security teams. It also requests access to game and fish, protection of and distribution of medicines, traditional medicine support and safe drinking water.

“As the world experiences these unprecedented times due to the coronavirus, our organization stands ready to help the first people of this land,” ITCN Executive Director Deserea Quintana said in a statement. “We thank our Tribal leadership and cooperating jurisdictions for working together to keep our communities safe, and to protect our elders and those who are most at risk.”

ITCN leaders say the resolution supports the 27 tribal governments’ authority as federally recognized member nations.

On Tuesday, the Nevada Indian Commission also announced it was postponing the grand opening of the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum in Carson City. It also canceled the 2020 Stewart Indian School Father’s Day Powwow.

“During these uncertain times, we cannot risk the wellbeing of our elders, nor any participant or spectators,” Stacey Montooth, executive director of the Nevada Indian Commission, said in a statement. “Our grand opening can wait, and even though since 2002, Native American dancers, singers, artists and on-lookers have helped build our annual powwow to be one of the most popular cultural gatherings in Northern Nevada, because of COVID-19, we must cancel.”

Prepaid vendors will receive full refunds.

— Jackie Valley, 3/24/20 at 3:30 p.m.

Sisolak restricts prescriptions of malaria drugs touted by Trump, but unproven as COVID-19 treatment

Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed an emergency regulation aimed at preventing people from “hoarding” two malaria drugs that are unproven as a treatment to COVID-19 but were promoted as a “game changer” in a tweet by President Donald Trump.

The regulation, which was promulgated by the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy, prevents the prescribing and dispensing of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for a COVID-19 diagnosis. It also limits prescriptions to a 30-day supply.

“This emergency regulation protects Nevadans who needs these drugs for legitimate medical purposes. At this point in time, there is no known cure for COVID-19 and we must not withhold these drugs from those who need them,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement. “The best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home for Nevada, not to stockpile these drugs.”

Dr. Ishan Azzam, the chief medical officer for the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health, noted that studies are underway about the effectiveness of the two drugs in treating COVID-19 but said “we must deal with facts, not fiction.”

Trump touted hydroxychloroquine last week in a televised news conference. Some experts said it appears doctors may be prescribing themselves or their families the drug to have on hand just in case, and an Arizona man died after hearing Trump on TV and ingesting a version of the chemical that is used to clean fish tanks.

Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients, who use the drug to control symptoms, have reported problems refilling their prescriptions because pharmacies have run out.

“Preserving these drugs for those who need it is the right decision,” Azzam said.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/24/20 at 3:25 p.m.

Former Nevada governors team up with Sisolak on video urging residents to stay home

Four former Nevada governors and Gov. Steve Sisolak have teamed up to produce a public service announcement urging residents to stay home and slow the spread of coronavirus.

Republicans Robert List and Brian Sandoval, along with Democrats Bob Miller, Richard Bryan and Sisolak, appear in the 30-second PSA released on Tuesday.

The script is:

"My fellow Nevadans, please follow Gov. Sisolak’s direction. As Nevadans we must all work together to care for one another and act with compassion. By staying home, we can protect our loved ones and our neighbors. And never forget, that as Nevadans, we’re all in this together.

Thank you governors for your lifetime love and support for the Silver State. If home means Nevada to you, stay home for Nevada.”

See the video here:

— Michelle Rindels, 3/24/20 at 11:45 a.m.

Las Vegas law firm files lawsuit against China, accusing country of allowing coronavirus spread

A Las Vegas law firm says it’s filing a class action lawsuit against China, alleging the country engaged in a cover-up after learning about the virus that allowed it to spread and wreak havoc in the U.S.

The complaint was filed late Monday in federal court in Nevada on behalf of small businesses. Law firm Eglet Adams said the country’s actions when it learned of the dangers of the virus in the fall contributed to its spread around the world and to hundreds of billions of dollars of economic losses in the U.S., including in Nevada.

“Instead of disclosing this evidence, the PRC and the other Defendants engaged in a campaign of misinformation and lies,” the complaint said. “Upon information and belief, they engaged in a campaign of intimidating and arresting any Chinese doctors, scientists, attorneys and/or reporters who tried to alert the public about this dangerous ‘new’ coronavirus.”

