The second phase of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s blueprint for reopening the state’s economy goes into effect Friday and includes steps for reopening casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and throughout Nevada on June 4, the governor’s office announced Tuesday night.
Sisolak’s announcement, which was expected since last late week when he hinted at the target date, came with more news: The governor was potentially exposed to COVID-19 during a site visit five days ago and will be testing Wednesday for the virus. Instead of an in-person briefing, Sisolak released a statement.
“I want to be clear: I feel fine and I am not experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19,” he said. “I hope Nevadans can use this as a learning lesson, if you have been exposed, or if you know someone who has been exposed, go get a test, even if you’re asymptomatic. It’s that easy.”
Gatherings can increase from 10 people to 50 in the second phase, of course with social distancing standards. Gyms and fitness clubs will be permitted to open and must operate at 50% capacity. Locker rooms and common facilities such as saunas will remain closed.
Also permitted to open: Movie theaters, bowling alleys, indoor malls, museums, art galleries, pools and water parks; they must also operate at half capacity.
Other businesses remained closed during the second phase, including adult entertainment establishments, brothels, nightclubs and day clubs.
Bar and taverns that don’t serve food can also open on Friday, but congregating near the bar won’t be allowed and patrons won’t be permitted to order from the bar. The tavern capacity must be capped at 50%.
The restrictions from the initial phase for food establishments will be continued in the second phase, including the requirement that restaurants space tables 6 feet apart.
Salons providing aesthetic or other skin services can also open during the second phase with social distancing guidelines and facial coverings. These include: tanning, eyelash or eyebrow services, salt therapy, hair removal and nails.
Religious gatherings will also be allowed in the second phase, but capped at 50 attendees with strict social distancing protocols. Faith leaders are encouraged to continue hosting services online, he said.
“I am confident faith leaders will follow the guidance and restrictions necessary to protect the health and welfare of their communities,” Sisolak said.
The reopenings, especially in the resorts corridor, were made possible because the region’s health care infrastructure is able to handle potential spikes in COVID-19 cases, University Medical Center CEO Mason VanHouweling said. That includes an expanded testing capacity, including for casino employees before returning to work. The goal is to test 2% of the state’s 3 million residents each month.
“I’m very confident our health care system can take care of not only our current population, but also as we continue to open up in phase two and phase three and get back to business,” VanHouweling said via video conference at a Gaming Control Board coronavirus workshop on Tuesday.
Sisolak added in his statement: “Our goal is to prevent a surge in cases that our health care system cannot handle. We cannot do this without each of you accepting the personal responsibility to follow the social distancing guidelines in professional and personal decisions.”
The Control Board has to sign off on the opening of the industry and individual properties, meaning the workshop was an important step before Sisolak could give the final approval.
The Control Board will issue an industry notice on Wednesday for the resumption of gaming.
“I know the Gaming Control Board remains resolute in ensuring that gaming operations in this state do not compromise the health and safety of Nevadans, our employees and our visitors,” Sisolak said.
The governor said this is the beginning of restoring tourism here, saying “we will certainly be welcoming visitors back to Nevada on June 4. We’ve taken every precaution possible. I don’t think you’re going to find a safer place to visit than Las Vegas by June 4.”
Resort companies have indicated they initially will open a handful of properties as they slowly nudge back into business. Caesars Entertainment will start with Caesars Palace and Flamingo; MGM Resorts International will start with Bellagio and New York-New York.
Wynn Resorts called Sisolak's reopening timeline "a positive step for all Nevadans. We look forward to reopening June 4 and will release details of our plans (Wednesday)."
Resorts are required to submit reopening safety plans to the board for approval at least seven days before they reopen. Some of the expected changes include: employees and patrons wearing face coverings, many sanitation stations, and limited capacity at tables games — three players instead of six for blackjack, for instance.
Health officials said guest temperature screening should be in place when casinos open. Some resort operators have already announced plans to screen guests and workers for fevers. If a guest at a Las Vegas resort is diagnosed with the virus, about 10 nongaming hotels have agreed to put them up for a quarantine period, VanHouweling said.
VanHouweling did not name the hotels but said resort officials have been notified that a network is in place.
“We will be prepared to operate in compliance with GCB’s requirements when we reopen,” a Caesars spokesman said Tuesday.
The initial phase of the reopening started May 10 with nonessential business such as dine-in restaurants, nail and hair salons, dispensaries, retail stores and others previously shuttered since mid-March to operate at 50% capacity. The also had to adhere to social distancing guidelines — where gaming tables had to be situated 6 feet part, for instance — and sanitation protocols.
There have been 142,833 COVID-19 tests conducted in the state, with 7,998 confirmed cases and 396 deaths. Sisolak said the second phase will last at least 14 days, and the ultimate timeline will be based on infection rates and ventilator-use data.
VanHouweling said about 70% of Southern Nevada’s 4,500 hospital beds are in use. About 10% of those beds are being used by people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are suspected of having the coronavirus, he said.
“That’s a good-news story. Another good-news story is ventilators. Only about 27% of our ventilators are currently in use. Of that 27%, only 23% are on COVID-19 patients,” VanHouweling said.
“Our public health agencies continue to expand our ability to do contact tracing when we have positive cases so we can track down possible clusters, isolate people and minimize future outbreaks,” Sisolak said.
Sun reporter Bryan Horwath contributed to this report.