Nevada to require COVID vaccines or weekly testing for state employees
Nevada plans to require state employees to either show proof of a COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly tests for the virus beginning next month as COVID metrics continue to worsen.
State officials made the announcement during a statewide COVID-19 update call last week, preceding announcements from other large jurisdictions including California, New York City, and even one federal agency — the Department of Veterans Affairs — requiring employees to either undergo weekly testing or present proof of vaccination status.
The new requirements for the roughly 27,500 full time employees employed by the state are expected to take effect mid-August — as soon as the state has implemented a vaccination and testing program. DuAne Young, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s policy director, said in the media call last week that the state is mobilizing its “own internal medical professional workforce to work with agencies to build vaccine confidence.”
“We are appreciative of those in the private sector, including some of the state's largest employers, who have already taken initiative in this area by implementing regular testing requirements for unvaccinated employees,” Young said, in a nod to casino resort companies on the Las Vegas Strip. “The state encourages local businesses, including providers of health care such as hospitals and skilled nursing facilities, to follow on this path as soon as possible.”
Under the new policy, unvaccinated state employees will be required to undergo weekly testing until their workplace reaches at least a 70 percent vaccination rate, but will still be required to continue following mask protocols even if their workplace passes that threshold.
Vaccinated state employees do not need to wear a mask, though they still need to follow any stricter COVID-related guidelines adopted by individual counties — including the decision by the Clark County Commission last week to require all employees of businesses in the county to wear masks indoors while at work.
Under another new state policy, any state employee who contracts COVID-19 will be required to use sick leave for any time off or quarantine period and will not be eligible for paid administrative leave unless they provide evidence of vaccination or affirmation from a doctor that they have a medical condition preventing vaccination. That policy went into effect on June 1.
Driven largely by the highly transmissible Delta variant, COVID-19 cases in Nevada have in recent weeks reached levels not seen in the state since early February. On Monday, about 900 cases were reported each day over the last seven days on average — with roughly 84 percent of cases statewide caused by the Delta variant.
As of Monday, nearly 53 percent of Nevadans have been either fully or partially vaccinated against COVID-19. About 34 percent of the state’s population is eligible for the vaccine but has not yet received it.
Updated at 10:16 a.m. to correct state policy on mask wearing and weekly testing for unvaccinated state employees.