Gov. Steve Sisolak activated the National Guard Wednesday to lead Nevada’s fight against the coronavirus and extended his order closing the state’s casinos, schools and nonessential businesses an additional two weeks through April.
The new order keeps the state’s hospitality industry and most other businesses shuttered in line with national social distancing guidelines that President Donald Trump decided over the weekend to extend until April 30 to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Sisolak also issued a statewide directive telling Nevadans to stay at home, with an exception for essential trips including doctor or healthcare visits, taking a pet to the vet, buying groceries, going to a pharmacy or picking up restaurant takeout food. The directive does not apply to the homeless, and it allows people to leave homes for exercise as long as they stay at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart and are not meeting up with people outside their household.
Unlike similar directives issued by governors in some other states, it does not include penalties for violations. He said it “merely reinforces and strengthens” requests he’s been making publicly since mid-March.
“Now is not the time for fines,” Sisolak said at a news conference late Wednesday at the statehouse in Carson City. “The penalties other governors have put in place are difficult to enforce.”
Sisolak said activating the National Guard will speed up and make logistical planning and delivery of medical supplies more efficient, as well as provide additional resources for the state’s labor force. It also makes Nevada eligible for additional federal funding.
At least 31 people have died of the coronavirus in Nevada, and more than 1,000 people in the state have been diagnosed with the COVID-19.
Most people with the virus experience mild or moderate fever and coughing that clear up in two to three weeks. Some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, can face severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
In other coronavirus developments:
— Sisolak convened the State Board of Examiners in an emergency meeting to approve $6.25 million in new spending to bolster the fight against the virus, including purchasing personal protective equipment. He said that would immediately leverage $5 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
— The governor signed a directive to waive certain licensing requirements for doctors, nurses, emergency technicians and others so recent graduates, retirees and those with medical training in foreign countries can more quickly assist with medical care and treatment.
— Some gates, concession areas and a security checkpoint were closed at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas after officials cited reduced passenger traffic. The airport said a terminal serving international flights remains open for ticketing, check-in and security screenings, but the concourse serving primarily international flights would close Wednesday. Flight departures were shifted to the main terminal, where one of four concourses also closed.
— Officials said up to 1,000 beds could be provided at about 12 Las Vegas-area hotels, motels, convention halls, surgical centers and warehouses to shelter recuperating coronavirus patients who don’t need hospitalization. Clark County Commission Chairman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said more sites were sought. The facilities are in addition to a 40-bed temporary hospital being built next to the Southern Nevada Health District office and a 350-bed tent complex under construction next to Cashman Center for homeless people who need isolation but not hospitalization.
— The Nevada branch of the Service Employees International Union decried a decision by Clark County on Tuesday to suspend collective bargaining agreements of thousands of members, including hospital workers. Grace Vergara-Mactal, the executive director of SEIU Local 1107, said the decision is “wrong” and “dangerous” and leaves workers vulnerable. Clark County spokesman Erik Pappa said “current emergency conditions require that we suspend all collective bargaining agreements to allow us to more quickly change employees’ schedules and take other steps to make us all safer while providing critical services to our community.”
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report. Sonner reported from Reno.
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