Nevada-based plaintiffs include restaurant proprietor Bella Vista LLC, floral company Greenfield & Company Inc., Life Real Estate LLC and Mobile Medic CPR.

Robert Eglet, whose firm is handling the case, is known for major lawsuits including an ongoing one against opioid manufacturers on behalf of the state and political subdivisions, as well as one against pharmaceutical companies after a hepatitis C outbreak in Southern Nevada colonoscopy clinics a more than a decade ago.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/24/20 at 10:00 a.m.

Nevada lawmaker-led task force issues coronavirus response recommendations by Latinos, for Latinos 

A task force formed by the Nevada Hispanic Legislative Caucus is recommending that Gov. Steve Sisolak create a health plan for undocumented Nevadans, drive-thru testing for COVID-19 and providing more information — including about where to find food — in Spanish. 

The group formed last week includes legal, political and medical experts focused on addressing the effects of coronavirus on the state’s Latino community, which they say is particularly vulnerable to the crisis because some are undocumented and many struggle to keep up on critical developments because of a language barrier. Democratic Assemblywoman Selena Torres, who leads the task force, said food security is the biggest concern she hears from constituents.

“I think a lot of people are scared. They recently lost their jobs. They’re not sure how they're gonna pay their bills at the end of the month, their rent, their mortgage, their car payments,” she said in an interview. “And so people are really scared that they're not going to have food, and that they might not already have food cause they're trying to figure out how they can use the money that they have to pay the spectrum of bills.”

While she said the school district’s food distribution program is helping, she said the gap she sees is among people who do not have school-aged children or when the need is among the adults in the family, not the kids.

She’s also concerned that the virus could disproportionately harm undocumented Nevadans who face more barriers to getting health insurance and care. Nevada has a higher rate of undocumented people as a share of its population than any other state.

“We know that our undocumented community is … vulnerable to not getting treatment and not seeking treatment,” Torres said. “And we know that that's going to continue to make this illness and this virus significantly worse in our communities. So we need to do our part and ensure that anybody that believes that they might have COVID-19 can get tested, that they can get treatment.”

The task force is in addition to task forces that the governor has convened around the issue. Torres said the lawmakers are able to tailor their recommendations based on what they’re hearing on the ground, and can serve to connect people to resources because of the name recognition they have in the community.

Sisolak’s office has acknowledged receipt of the recommendations but has not yet responded at length to them, Torres said. For now, the task force is fielding inquiries from the public and trying to compile resources on its bilingual website, AyudaNevada.com.

It also announced an education subcommittee focused on eliminating inequities in internet access, headed by UNLV law professor Sylvia Lazos. Concerns that some households do not have internet or computer access has been a roadblock for the Clark County School District to resume school in a distance-learning format.

Nevada’s senators also brought up that “digital divide” in a letter to a Senate colleague Tuesday, asking that Congress approve at least $2 billion in “E-rate” funds through the Federal Communications Commission to buy Wi-Fi hotspots or similar devices that students can borrow. 

Torres didn’t rule out the possibility of a special session to address the budgetary impact of the crisis and make changes to enact some of the task force’s recommendations.

“I don't think that's off the table, but right now we're just focusing on what we can do outside of special session,” she said.

Michelle Rindels & Luz Gray, 3/24/20 at 9:00 a.m.

Feds grant Nevada authority to approve products for COVID-19 testing, rather than wait for FDA

Nevada has been granted authority to give final approval on the safety and efficacy of testing products, rather than having to get that sign-off from the federal government — a change that state officials say “should increase testing capacity considerably.”

The state announced on Tuesday that it was one of only a handful of jurisdictions with the new authority. Previously, test kits and components had to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before use.

“This means that when labs in Nevada do validation studies on products to determine whether they are effective prior to launching testing, they can submit their findings to the state, not the FDA, for approval,” Dr. Mark Pandori, head of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, said in a statement. “This is a much faster process.”

Pandori said data on certain new products that will expand the number of tests should be in by the end of next week. 

