Government Affairs & Advocacy Nevada Update – State of Nevada Response to COVID-19
March 20, 2020, 10:00am
It’s been one week since Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak declared a State of Emergency for the state of Nevada in response to the growing presence of COVID-19 cases in the state. Since that time, state and local governments have imposed additional measures with the goal to mitigate and ultimately contain the rapidly developing situation.
In his initial declaration last week, the Governor ordered the activation of the Nevada Health Response team, an organization charged with consolidating information and resources for concerned Nevadans. Sisolak additionally formed a medical advisory team, led by the State of Nevada’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ihsan Azzam and comprised of leading medical experts in the state. The team will provide medically based guidance to the state in regard to necessary policies and procedures.
Sunday, Governor Sisolak ordered a statewide closure of all K-12 schools. At this time, the closure extends until April 6, pending additional developments. For Clark County School District, schools will be closed until April 13, adhering to their previously scheduled Spring Break. The Department of Agriculture, in union with various organizations, local governments and school districts scrambled to address gaps in meal service for children who rely on free and reduced lunch programs. As of yesterday, there are close to 30 meal delivery sites in Las Vegas and more than 70 sites throughout the state.
Governor Sisolak additionally requested all executive branch agencies to close state offices to the public but allowed them the authority and discretion to implement office closures for non-essential employees, tele-working, staggered scheduling, or a hybrid approach. For essential services, including but not limited to unemployment insurance, the DMV, Medicaid and welfare, agencies have been asked to limit in-person services as much as possible.
Tuesday, Governor Sisolak addressed the state in what he said would be his last in-person press conference for a while. In this announcement, the Governor mandated that all gaming machines, devices, table games and any related equipment be shut down by midnight on March 17th and requested all non-essential businesses to close until further notice. While a brief description of what is essential was given in the press conference, definitive clarification has been top priority as businesses of all sizes try to determine if they are “essential” or “non-essential.”
By way of guidance from the Governor, the Nevada Health Response team and the Nevada Labor Commissioner, the following industries have been delineated as essential and non-essential.
Law Enforcement Agencies
Supermarkets and Grocery Stores
Convenience Stores and Discount Stores
Gas Stations and Truck Stops
Garbage Collection Companies
Child Care/Daycare Facilities
Home Maintenance/Repair Services
Construction and Repair/Services
Post Office/ FedEx/ UPS
Veterinary Hospitals and Pet Stores
Logistics and Supply Chain Operations, Including Warehouses, Storage and Distribution Facilities
Essential Stays in Hotels, Commercial Lodging, Dormitories, Shelters and Homeless Encampments
Food Processing Facilities
Agriculture, Livestock and Feed Mills
Gyms and Recreation Centers
Bars and Clubs
Hair Salons and Spas
Entertainment and Hospitality
Strip Clubs and Brothels
Concert Venues, Arenas, Auditoriums, Stadiums, Large Conference Rooms, Meeting Halls, and Cafeterias
Following the directive of the Nevada Health Response team, other categorizations of business such as legal services, business and management consulting and various professional services have been encouraged to operate remotely.
The Occupation Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) under the Department of Business and Industry has also issued additional guidance for the construction, mining and manufacturing industries. The memorandum released by the Administration highlights additional protocol and guidelines for the management of staff and labor in each respective area of work. The full text can be found here: OSHA Guidance
Testing in Southern Nevada
In a tele-townhall held by Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft and Congresswoman Dina Titus Wednesday night, Dr. Michael Johnson from the Southern Nevada Health District provided an update on the region’s testing capacity and new developments. Dr. Johnson stated that while Clark County still has capacity for testing, especially through commercial labs, they have put in a request with the federal government for more kits. In a call earlier this week with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), “swab pods,” or drive-through testing, was discussed as a likely feature for the Las Vegas valley.
Local Government Response
While guidance at the state level has remained steady, several local jurisdictions have enacted their own policies that address more specific areas of concern.
On Monday, City of Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve held a press conference in which she requested all non-essential businesses within the city to close down, particularly referencing bars, restaurants and gyms, until April 5. Mayor Schieve referenced directions from the Washoe County Health District for the closures. However, the Washoe County Health District quickly refuted its participation in the policy change which also took the Chief of Police and the Mayor’s top staff members by surprise. While there is no authority to mandate closure, Schieve’s directive was soon reinforced by the Governor’s announcement the following day. Businesses such as restaurants and other related services are encouraged to continue operating by way of take-out and delivery.
Washoe County, Clark County, City of Henderson and City of Sparks have suspended regularly scheduled county commission, city council and related meetings through the month of March. The City of Reno has yet to suspend any scheduled meetings but is planning to operate in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Following the discretion of Mayor Carolyn Goodman, the City of Las Vegas held its regularly scheduled city council meeting Wednesday, but operated under certain safety precautions. In the meeting, Mayor Goodman voiced concern for small businesses who fall under the non-essential category, citing the Governor’s 30-day closure recommendation. Her critique of the Governor’s directives has caused controversy among other Council Members and State elected officials. City Councilman Brian Knudsen said Wednesday that if the council does not move to a tele-communication format, he will no longer attend the meetings.
Several grocery stores, most notably the Smith’s Food and Drug chain, have begun instituting senior-only hours for their stores. This designates specific times in which seniors can shop for groceries in a minimal risk atmosphere. Certain local governments have also suspended restrictions delivery hours to local businesses to allow for operational flexibility to replenish inventories as efficiently as possible.
Federal Government Response
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed into law a coronavirus relief package deploying an estimated $1-billion in aid to provide two weeks of emergency paid sick leave, additional unemployment benefits, provide free COVID-19 testing and expanded food assistance. The bill, named the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, originated from the House and had received substantial discussion from Senate leadership leading up to the vote. Upon negotiations and an acknowledgement for the time-sensitivity of the legislation, the Senate passed the bill 90-8. A major criticism of the bill is the exemption for businesses with more than 500 employees to adhere to the sick leave requirements. Those who are self-employed and qualify for the sick-leave conditions are also eligible for the tax credit provided in the bill.
In the White House, talks of an economic stimulus package that would put money directly into the hands of every American is center stage. Half of the proposed $1 trillion package seeks to deliver a $1,000 check per every adult, plus an addition $500 per child. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has recommended this occur every 6 six weeks as long as the national emergency is still going on. $300-billion of the allocation would be used to help businesses keep employees on payroll and offer circumstantial loan forgiveness. The remaining $200-billion would be devoted to helping airlines and other industries majorly impacted by the pandemic. This would be the third bill passed by the federal government in response to COVID-19, following the Families First Act and the initial bill with $8.3-billion for healthcare facilities, health agencies and first responders.
Statistical data on the status of COVID-19 in the state of Nevada can be found at this link: DHHS COVID-19 DATA
To subscribe to the Nevada Health Response website and receive up to date information, you can find that information at this link: Subscribe to Updates
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