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Signs for businesses on Winnemucca Blvd. in Winnemucca, NV on Feb. 23, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

On Thursday, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that a limited number of businesses could begin to open their doors on Saturday as the state entered Phase 1 in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sisolak said dine-in restaurants, retail stores and salons could reopen if they adhered to specific conditions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. Those conditions include limiting occupancy and requiring employees to wear face masks.

In his announcement, Sisolak allowed counties to impose more stringent guidelines. The Nevada Independent is providing updates as counties announce specific guidelines and enforcement protocols for businesses reopening in Phase 1.

Humboldt County accepts governor’s reopening guidelines as its own

The Humboldt County Commission voted Friday to go along with the governor’s business reopening guidelines and not enact any stricter measures.

The decision comes as the rural county continues to have the highest number of per-capita cases in the state. Humboldt health officials reported three more cases Friday, bringing the countywide total to 61. Three people have died.

But commissioners concluded that continuing business closures wouldn’t necessarily stop the spread of the upper-respiratory virus. Instead, they said it’s up to businesses and residents to comply with health recommendations, such as social distancing and wearing face masks.

“I think they’re going to be able to provide a service very responsibly,” Commissioner Mike Bell said. “It’s incumbent upon them to do that because I don’t think they want to shut down again.”

Humboldt County’s health officer, Dr. Charles Stringham, also weighed in, saying he has concerns from a medical perspective but realizes not reopening businesses poses a whole other economic risk. In general, Stringham said the governor’s plan seemed reasonable, although he recommended both employees and patrons wear face masks, especially in salon settings or while test-driving vehicles.

“We’re essentially taking the handrails down,” he said. “I think that our behavior in the future is what’s going to protect us.”

County Manager Dave Mendiola urged local businesses to “self police” each other to ensure community-wide safety and overall success of gradually reopening.

The commission’s motion to approve the governor’s reopening plan passed unanimously during the emergency meeting Friday afternoon.

— Jackie Valley, 5/8/2020 at 5:19 p.m.

Washoe County hews to state guidelines for businesses allowed to reopen in Phase 1

Washoe County released details Friday of Phase 1 reopening guidelines that closely followed the parameters set out by Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday. The county outlined its business-specific guidelines in an 18-page document to help guide businesses on how to safely reopen Saturday.

The county, which includes Reno and Sparks, also posted one-page guidelines specific to seven industries: restaurants/food trucks, salons, retail businesses, general offices, real estate and leasing businesses, farmers markets and alcohol sales

“We’ve prepared an easy-to-read one-page guidance document so that businesses will have a clear direction on what is mandatory and recommended, so that we stay safe to stay open,” Washoe County Commission Chair Bob Lucey said during a press conference on Friday. 

Each guideline offers a list of mandatory mitigation measures and best practices. It also includes enforcement information and it offers mandatory protocols for confirmed cases. 

Businesses will also be able to print a placard, available on Washoe County’s website, to display in their storefronts. The placard says that the business is “COVID Compliant.”

Staff from Washoe County, Reno and Sparks said the goal was to educate businesses about protocol. But they said that law enforcement could enforce the rules, if necessary. 

Dave Solaro, Washoe County’s assistant city manager, said that if they receive a complaint, the county will first look to educate the business on proper COVID-19 mitigation requirements. Still, Solaro said that the county could cite businesses if they are not complying with the rules.

“We don’t want to have a confrontation,” Solaro said. “We just want to simply educate. But if the code enforcement team can’t get compliance with these businesses, the local sheriff’s office will be called…to come in and further educate our businesses.”

The phased business reopening comes despite the fact that Washoe County hospitalizations have not shown a long-term decline, and the county continues to report additional cases. 

When asked about the trend, Lucey acknowledged that achieving a lower hospitalization trend has been “challenging.” But he said the county believed the situation was manageable. 

“Even though there are hospitalizations, and we’re not seeing necessarily a downward trend yet, we do have plans in place that we’ve worked [on] with the [Washoe County] Health District [and] all the local hospitals to address any needs as they become available,” he said.

Lucey was joined at the press conference by Reno Vice Mayor Devon Reese and Sparks Mayor Ron Smith. They emphasized the need to continue social distancing, wear masks in public and only go outside in a responsible manner, especially with Mother’s Day approaching.

“We have to be smart and extremely cautious, and I know that we’ll all do that together,” Reese said. “Being careful and getting this right though is not just important for the businesses that are opening in Phase 1, but it also matters for the folks who will come in later phases.”

— Daniel Rothberg, 5/8/20 at 1:27 p.m.

Clark County takes cues from state, won’t adopt stricter rules

Clark County commissioners voted unanimously on Friday not to adopt any COVID-19 safety regulations more stringent than those put forth at the state level, even though Gov. Steve Sisolak has granted counties the option of going above and beyond his rules for business reopenings.

The commission voted 7-0 after a half hour-long meeting to stick with what Sisolak laid out Thursday in his “Phase 1” reopening guidelines, which include allowing retail businesses to open Saturday but at no more than 50 percent capacity and dine-in restaurants to operate at reduced occupancy. Employees of reopened businesses are required to wear face coverings.

“In talking with the small businesses and the big businesses in my district, I think something that they’ve all expressed is consistency is important,” said Commissioner Michael Naft. “I would express my support for following these guidelines, unless the researchers, the scientific community indicate at a future time that we need to tighten things back.”

Commissioners took an almost celebratory tone ahead of their vote, which represents a significant milestone for a county that has spent nearly two months under shutdown and stay-at-home orders. 

“This is as much-anticipated a moment as I can think of in the years that I’ve been in public office,” said Commissioner Jim Gibson. “We need to be careful not to diminish the value of the great effort we’ve undertaken. We’ve all been willing to do what we needed to do … I am grateful for the way that this community has responded.” 

Gibson added that he felt confident that if he could protect himself from the coronavirus in businesses that have been open during the shutdown, he could do so in the wider range of businesses that are reopening effective Saturday.

Commissioner Tick Segerblom noted that some employees are still fearful of returning to work and contracting the virus or passing it along to vulnerable family members at home. He urged employers not to discourage workers who feel uncomfortable jumping back into their jobs from collecting unemployment benefits.

Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a member of the Local Empowerment Advisory Panel that Sisolak established to inform a reopening plan, said the group had conversations with agencies including the Southern Nevada Health District and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration “and so we feel comfortable with the ones that opened.”

But she noted that the group may reevaluate the situation going forward, and said the mantra for the community is #StaySafeToStayOpen.

“I see this as a starting point, but it really is going to depend on the public on how much more or how much less that we do,” she said. 

— Michelle Rindels, 5/8/20 at 12:46 p.m.

Lyon County outlines preliminary actions under reopening guidance

Lyon County announced three preliminary actions Friday in response to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s reopening plan. 

The Lyon County Commission plans to hold a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss how to implement the Phase 1 reopening, County Manager Jeff Page said in an email.

According to the email, employees who are teleworking will continue working remotely until instructed otherwise. The county plans to open parks, sports facilities and trails to the public as long as recreation users abide by social distancing and limit group sizes. 

County buildings will remain open by appointment. Courts and law enforcement buildings have separate procedures, according to Page’s email. 

The county directives will go into effect no later than Monday at 5:00 p.m., the email said. 

— Daniel Rothberg, 5/8/20 at 12:11 p.m.

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