While authorities say the change won’t open the door for all Nevadans to get tested, it will allow more people in priority categories — such health care workers in contact with COVID-19 patients — to check their status.

Other jurisdictions with similar authority include Washington State, New York State and Maryland.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/24/20 at 8:43 a.m.

Nevada up to 278 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 15 more cases reported statewide

Nevada is reporting 15 more cases of the novel coronavirus statewide Tuesday morning, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 278.

According to the state’s COVID-19 tracking website, a total of 4,232 people have been tested across four main labs — the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, the Southern Nevada Public Health Laboratory, Quest Diagnostics and LabCorp — with a smaller number of tests being performed at Clinical Pathology Laboratories, Quality Laboratory Services and other labs.

— Megan Messerly, 3/24/20 at 7:36 a.m.

UNLV Medicine to begin curbside coronavirus testing on Tuesday

The clinical arm of UNLV’s medical school is launching curbside coronavirus testing — by appointment only — starting on Tuesday.

Only people who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for testing will be given appointments. People who have been in contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case or who are exhibiting symptoms defined by the CDC can call 702-583-4408 between 8:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday to book an appointment.

“All callers will be asked a series of questions to determine if they meet the CDC criteria and will be screened again upon arrival,” officials said in a news release.

The nasal swab testing will occur in the parking lot of UNLV Medicine, 1125 Shadow Lane in Las Vegas. When patients arrive for their appointment time, they’ll be directed to a drive-up site, where the testing will occur without them needing to leave their vehicles.

The tests will be provided at no cost to the patients, who will receive their results in five to seven days. Test results also will be reported to the Southern Nevada Health District. 

UNLV Medicine officials said the testing will occur for the next two weeks or until the current supply of test kits is depleted.

— Jackie Valley, 3/23/20 at 7:25 p.m.

Washoe County reports 19 new cases, increasing statewide count to 263

Washoe County health officials announced Monday that 19 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, while one more person has fully recovered.

That brings the Washoe County case total to 44 and the statewide count to 263. Washoe County Health District authorities say three people total have recovered in their region.

The 19 new cases come after more than two days’ worth of tests were submitted to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, officials said. The health district is not providing any more information because of the influx of cases.

Health authorities also said the COVID-19 Incident Management Team is accepting “sterile, unopened Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from businesses,” including masks (N95, surgical or dust), gloves, gowns, face shields and protective eyewear.

Businesses with those items available to donate should call 3-1-1 or email [email protected].

— Jackie Valley, 3/23/20 at 6:38 p.m.

Las Vegas police issue warning letters, citations against ‘nonessential’ businesses defying shutdown order

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has issued 36 warning letters, seven suspensions and four citations against ‘nonessential’ businesses that have continued to operate in spite of a mandatory shutdown directive from Gov. Steve Sisolak.

The police department said in a press release on Monday evening that it had conducted 113 “compliance checks” of businesses along with Clark County business license officials, resulting in the correctional action including seven “forced shutdowns of businesses that would not voluntarily close.” 

The agency said it would begin the compliance checks on Saturday, following Sisolak’s directive on Friday requiring all nonessential businesses in the state to temporarily cease operations for 30 days to avoid further spread of COVID-19.

— Riley Snyder, 3/23/20 at 5:57 p.m.

Clark County COVID-19 positive cases jumps to 212

The Southern Nevada Health District reported 61 new positive cases of the COVID-19 virus on Monday evening, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the state’s most populous county to 212, with at least 245 cases statewide.

In total, 245 people in the state have tested positive for the virus, and 4 individuals — all in Clark County — have died, including two on Monday. The health district also updated a demographic breakdown of the positive cases, including the fact that 44 of the individuals who tested positive for the disease are currently hospitalized.

So far, three people in the county under the age of 17 have tested positive for the virus, as well as 12 people between the age 18 to 24, 97 people between the ages of 25 to 49, 59 people between the ages of 50 to 64 and 41 people over the age of 65.

Confirmed cases in the state have been found in at least six counties, including Clark, Washoe, Douglas, Elko, Nye and Carson City.

