Sisolak Reviewing Some Virus Limits, Urges Labor Day Caution

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Governor Steve Sisolak said he is reviewing whether to ease rules on religious gatherings, youth sports and business gatherings restricted because of the coronavirus, but has pleaded in the meantime for Nevadans to avoid large family gatherings over Labor Day weekend.

The governor said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that people need to forgo barbecues and parties with neighbors, friends and those outside of their immediate family. 

Sisolak said large family and neighborhood or backyard gatherings drive the “single most expansive spread” of COVID-19.

“Please help us get through this next weekend. We had a major setback after Memorial Day weekend. We had another one after the Fourth of July. This is our third big one in the summer,” he said.

The governor said he understands the frustrations people have with the way COVID-19 has impacted their lives, particularly a 50-person cap on church services or religious gatherings.

Sisolak, a Catholic, said he wants to get back to church and attend mass in person, and easing that attendance limit is something he and his advisers are reviewing. 

A rural Nevada church has filed a lawsuit over the limit, contending it is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to grant an emergency order suspending the cap but the church has filed again with a federal appeals court seeking to halt the order, citing dissenting opinions from the high court.

The governor said Thursday that his office is also looking at easing restrictions on youth sports and small business gatherings in meeting spaces. 

He noted Saturday marks six months since Nevada’s first reported case of COVID-19 and said that while the state has made great progress from those initial scrambled days, it has a long road ahead.

A little over a month ago, Nevada hospitals were reaching capacity and running out of hospital beds. While Nevada has seen a drop in hospitalizations and deaths and a lower rate of tests coming back positive, Sioslak said Nevadans should remember that the state started with extremely high numbers. “We have a long way to go,” he said. 

State health officials on Thursday reported 361 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, bringing the number to more than 70,000, and 27 new deaths. That brought the statewide death total to at least 1,363 since the pandemic began. The number of tests administered topped 868,000.

Nevada on Wednesday ranked 17th among states and the District of Columbia in the number of new cases of COVID-19 per capita in the past 14 days, according to the COVID Tracking Project.