Health officers for the state’s two urban health districts said Wednesday that they were not consulted on a bill that will require them to conduct regular inspections and enforcement of COVID-19 health protocols at hotels.
Washoe County District Health Officer Kevin Dick, during a weekly call with reporters Wednesday morning, said that the legislation contains an unfunded mandate to carry out the inspections and enforcement because it only includes funding for that purpose through the end of the calendar year. The legislation, SB4, appropriates $2 million to the Southern Nevada Health District and $500,000 to the Washoe County Health District.
The bill, which passed out of the Senate 16-5 Wednesday morning, requires the two health districts to inspect hotels every three months and resort hotels every two months to ensure compliance with new COVID-19 health protocols. Under the bill, hotels will be required to routinely clean high-contact areas, implement hand washing protocols for employees and establish testing protocols for workers who are exposed to colleagues or guests who test positive for the virus, among other provisions.
The legislation additionally requires health districts to advise and make recommendations on public health protocols to the Nevada Gaming Control Board upon request and enforce any public health regulations adopted by the board.
But Dick said that the health district was not “engaged at all” on the bill.
“It’s just another burden being placed upon the health district while we’re already over extended in our response to COVID-19,” Dick said.
Dick added that he wished that the health district had been “part of the discussion” as the legislation was developed but signaled that it may be too late for any amendment to the bill, which heads to the Assembly for consideration and likely final approval Wednesday afternoon.
“I don’t think there’s going to be much opportunity for any modifications to the approach that was already put together,” Dick said. “So that’s where we’re at with it.”
Southern Nevada Health District Chief Health Officer Fermin Leguen, in a statement Wednesday afternoon, echoed Dick’s remarks.
“We are concerned about the additional duties and extremely limited time allocated for funding, only available until the end of December 2020, while the duties mandated by this bill may be extended,” Leguen said. “The Health District continues to struggle to meet the ongoing demands of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, while addressing the needs of ongoing, mostly underfunded public health programs that provide direct services to the community.”
A spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office, which shepherded the legislation, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.