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Halloween canceled at Nevada governor’s mansion over virus

October 15, 2020 GMT
FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2020, file photo, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak speaks wearing a face mask themed after the Vegas Golden Knights' mascot Chance the Golden Gila Monster during a news conference in Las Vegas. Trick-or-treating has been canceled this year at the Nevada governor's mansion due to the coronavirus pandemic, and state health officials are advising people marking Halloween and El Día de los Muertos to avoid large gatherings. Sisolak said Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, the mansion will be decorated but the annual festivities will not take place to keep staff and visitors safe. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP, Pool, File)
FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2020, file photo, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak speaks wearing a face mask themed after the Vegas Golden Knights' mascot Chance the Golden Gila Monster during a news conference in Las Vegas. Trick-or-treating has been canceled this year at the Nevada governor's mansion due to the coronavirus pandemic, and state health officials are advising people marking Halloween and El Día de los Muertos to avoid large gatherings. Sisolak said Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, the mansion will be decorated but the annual festivities will not take place to keep staff and visitors safe. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP, Pool, File)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Trick-or-treating at the Nevada governor’s mansion has been canceled this year due to the pandemic, and state health officials are advising people marking Halloween and Día de los Muertos to avoid large gatherings.

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Wednesday that his official residence in Carson City will be decorated but the annual festivities will not take place to help keep staff and visitors safe.

Nevada’s COVID-19 response office issued guidelines in English and Spanish saying costume masks do not count as the type of face coverings that must be worn in public.

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“Participating in virtual activities is the safest option,” the recommendations said. “The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services encourages alternatives to traditional, door-to-door trick-or-treating this year to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.”

The guidance said people opening doors and handing out candy are unlikely to remain at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) from visitors and suggested people remain outdoors, if possible, for short visits in small groups.

The Halloween restrictions were unveiled as coronavirus cases continue to spike in Nevada. The number of confirmed cases topped 87,000 on Wednesday. The number of deaths is nearly 1,700. Almost 73,000 of those cases have been in the Las Vegas area, including 1,458 deaths, or 86% of the state total.

In Washoe County, Health District Officer Kevin Dick believes the recent rise in the county’s seven-day rolling average to more than 100 new cases a day is due to “COVID fatigue,” resulting from too many people relaxing safety practices.

“People want things to be back to normal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be normal for a while,” he said. “We basically keep building up to new plateaus.”

Despite pushback, Dick continues to recommend that the majority of public gatherings be limited to 25 people, despite Sisolak’s Oct. 1 directive raising the statewide capacity cap from 50 to 250.

“I think it’s very unwise for us just to swing open the gates to allow even larger gatherings to occur until we see what happens with the increase in those gatherings,” he said.

Dick said Wednesday he’s approaching outdoor events with fixed seating on a case-by-case basis. He said the district has approved a plan by Reno’s team in the United Soccer League to have up to 700 fans at Saturday’s playoff match against the Phoenix Rising FC at Greater Nevada Field.

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The necessary state approval followed later Wednesday for what is scheduled to be the most-attended sports event in the state since COVID-related shutdowns began in March.

The governor’s directive allows concerts and sporting events to submit individual plans to operate at 10% of capacity at venues with 2,500 or more fixed seats.

Dick said district officials attended a Reno 1868 FC match at the downtown stadium last week when 250 fans were allowed and were pleased with what they saw.

“I want to thank all the people working hard at the Washoe County Health District and state of Nevada who have helped make us the first event in Nevada to exceed 250 people since the pandemic began in March,” Reno 1868 FC President Eric Edelstein said.

Dick said he hasn’t had any discussions with officials at the University of Nevada, Reno about hosting more than 250 fans at future football games. Only 250 family members of players and coaches will be allowed at the Oct. 24 season opener against Wyoming.

In other coronavirus news:

—Sisolak and state Treasurer Zach Conine announced a $20 million grant program to buoy businesses with less than 50 employees that have struggled to remain afloat amid the pandemic. The program will offer grants of up to $10,000 to cover payroll, personal protective equipment or other coronavirus-related expenses.

Sisolak said the relief program was designed to help businesses that have had to shut their doors to prevent the spread of the virus, “which is why we made sure that Nevada’s bars, pubs, taverns breweries, distilleries and vineyards are prioritized for access to this grant money.”

—Nevada residents traveling to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut must quarantine 14 days upon arrival. Those states added Nevada back to a list of high-risk states after its positivity rate, averaged over seven days, climbed above 10%.

—To avoid being flagged as high risk, Nevada counties must test 150 individuals per every 100,000 residents daily. To incentivize COVID-19 testing, Elko County is offering 100 individuals $20 “chamber checks” that can be spent at local businesses.

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This story has been corrected to show that family members of players and coaches, not players and fans, will be allowed at UNR’s opening football game.

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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. Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.