Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has ordered all non-essential businesses in the state to shut down for 30 days in order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. That includes bars, dine-in restaurants, retail stores, hotels, salons and barbershops. The closure even extends to the state’s gaming industry. Included on the list of non-essential are all casinos — which were shuttered last night. To help us break it all down is KUNR’s Paul Boger.
Zender: Alright, Paul, take me through this order. What types of businesses are affected?
Boger: It’s a broad, sweeping order that closes all non-essential businesses, including restaurants, bars, pubs, wineries, breweries, coffee shops, gyms, shopping malls, movie theaters, barbershops and salons. I want to add some clarity here. Not all restaurants will close. Those that are able to offer drive-thru, curbside takeout and delivery services to their customers can stay open.
All gaming in the state has also been ordered to cease operations. So for the first time since the legalization of gambling in 1931, there is no gaming in Nevada. That includes casinos, but also every slot and video poker machine in every gas station and grocery store in the state.
As for essential services, that includes grocery stores, pharmacies, drug and convenience stores, banks and financial institutions, hardware stores, truck stops, daycares, businesses that provide services to disadvantaged populations and gas stations, as well as police, fire, transit and health care services.
For more professional settings, like office buildings, the governor has left that decision up to the discretion of the employers, but again, he’s asking that social distancing protocols be put into place, like rearranging workspaces so that they’re at least six feet apart.
These are very impactful measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. And as the governor said during his prepared remarks last night, this needs to be taken deadly serious, because it is.
“I know this directive will cause many of our family and friends to distress," Sisolak said, "but I ask you, what are you willing to do to save your own life and the lives of those you love? We absolutely must take this step for every Nevadan’s health and safety. Please, please take this seriously. Lives are at stake and each day passing, this pandemic is growing. Please stay home for Nevada.”
Zender: Do we have any indication as to how many businesses are going to be affected by the governor’s order?
Boger: On a statewide level? No.
Under Reno’s preliminary shut down order on Monday — which would have closed restaurants, bars and gyms — it was believed to be about 1,000 businesses that would have been affected, but that was a much more narrow closure.
We also don’t really know who will be enforcing the order. On the local front, a spokesperson for the City of Reno said code enforcement and Reno Police will likely take the lead, but this isn’t designed to be punitive. More likely, officers will have conversations with owners, if they remain open or violate the takeout/delivery policy. There could be citations, but officials believe the community will rally together. This is likely going to be a tough economic period for a lot of people around the country. We’re already seeing it in the stock market.
Zender: Do we have any idea how this is going to impact the state’s economy?
Boger: I don’t think there is any precedent for this. The closest thing I know to compare it to is the 2008-2009 recession, but that was a much slower decline. That took years to play out. This is happening at breakneck speeds, but economic officials in the state are trying to remain calm.
“Overall, the economy is strong,” said Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada. “We are weathering what will be a short-term hit from the coronavirus. It’ll hit, especially hard, the retail sector, but our manufacturing sector will be fairly strong. Our technology sector will remain strong. Logistics and distribution will remain strong. Overall, because we have diversified our economy, we’re in pretty good shape.”
Not everyone is completely on board with the total shutdown of non-essential businesses. Ann Silver with The Reno/Sparks Chamber of Commerce said businesses could still operate while respecting social distancing rules. However, her aim now is to protect the thousands of Chamber members in the area.
“The Chamber is here to provide our members with accurate, factual information, and to encourage the community to continue to support businsses," Silver said. "If they have drive-thrus, food delivery, pick-up orders, we want those to continue. We can’t kill the virus by killing the economy.”
Zender: So could this mean possible budget cuts for the state and cities?
Boger: No one is outright talking about budget cuts, yet. But, it’s safe to say this is going to take a toll, and some hard choices do lie ahead. When I put that question to the City of Reno, Spokesperson Jon Humbert said it’s currently under review. “There aren’t serious issues right now," Humbert said, “but there could be adjustments if the pandemic continues for months.”
To put a fine point on it, tourism and gaming contributed about $67 billion to the state’s economy last year. When you couple the loss of those dollars with the lack of sales taxes being generated — the largest sources of the state’s tax revenue — I find it hard to believe there won’t be some adjustments made to the state and local budgets.