— Riley Snyder, 3/23/20 at 5:16 p.m.

Nevada taps into state stockpile, small federal government shipment to supply hospitals with masks, gowns

Nevada has tapped into its stockpiles and a small, preliminary shipment from the federal government to supply hospitals with thousands of masks, gowns and gloves to protect medical personnel on the frontlines of treating the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, the state has disbursed a little more than 1,100 cases of N95 masks, at anywhere from 160 to 200 masks per case, nearly 7,000 gowns, and about 150 boxes of gloves from its inventory, which includes both existing supplies from the state’s public health preparedness warehouse and those sent to Nevada by the federal government. However, the state received less than 25 percent of what it had requested from the federal government in its first order and is waiting on additional supplies it has asked for through a second request.

Richard Whitley, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said in an email that the state has prioritized disbursing supplies to all hospitals and first responders through health districts, as well as direct deployment of supplies to rural health facilities.

“In our current situation, due to the high demand for all types of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Nevada was immediately overwhelmed and asked our federal partners for help in the form of a detailed resource request for PPE,” Whitley said.

He noted that emergency responses in Nevada start at the local level and escalate up to the state and federal levels. So, if local jurisdictions are overwhelmed or scarce on resources, they ask the county, neighboring counties and then the state Division of Emergency Management for assistance. If the state doesn’t have enough resources, they call on other states for assistance — difficult at this point in time, because all states are under resourced — or the federal government, through its strategic national stockpile, or SNS.

“The problem is that with COVID-19, all states are asking for the SNS and there is not enough SNS to go around to fulfill every PPE request nationwide,” Whitley said.

Tribes requesting resources are allowed to send their requests directly to the county, state or federal governments.

— Megan Messerly, 3/23/20 at 3:45 p.m.

Nonprofits, companies launch system to deliver meals to homebound Southern Nevada residents during pandemic

Clark County officials and private philanthropists are teaming up to create a system to deliver meals to low-income, homebound people who fear leaving their homes because of coronavirus.

The program, called Delivering with Dignity, made its inaugural deliveries of 800 meals to 100 different families on Monday. The focus is elderly and medically fragile residents who may not be able to get out to grocery stores or food distribution sites, and can’t afford restaurant takeout or delivery.

“If you’re at home, and you don’t think anybody knows about you … we intend to identify you, work with you … so we can find a way to deliver wholesome meals to you,” said Julie Murray, president of The Moonridge Foundation and co-founder of food bank supplier Three-Square, in a press conference on Monday.

The initiative is a partnership between Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkptraick, groups including the Elaine P. Wynn and Family Foundation and Intermountain Healthcare, and Copia, a for-profit technology company that redistributes leftover food from businesses and nonprofits to those in need.

Meals delivered Monday — which included enough food for two meals for a family of four — were prepared by chefs at Las Vegas restaurant Honey Salt and delivered by seven volunteer drivers to families identified by the nonprofit organization Foster Kinship. The recipients were largely seniors raising their grandchildren, who may be at risk by taking their grandchildren to sites such as schools where free meals are distributed during food closures.

Financial donations to Delivering with Dignity can be made at moonridgefoundation.org. The United Way of Southern Nevada is fielding inquiries about volunteering and service requests and can be reached at (702) 892-2300.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/23/20 at 2:45 p.m.

Regulators approve more than 100 marijuana delivery vehicles over weekend as dispensaries quickly switch to delivery-only

Officials with the Nevada Department of Taxation worked through the weekend to help dispensaries quickly shut their doors and move to delivery-only, notching a 50 percent increase in the number of stores that can legally deliver.

Tyler Klimas, executive director of the Cannabis Compliance Board, said that 127 requests for delivery vehicle inspections came in just over the weekend, and 101 of those have been approved so far.

Nineteen additional dispensaries now have approved delivery vehicles, up from 38 previously. There are about 70 dispensaries regulated by the state.

On Friday, the state announced that storefront dispensaries — which had previously remained open to foot traffic on the basis that they were essential businesses providing a medicinal product — were directed to close and only offer products delivered directly to consumers. Curbside pickup is also banned to avoid customers congregating on dispensary property.

