When will Nevada reopen its economy? That's on all of our minds right now. On April 21, Gov. Steve Sisolak discussed what criteria must be met for that to happen, but he didn't give a set timeline and there's still a lot left up in the air. KUNR's Michelle Billman and Bree Zender discussed what the benchmarks to reopen look like.
Billman: When are the government restrictions going to end?
Zender: It's not as simple as just pointing out a date on a calendar. A lot of it depends on how well we all continue to socially distance ourselves from one another and data — lots of data. Kyra Morgan, the state biostatistician said at Sisolak's press conference on April 21 that the state needs to see a consistent downward trend of cases and hospitalizations for 14 days. The second guideline says they need to make sure that the health facilities are equipped and stable.
"Ability to maintain hospital capacity without the use of crisis standards of care, sufficient public health workforce capacity, local and state health departments to conduct contact tracing, detect, test, trace and isolate, expandability for healthcare providers to administer tests for symptomatic patients and sufficient laboratory testing capacity to process COVID-19 testing samples," Morgan said.
Zender: When will that happen? It's really tough to say. That's just what needs to happen before we head into phase one of recovering. Just so we're clear: downward trend of cases and hospitalizations for two straight weeks, stable healthcare facilities and expanded testing, then we go to phase one.
Billman: Let's take a look at phase one. What does that entail?
Zender: I would describe it as a very gentle loosening of restrictions, definitely not life as we have known it. Here's some of the things that might be different. A federal criteria says there might be some limited operation for some businesses, but Nevada is still deciding whether they will partially open these businesses or not. These include gyms, movie theaters, sporting events and restaurants. Whether elective surgeries can happen is still up in the air as well, as are worship services, but a lot will remain the same or similar to what we've got right now. Nevada schools will be doing distance learning for the remainder of the school year. There will be a recommendation that vulnerable individuals will continue to shelter in place and in-person visits to senior living facilities will be prohibited. All individuals should avoid socializing in groups of more than 10 people where you cannot maintain appropriate social distancing during phase one. Minimizing non-essential travel and there's also going to be a strong consideration of face coverings while in public and that guidance might be strengthened in the future. If you've been itching to have a drink with a pal or two, you're going to have to wait. Bars will remain closed. Again, just to be clear, there's no set date on when phase one will start. It all depends on the data.
Billman: Bree, what about phase two?
Zender: Gov. Sisolak didn't get into phase two during the press conference, but it appears to be in the works.
Billman: Looking at the path to reopening the state, where are we right now in that process?
Zender: State health officials say that the state appears to be plateauing in terms of cases. They say they don't know how long the plateau will last when cases begin to decrease. Keep in mind that this is all with limited testing to only individuals who for the most part are experiencing severe symptoms. Over the weekend, hundreds of protestors gathered outside the Nevada State Capitol Building, protesting Sisolak's guidelines, saying they violate the American constitution. But Sisolak isn't backing down, he says the guidelines are saving lives.
"The early models showed the potential for deaths in the tens of thousands if we didn't take immediate and aggressive action. But Nevadans took this seriously and I'm proud of you. You heeded the calls, followed the directives and saved lives. Yes, you saved lives," Sisolak said.
Zender: The data shows indicators that social distancing seems to be working according to state officials. They say we are behind the original projection of cases for the state.
The image included in this story is a screenshot from YouTube of Governor Sisolak’s press conference on April 21, 2020. View the video.