Governor: Two weeks before coronavirus overwhelms Nevada
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Although the coronavirus is spreading at record rates in Nevada, the state will not need to tighten restrictions if individuals commit to preventative measures like mask-wearing and working from home, Gov. Steve Sisolak said on Tuesday.
For the third time in three weeks, the governor referred to “alarming trends” and said Nevada was almost at the point where stricter measures would be necessary. But unlike in the past, where he has hesitated to commit to benchmarks or timelines, he provided a deadline: If Nevada doesn’t show signs that it’s containing the virus in two weeks, he will be forced to tighten the state’s prevention measures.
“If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out. Reduce your time in public to what is necessary, and limit any and all exposures to those outside your household,” Sisolak said. “Think about changes like ordering groceries for delivery instead of going into the store, or picking up dinner curbside from your favorite restaurant and instead of sitting indoors with others who are not members of your family.”
Sisolak said he was confident that, if residents adopt a “Stay-At-Home 2.0 mentality,” they can prevent Nevada’s public health response and infrastructure from reaching a breaking point.
Health officials reported 1,322 new COVID-19 cases and seven deaths on Tuesday, increasing the statewide totals to 112,304 confirmed cases and 1,859 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The governor acknowledged his earlier pleas to wear masks, social distance and limit potential exposure to the virus had been disregarded by large swaths of the population and become ensnared in partisanship, but said he remains hopeful that residents will commit to prevention measures — for at least two weeks.
He directly addressed protesters opposed to his policies, begging them to commit to masks and take a break from picketing outside his home and office while the state attempts to keep the virus from overcrowding its hospitals and health care infrastructure.
By providing a concrete timeline, Sisolak said he hoped to demonstrate his seriousness about the prospect of rolling back reopening measures.
“I’m not gonna come at you in two weeks and say we can give you another chance because I’m not giving you another chance,” he said.
Since August, Nevada has delegated most coronavirus mitigation decision making to counties, which have to submit plans to a state task force when they reach certain risk thresholds. Sisolak said he still believes in the strategy and implored local officials to “step up” and coordinate efforts as the situation grows more dire statewide.
In Reno, where the number of active cases has climbed a dramatic 65% over the past week, Mayor Hillary Schieve also warned residents that stricter enforcement could be on the horizon. Like Sisolak, she noted dangerous trends could quickly overwhelm area hospitals and said she was considering — but not committing to — stricter enforcement.
Schieve said she’s prepared to ask the city council to authorize fines for failure to wear masks for a two-month period, if residents fail to redouble their personal efforts to fight the spread of the virus in the Reno-Sparks area.
Reno area hospitals are preparing to set up additional facilities should they need to increase their hospital bed capacity, including in adjacent parking garages, said Dr. John Hess, a physician at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Reno.
“Within a week, patients will start to go into the parking garage. That should be a massive wakeup call for the community,” he said.
Despite the sounding of alarm, officials from Nevada’s largest school districts are considering both tightening and loosening restrictions. In Washoe County, home to Reno, the school board was scheduled on Tuesday to review its hybrid model, which allows for some in-person instruction, and consider reverting entirely to remote learning.
But in Las Vegas, the Clark County School District Board of Trustees scheduled a meeting for later this week to consider a plan to reopen schools in southern Nevada for hybrid learning as soon as January. Only remote instruction has been in place so far this school year.
Sonner reported from Reno. 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 undercovered issues.