Taxation officials replaced their normal process of an in-person vehicle inspection with a virtual procedure that involves submitting photos and video of a car so regulators can verify compliance with delivery vehicle regulations, which include having a secure lockbox.

Klimas said he’s aware of people stocking up on marijuana as coronavirus has spread, but said he has no indication there are issues with the cannabis supply chain.

Michelle Rindels, 3/23/20, 2:10 p.m.

Clark County closing park playgrounds and bathrooms; Lake Mead and state parks cut services to curb virus spread

Clark County is closing playgrounds and park restroom facilities “out of an abundance of caution to help reduce the possibility of community spread of the [coronavirus].”

The county announced Monday that it would be encircling playgrounds with yellow caution tape and posting signs, in addition to locking bathrooms, to try to keep people from congregating. Trails and open outdoor park spaces remain open, but visitors are strongly urged to maintain social distance with others.

Maintenance staff will be doing daily checks to ensure the caution tape and signs remain intact.

The county operates 100 public parks. A complete list is available here

The closures come as campgrounds and facilities such as visitor centers in Nevada state parks were shuttered last week. The parks are open for day use only.

Lake Mead National Recreational Area is also closing many facilities on the Nevada side of the park in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. That includes parking areas, restrooms, beaches and campgrounds.

Officials with Lake Mead said that they had 40,000 people visit on Saturday, which is twice the normal level of visitation for this time of year.

— Michelle Rindels, 3/23/20, 1:41 p.m.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in Nevada total 245, up 55 from prior day; two more deaths in Clark County

There are now 245 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus across the state of Nevada, up 55 from the previous day, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The Southern Nevada Health District also announced two more deaths — a woman in her 70s and a man in his 60s, both with underlying medical conditions — bringing the countywide and statewide death totals to four.

“We are saddened to report that two more people with coronavirus disease have died in our community,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, the district's acting chief health officer.

The health district is also reporting a total of 151 cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday, up 25 from the prior day, with another case update expected for later in the day on Monday.

Individual county totals are currently lagging the state’s reported total, 245, but there have been confirmed cases in Clark, Washoe, Douglas, Elko and Nye counties, as well as Carson City. Clark County has, by far, the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases — 126 as of Saturday.

Carson City Health and Human Services reported Douglas County’s second case of COVID-19 on Monday morning, a woman in her 70s with no underlying health conditions who became symptomatic after having an out-of-state visitor. She is self-isolating at home.

— Megan Messerly, 3/23/20 at 12:48 p.m.

All school districts except Clark approved to begin, continue distance learning

Sixteen of Nevada’s seventeen school districts and all charter schools in the state have been approved to continue or start distance education as their brick-and-mortar facilities remain shut as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday morning.

The only school district that had not submitted a proposal for distance education or an extended school year by Sunday evening was the Clark County School District. The governor’s office said in a statement that while the state worked with the attorney general’s office to ensure that emergency plans could be approved, Clark County School District elected to consult its board.

The Clark County School District is holding a board meeting Monday morning, where distance learning will be discussed.

The 16 school districts and charter schools that have had their plans approved to engage in distance education as of Monday. Approval of the plans, which follows an emergency directive signed by Sisolak on Friday, means that schools will continue to receive payments from the state’s K-12 education fund, known as the Distributive School Account, and will not have to adjust their school calendars to make up missed time.

Sisolak, in a statement, expressed his “strong appreciation” for the school districts and charter schools who “stepped up in good faith” to submit their distance learning plans. The emergency directive requires districts and charter schools to begin offering distance learning no later than Monday, or the next regularly scheduled school session today.

“We are all operating under challenging circumstances, and I am proud of our educators for coming together to find creative solutions to ensure students can continue learning despite school closures,” Sisolak said.

The emergency directive additionally bars schools from reopening any earlier than April 16 in an attempt to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and suspends state testing requirements. It also suspends all statutory and regulatory requirements related to distance learning applications and expands the term to include paper correspondence, to allow kids to learn even if they don’t have access to a computer at home.

— Megan Messerly, 3/23/20 at 8:25 a.m.

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