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Nevada scraps phased reopening plan, unveils new approach

July 28, 2020 GMT

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Steve Sisolak announced plans to implement a long-term reopening strategy that allows for more granular decision-making as the coronavirus continues to spread and leaves Nevada unable to follow its original reopening plan.

“We’ve learned a lot about this virus in the last five months. While phases made sense at the time, we’ve got to be flexible and responsive to what we’re seeing now,” the governor said.

Sisolak’s new strategy will replace broad guidelines with narrower reopening criteria, evaluating data on a business-by-business basis rather than targeting entire industries. Sisolak said the new strategy would hone in on municipalities and even individual zip codes instead of evaluating data at the county level.

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The governor said he hopes the strategy protects “good actors” that comply with Nevada’s prevention measures and provides businesses and residents a clearer, more predictable idea of when communities will reopen.

“With this new plan, no business, local government or individual should be surprised by future actions as the trends – good and bad – will be announced regularly and the resulting actions will be clear,” Sisolak said.

The governor said the new plan includes tougher enforcement of businesses and local governments that flout safety measures like the state’s mask mandate. The time for spreading awareness and hoping businesses would comply was over, he said.

“If people aren’t following the rules to keep us safe, there needs to be consequences,” he said.

Sisolak also announced bars in three counties — Humboldt, Lander and Lyon County — had met the criteria necessary to reopen after they were forced shut two weeks ago. The state will still mandate social distancing, face-covering and capacity limits. Bars that don’t serve food in Clark, Washoe, Nye and Elko County will remain closed.

State public health deputy administrator Julia Peek, who is leading contact tracing in Nevada, said the new approach would rely on expanding case investigations. Health officials plan to hire up to 100 additional contact tracers and roll out a new tool that seeks to“surgically understand where somebody was,” when they may have contracted the virus, Peek said.

Health officials reported 997 newly confirmed virus cases Monday, but for the first time in a month no additional deaths. The total number of known deaths stands at 734 while the total confirmed cases are 43,831.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

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For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe illness including pneumonia and death. The vast majority recover.

In other developments:

__Health and hospital officials in Las Vegas moved to replace a busy drive-thru coronavirus testing site in a casino parking structure with an indoor operation at the city-owned conference hall, the Cashman Center. It will open Aug. 4.

__With testing operations at capacity and several-day waits for results, University Medical Center in Las Vegas recently adjusted testing policies to give priority to people exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and those who have been exposed to the virus.

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Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.