Politics & Policy

Nevada Orders Bars to Close Again as Coronavirus Cases Surge

A Florida bar is closed under a state declaration to help curb the spread of coronavirus disease, in Key West, Florida, March 17, 2020. (Carol Tedesco/Florida Keys News Bureau/Handout via Reuters)

Nevada governor Steve Sisolak on Thursday began to reverse the state’s reopening amid a surge in coronavirus cases, ordering bars in the Las Vegas and Reno areas to close again to prevent spreading the infection.

Bars that do not serve food in counties that are experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases, including Washoe and Clark counties, will be required to close indefinitely at 11:59 p.m. on Friday. Sisolak said he will release the full list of counties affected by the order on Friday. 

“We know that COVID-19 can easily spread when people are congregating for long periods of time, like inside a bar,” Sisolak said. “In states where we have seen significant spikes, such as Arizona, Texas, and Florida, they have all taken actions to roll back bars.”

Sisolak also noted that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that fewer than half of bars properly observed social distancing and mask requirements.

The new requirements will not prohibit indoor dining, but the governor is “strongly encouraging” restaurants to “promote outdoor dining as much as possible” and has set a six-person limit on parties at restaurants. Restaurants must also close their indoor bars, although there is no ban on serving alcohol.

Sisolak said he made the decision to issue the mandate, which brings the counties back to Phase One of Nevada’s reopening rules, after speaking with officials from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, who warned that Nevada was verging on a “precarious condition where hospitals are overwhelmed with patients” without “swift policy action” to stop the spread of the virus.

Since bars and other businesses reopened in Nevada a month ago, the state has seen an increase in coronavirus cases, with more than 25,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday. As of Wednesday, Nevada also has 935 hospitalizations from confirmed or suspected coronavirus, a higher number than the state experienced during the peak of the pandemic in April.

“Across the country, we have seen far too many instances where hospital capacity appeared fine one day and then were overwhelmed the next with increased COVID-19 patients,” Sisolak said. “We do not want this to happen here, so we will do what we must do make sure that our hospitals are able to provide the best positive care to all patients.”

Several southern and western states also experienced a surge in virus cases after they reopened their economies, including Texas, where the governor ordered bars to close again last month and limited restaurant capacity.

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