Gov. Steve Sisolak said Friday that more than half of Nevada businesses surveyed Thursday by the state were not complying with a mandatory mask directive, and he threatened stronger action next week if the numbers do not change.
“As I have expressed before, I have growing concerns with our current COVID-19 data trends,” Sisolak said in a release as the disease vectors continue to rise. “If these concerning reports on noncompliance continue, I will not hesitate to take swift and decisive actions next week directed at targeted industries or areas that are experiencing concerning COVID-19 trends and non-compliance."
Sisolak said that of 204 businesses observed Thursday by the Division of Industrial Relations Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), only 49 percent were in compliance with his mandatory face-covering directive issued last week. The governor said at the time he did not intend to impose criminal penalties — and many law enforcement agencies subsequently said they would not arrest people for not wearing masks — but his statement Friday indicates he may be reconsidering.
“The noncompliance numbers reported by State officials are disappointing and unacceptable a week after the face coverings directive was issued,” Sisolak said in the release.
Since his June 24 directive, Sisolak said, 85 percent of Northern Nevada businesses are complying but only 65 percent in Southern Nevada. But the numbers for Thursday were significantly worse than those rates, per the release:
“Fifty percent of bars and restaurant bar areas visited by officials were found to be in compliance, with the remaining establishments including automobile sales and maintenance, gyms, hair and nail establishments, and tattoo shops demonstrating a 61 percent rate of compliance.”
Sisolak’s statement came less than a week before a scheduled special session to consider budget cuts and other issues, and on the first day of a long holiday weekend.
“To those businesses operating in violation of the directive by not implementing safe social distancing and face covering protocols, you’re not only jeopardizing people's health but you’re also jeopardizing your fellow businesses, your industry, and our overall economy,” he said in the release. “I am grateful for the strong partnerships state and local governments who will be taking aggressive, broad-based and swift enforcement actions throughout this holiday weekend.”
Sisolak’s mandatory mask order has received universal support from Democrats and from some Republicans, including state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer and Assembly members Tom Roberts and Jill Tolles. But the GOP leaders of the two houses — state Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer and Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus — have raised questions about the efficacy of masks and the governor’s authority to impose a mandate.
More recently, national Republicans including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have urged people to wear masks, and the country’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, recently said:
“It isn't 100 percent protection by any means, but certainly the amount that you get is worth wearing it, not only worth wearing it, but really compels you to wear it."