As Nevada prepares to vaccinate its healthcare workers this week with the Pfizer vaccine approved Friday by the Food and Drug Administration, Gov. Steve Sisolak Sunday extended his “pause” until Jan. 15, and he warned he will take tougher measures if coronavirus infections and hospitalizations don’t decrease.
The pause, implemented just before Thanksgiving, strengthened a mask mandate and reduced capacity in casinos, restaurants, and bars from 50 percent to 25 percent and required reservations for restaurants, even at casinos. It even placed a restriction on home gatherings and required masks be worn at gyms at all times and when people are around someone not from the same households. Gatherings were limited to 50 people, and that continues.
Sisolak, who said he was willing to add tougher measures if needed, said a University of Washington study says 74 percent of Nevada residents are wearing masks when they leave home. If that number rose to 95 percent, that would save 1,000 lives by April 1, he said.
“If we want to avoid another Great Depression, avoid preventable deaths and stop the overwhelming of our hospitals while our healthcare workers are literally crying for help, then we will rise to this occasion and fight,” Sisolak said.
The Governor encouraged tourists to continue to come to Nevada, especially during the holidays, but said they should only come if they follow the rules about wearing masks and social distancing.
Sisolak used his press conference to push Congress to provide additional financial relief to individuals and businesses. Sisolak shuttered casinos for 2½ months from mid-March to early June over the coronavirus.
“I want to talk bluntly about gaming and hospitality,” Sisolak said. “I know it’s hard for Nevadans to reconcile why some areas of our economy and public life are restricted while the State’s casinos are open. I get why it’s hard to reconcile that fact, and I want to talk honestly with you.
“The gaming industry is under the same restrictions as many of our small businesses, and in some cases, even tougher restrictions,” he said. “Restaurants and bars in casinos face the same capacity limits as those in our neighborhoods. Gaming floors have been reduced to 25 percent as well.”
Sisolak said when he thinks of the gaming industry, he’s not losing sleep at night because he’s worried about their stock prices or whether gaming executives are going to make it through the pandemic and be able to keep a roof over their heads.
“I lose sleep at night because when we were under a stay-at-home order in the spring, we lost a quarter of a million jobs in three months in this state, and that’s largely due to casinos being closed for 78 days straight,” Sisolak said. “These are the folks we are fighting to protect — it’s the hundreds of thousands of Nevadans who take pride in showing up for work every single day and the ability that gives them to provide for their families. If we take that away, the bottom falls out for our entire state.”
Sisolak said if the state had to shut down again, it loses an estimated $52 million in gaming tax revenue a month. That doesn’t include room tax, live entertainment tax, and more.
“When I say revenue, I mean the money the state has to give direct assistance to Nevadans in the form of schools, public and mental health, food banks, and more,” Sisolak said. “It helps fund the critical services we rely on – the safety net we need. That’s what’s been devastated due to this pandemic.”