LAUGHLIN — Nevada won’t be transitioning to another stage in the restarting of the economy after coronavirus closures because testing data is still being evaluated to measure the impact of the reopening.
There has been a significant upward trend in new cases of the infections. On Tuesday, the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services reported 379 new cases — the largest single-day increase since the state began monitoring cases in March. The previous single-day high had been 295, on May 22.
The Department of Health and Human Services said the increase can be attributed, at least in part, to delayed reporting from the weekend but also is part of an upward trend of new cases the state has seen in the last three weeks.
Nevada’s casinos reopened almost two weeks ago after being shuttered for 11 weeks, but Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Monday that current limits on customer capacity in businesses, social distancing guidance and limits on gatherings of more than 50 people would remain at least until the end of June, so health officials can evaluate.
At Monday’s news conference, Sisolak said that Nevada will remain in Phase 2 for the foreseeable future amid an uptick in new positive cases.
“We are not ready to go into Phase 3 yet,” he said. “The timeline will be dictated by the virus.”
He recapped what the state has — and hasn’t — accomplished.
“Seventy days ago, thereabouts, we closed casinos,” Sisolak said. “It seems like five years ago to me. It seems like an eternity that we’ve been living under this.”
Nevada transitioned into Phase 2 of the governor’s reopening plan on May 29, with casinos reopening June 4. In Phase 2, gatherings of people were increased from 10 to 50, with social distancing standards remaining in place. Gyms, fitness clubs, movie theaters, bowling alleys, indoor malls, museums, art galleries, pools and water parks were allowed to reopen, operating at half capacity.
Sisolak stated there has been an upward trend in daily new cases over the last three weeks with the seven-day average percentage of positive results increasing from 2.7% to 4.5% since May 25.
Sisolak said that while the amount of coronavirus testing in the state has increased greatly over the last weeks, the state’s rolling seven-day average of positive cases as well as the number of COVID-19 related hospitalizations also have continued to increase.
“We had the expectation that as a result of reopening and an increase in testing, our positive cases were likely to increase,” Sisolak said. “We have seen an increase in positive cases, but that has yet to negatively impact the capacity of our hospitals.”
As a result of the latest developments, businesses slated to reopen in Phase 3 will remain closed. These include bars, nightclubs, adult entertainment establishments and brothels.
“Before expanding our reopening, and entering to Phase 3, we must continue to allow ourselves the time to evaluate this new medical information, along with the impact of reopening to make sure we’re doing all we can to protect ourselves and the capacity of our health care system to respond to the virus,” Sisolak said. “We’re taking this seriously. As we have all along, we’ll allow our medical experts the time to monitor and make assessments.”
The pandemic has decimated Nevada’s budget, creating a shortfall of around $900 million this fiscal year and a projected $1.3 billion next fiscal year. Last week, Sisolak announced that 50 state employees will be laid off, new positions are frozen, and that he state is furloughing all workers for one day a month and also freezing merit pay increases. Sisolak said there will be a special legislative session this fiscal year, which ends on July 1. It will be held in person in Carson City, he said, though the timing has not been set.
“We are clearly in an extremely difficult position,” he said. “We’re short money that we’re going to have to come up with, and it’s going to be done through a combination of the revenue and the expense side. I know it’s difficult for me to even think about raising taxes when I’ve got families that are still unemployed, still waiting to get back to work.”
Sisolak, who previously told the Las Vegas Chamber that taxes were not the answer to the state’s budget woes, declined to rule out a future tax hike, saying it would be up to the Legislature.
“I don’t know what appetite there is there,” he said. “I know it’s difficult for me to even think about raising taxes when I’ve got families that are still unemployed, they’re still waiting to get back to work and don’t want to impact those at all, but it’s going to depend on what the Legislature comes up with.”
Nevada has had a moratorium on evictions that coincides with the state of emergency directive and is effective through June 30. Sisolak did not say whether it would be extended beyond that.
“We’re looking at that, we’re analyzing that, and we will have another announcement before June 30 as it relates to that directive.”