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Breaking Down Essential Vs. Nonessential Businesses In Nevada

Northwest Pool
City of Reno
This week Governor Steve Sisolak tightened restrictions to his “Stay at Home” order to outlaw gatherings of ten or more in public spaces, including recreational areas such as golf courses and swimming pools.";s:

It’s been weeks since Governor Steve Sisolak ordered all nonessential businesses to close across the state. But there's still confusion around what is considered essential and how those closures are being enforced.

KUNR’s News Director Michelle Billman recently spoke with Noah Glick, KUNR's reporter for the Mountain West News Bureau, to break it down.

Billman: The governor ordered nonessential businesses to close but there’s been a lot of questions about what that entails. So, let’s start with the obvious: What is considered essential at this point?

Glick: Yeah, right now there are quite a few businesses that are deemed essential, based on the emergency regulations from the state.

That includes some of the obvious things, like hospitals, medical clinics and grocery stores. It also includes what is considered essential infrastructure operations. That means construction, agriculture and farming, airports, utilities, mining, trash removal and telecommunications among a few others.

In addition, some of the businesses that can stay open include retailers that sell food or other needed products for the “safety, sanitation and essential operations of households.” That includes your pet stores, banks, cannabis dispensaries by delivery only and even pawnbrokers. Now, the shop parts aren’t open, but the lending side is.

Additionally, there are lots of other businesses that are allowed to continue to operate, including plumbers, electricians, child care facilities, media, hotels and gas stations. But any business that is open must follow social distancing guidelines.

Billman: What about the nonessential businesses? What has closed down?

Glick: Well, gaming I think is the most well-known industry considered nonessential during this pandemic. The last time the Las Vegas Strip was shut down was after the John F. Kennedy assassination. And that was just for a day, some were even closed just hours. So this is an entirely new reality that Nevada has never seen before.

As you know, the loss of gaming has led to historic levels of unemployment claims already across the state.

But, gaming is not alone. Recreational activities are on hold, meaning gyms, yoga studios, community centers, movie theaters, even zoos and aquariums are shut down.

I talked with Bill Baker who is the executive director of the Animal Ark Wildlife Sanctuary in Reno. Zoos are on the list of nonessential businesses, so he’s had to shut his doors to the public. But he has to keep his operation going, because the animals need care.

Baker said, “I have certain animals in the animal collection that fall under the Endangered Species Act as well. So, we have very high standards that we adhere to, so varying from those standards is really not an option."

In addition, all live entertainment venues are closed, and so are museums, nightclubs and in true Nevada fashion, brothels.

Billman: What was the rollout like for this? How has this been received?

Glick: The initial rollout was a bit rocky. First, Governor Steve Sisolak strongly urged nonessential businesses to close. But a lot of businesses either didn’t understand the regulations or just defied the suggestion. So, he then later came back and ordered them to do so.

Since these directives, Sisolak has had to release clarifying information, for example, clearing up that liquor stores are nonessential. And he’s had a hard time answering questions about specific industries, like construction and mining.

Furthermore, Sisolak extended some of those closures this week. So now, any space that brings 10 or more people together is closed. That means in-person religious services are outlawed. Golf courses and public swimming pools must now close. Open houses for home sales are no longer allowed and showrooms at car lots or other businesses must also close.

Sisolak didn’t provide a ton of details, but did say that violators will be subject to civil and criminal penalties if they don’t abide.

Billman: So what’s the process for enforcement? Are businesses being penalized?

Glick: Short answer, yes. Businesses can face fines or even lose their license if they don’t comply. But there’s a whole process that takes place first.

Here’s Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam explaining what happens once a nonessential business is reported being open:

“Code enforcement goes out, they will issue the letter that the governor sent several declarations ago. They’ll give it that, they’ll tell them they need to close down, they’re nonessential. They’ll follow up 48 hours later, make sure they have closed down. If not, then they call us.”

So it doesn’t sound like it would be an immediate closure or anything. Balaam says his deputies have only had to visit one business, but haven’t issued any fines. But, if you’re a business owner and you have questions, Balaam says you can call 3-1-1.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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