Nevada, casinos rescind mask mandates effective immediately | Nevada News

By SCOTT SONNER and KEN RITTER, Associated Press

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada and its casinos have rolled back requirements for people to wear masks in public, joining most other U.S. states in lifting restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak announced on Thursday that he would no longer need to cover his face in public places, “effective immediately”.

State casino regulators followed with a rule change for casinos.

“Individuals are no longer required to wear a mask in indoor public areas of licensed gaming establishments,” the Nevada Gaming Control Board said, “unless a local jurisdiction still imposes such a requirement.”

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Masks won’t be required in jails and correctional facilities, Sisolak said, but “there are places Nevadans and visitors may still be asked to wear a mask,” including hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities, and at airports, on airplanes, and on public buses and school buses.

The governor acknowledged a wide divergence of opinion on dropping the mask mandate.

“Some people think we were ready for a long time, some people think we’re not ready yet,” he said. “I think now is the time to move on.”

He added that employers and school districts can still set their own policies.

On Wednesday, the state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business urged Sisolak to drop the mask mandate that it said made it difficult for small businesses to retain and hire workers.

Separately, Bill Hornbuckle, president and CEO of MGM Resorts International, the state’s largest employer, said on an earnings conference call Wednesday that he expects Nevada’s mask rule to be eased.

“I expect that given the positive COVID trends in Nevada, we will begin to see a significant easing of COVID restrictions in the very near future, consistent with what we have seen in other states,” he said. said Hornbuckle.

Nationwide, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have fallen sharply after peaking earlier this year amid the spread of the highly transmissible variant of omicron, and the vast majority of Americans are protected against the virus through effective vaccines and boosters.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend wearing a mask indoors in places of “substantial or high transmission” of the virus, which as of Wednesday affected all but 14 rural counties of the United States.

New cases in Nevada have continued their steep decline since a statewide peak in mid-January. But the virus’s rate of spread remains high — well above the CDC’s thresholds for positivity and new cases per population of 100,000.

“I want to be clear, the emergency is not over. The pandemic is not over,” Sisolak said Thursday. “We are still getting far too many cases, far too many hospitalizations and far too many deaths.

But he said a significant drop in hospitalizations in recent weeks has been accompanied by a dramatic drop in the number of new cases, from a peak of 7,865 on January 10 to around 1,280 cases a day in the whole state now. He also noted that two-thirds of Nevada residents age 5 and older are vaccinated.

“I’m hopeful and confident, based on the data we have, we’re in a good position to let this go and give people some freedom back. Everyone wants to go back to their normal lives… I mean, it feels like two years. I think the time is right,” he said.

Sisolak, who is running for re-election in the western swing state in November, said the state is spending $19 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to deal with the availability of COVID-19 test kits and therapies.

A crowded group of Republicans vying to run against Sisolak criticized Nevada’s virus response and mask rules.

Sisolak acted just days after authorities in neighboring California announced indoor masking requirements late next week for those vaccinated. Masks will remain the rule for school children in this state.

New York and Illinois on Wednesday became the latest states to announce an end to indoor mask mandates, but school mandates remain in those states.

The NFIB Nevada Chapter cited a US Chamber of Commerce analysis that found the Silver State had the highest “quitting” rate in the nation last year at 3.8%.

Workers cited mask requirements and harassment of customers who refuse to wear masks as reasons for quitting their jobs, the chamber said.

“While many question the effectiveness of stopping the spread of COVID, there is agreement that after two years more and more people are refusing to wear masks, which represents a challenge for employees who still have to act as the ‘mask police’,” her letter to Sisolak reads.

As of July 2021, Nevada had been under a state emergency order requiring residents of counties with high COVID-19 transmission rates to wear masks in indoor public spaces, in accordance with CDC guidelines. .

Sisolak said CDC guidelines would no longer be binding in Nevada under the new executive order he signed Thursday.

He said schools were the only place his order didn’t take effect immediately, and that would happen on Friday.

“Masks are not mandatory for students, teachers and employees starting tomorrow morning,” Sisolak said.

“But these students are in school right now and a lot of these civic classes are watching these press conferences, so I didn’t want them to tear off their masks in the middle of the day. I want to give them a chance to go home, talk to their parents… and in consultation with their families, decide what’s best for them.

Ritter reported from Las Vegas.

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