evada Gov. Steve Sisolak said that the state will continue with its current COVID-19 restrictions through January 15, including reduced casino capacities, due to increased COVID-19 hospitalizations and the subsequent strain on Nevada's health care infrastructure.
Sisolak announced the extension of restrictions from the statewide "pause" during a virtual press conference Sunday evening. "As you all know, Dr. (Anthony) Fauci predicted that Thanksgiving would cause 'a surge on top of a surge' and we have every indication that's where the nation — and where Nevada — is headed at this time," Sisolak said, as reported by Reno Gazette Journal. "According to state health officials, we are just now beginning to see the effects of the holiday in our data."
Sisolak did not announce any additional restrictions on Sunday. The continuing restrictions, first implemented on Nov. 22, see casino capacity reduced from 50 to 25 percent. Among other measures, reservations are required at all restaurants and bars that serve food for in-person dining. Arcades, art galleries, aquariums, racetracks, bowling alleys, mini golf, libraries, museums and zoos all are reduced to 25 percent capacity.
Sisolak sought to explain why casinos, also restricted to 25% capacity, remain open while some other areas of public life are restricted. "When I think of the gaming industry, I am not losing sleep at night because I'm worried about their stock prices or whether gaming executives are going to make it through the pandemic and be able to keep a roof over their heads," Sisolak said, FOX5 reports. "I lose sleep at night because when we were under a stay at home order in the spring, we lost a quarter of a million jobs in three months in this state, and that’s largely due to casinos being closed for 78 days straight."
The governor said they're "fighting to protect" the thousands of Nevadans who work at gaming properties, saying if they take that away, "the bottom falls out for our entire state." Sisolak said if casinos are closed, the state would lose an estimated $52 million in gaming tax revenue each month, not including room tax or live entertainment tax, which are used to fund other resources.
Sisolak also said he anticipates the first shipment of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine to arrive in Nevada on Monday. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday granted emergency use of the vaccine, the Western States Panel on Sunday reviewed and signed off on the vaccine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday announced it would recommend the vaccine for people 16 years and older.
The governor said the state has continued to see an increase in hospitalizations, with 1,700 Nevadans in the hospital with COVID-19 on Friday, as reported by FOX5. He said a Nevadan is testing positive for the virus every 40 seconds and every hour and 15 minutes, a Nevadan dies from COVID-19. As he did at the start of the current restrictions, Sisolak again warned he would have to take "tougher actions" if the COVID-19 trends do not improve through January 15.
As of Sunday, Sisolak said the state's rainy day fund, as well as federal support, are no more: "The state emptied its rainy day fund to address our massive budget deficit. The funding we received through the federal CARES Act is set to expire at the end of this year," he said. He said returning to a full shutdown wouldn't be possible without federal resources, citing the state's historic unemployment rates following the first shutdown.
Sisolak took aim at the federal government for not helping Nevada, saying for nine months they've "heard that reinforcements and air cover is on the way, just hang tight," but they "don't see any planes flying overhead."