Restaurants and bars will have to continue maintaining a maximum 25 percent capacity through January 15 after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that he will extend his current COVID-19 restrictions. During a virtual press conference on Sunday, Sisolak says the increase in the number of hospitalizations due to complications of COVID-19 coupled with the strain on the state’s health-care system led him to tack on four more weeks of mandatory reservations at bars that serve food and restaurants, a maximum four people at tables, and the limited capacity.
“As you all know, [director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] Dr. [Anthony] Fauci predicted that Thanksgiving would cause a surge on top of a surge and every indication is that’s where the nation and where Nevada is headed at this time,” he says, adding that nearly 1,700 Nevadans remain hospitalized. “While rural and Northern Nevada are still experiencing very high levels of COVID hospitalization, declines are beginning to be noticeable in Southern Nevada, where hospitalizations have yet to peak.”
Under what Sisolak is calling a pause, casino floors and gyms continue to be limited to 25 percent capacity. Public gatherings are capped at 50 individuals or 25 percent capacity, whichever is less, and private residential gatherings are limited to 10 people, with a maximum from no more than two households. Fast food restaurants and food courts are exempt from the reservation requirement.
The news comes ahead of a somber Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas, which already cancelled plans for fireworks to celebrate 2021’s arrival, a night that usually sees more than 300,000 revelers take over a closed Las Vegas Boulevard.
“Avoid gathering, limit exposure by staying home as much as you can, wash your hands, wear your mask,” Sisolak advises.
The governor also announced he will issue a moratorium on evictions in Nevada through March 15. “Keeping Nevadans in their homes to slow COVID-19 was safer than making emergency shelter housing or shelter arrangements, which increases the risk of spreading COVID-19,” he says.
The evictions moratorium applies to tenants who are unable to pay rent, and not for other lease breaches such as unlawful activity or nuisances. Missed housing payments must be repaid, he says.
The first shipment of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine arrives in Nevada on Monday. The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use of the vaccine on Friday.
Sisolak originally introduced these new restrictions starting on November 24 in the hopes of containing a virus that has health-care professionals pleading with Nevadans to wear masks. The three-week pauses was set to expire on December 15.
Sisolak acknowledges that his mitigation measures will make no one happy. “On one hand, we have record cases and our hospitals are under increased strain due to COVID. On the other hand, our families are suffering economically with the unemployment rate remaining in the top two highest in the country, with little remaining assistance available. Some say we’ve gone too far. Some say we aren’t doing enough. I understand both sides,” he says. “The last nine months have been full of decisions with no winning options, leaving us to determine which choice would lessen the blow the most.”
In October, Las Vegas reported 13.8 percent unemployment, and Nevada trails only Hawai’i in the percentage of unemployed.
Nevada reported 2,494 new cases on Saturday, and continues to have the highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations per capita nationwide, with 1,854 hospitalizations, a new record, on Thursday.