Jul 9, 2020
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript July 9
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak held a coronavirus press briefing on July 9, announcing that the state will be reclosing bars in 7 Nevada counties amid a spike in COVID-19 cases. Read his full briefing speech transcript here.
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Governor Steve Sisolak: (00:00)
Good afternoon. I want to thank you all for being here this afternoon, especially on such short notice. I know the focus right now has been on the special session of the Nevada Legislature, where lawmakers are weighing proposals to balance a $1.2 billion budget deficit. These proposals before lawmakers are not ones that my office or any state agency proposed lightly. Our state agency directors have had to make painful reductions in their own departments. And while necessary through reductions are difficult to see and to live with.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (00:37)
I’m proud of the work by state agency heads who have dedicated themselves to providing services and helping us navigate an unprecedented situation for the last four months. They’ve also stepped up to help address our fiscal crisis by proposing solutions to our budget shortfall. Just like me, I know this was daunting and a very painful task. As your governor, I will continue to advocate for federal funding to help provide relief to Nevadans into our state and local budgets so we may continue to provide essential services to Nevadans and hopefully restore some of the proposed reductions.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (01:18)
That includes requesting more federal support to retain 600 members of the Nevada National Guard through the end of December. Because of this partnership, Nevada has seen remarkable increases in our ability to conduct community-based testing, lab capacity, contact tracing, and other critical capabilities for our effort to remain open and keep our state in a safe and responsible manner. The need for close cooperation and mutual assistance between the federal government and Nevada remains greater than ever and I am hopeful that the federal government will grant this request.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (01:58)
These difficult budget situations we are now in is a direct result of the public health crisis caused by COVID-19. And while we must turn our attention to the historic budget shortfall, we cannot forget that we are still in the midst of a highly contagious and deadly pandemic, and many areas throughout Nevada are currently experiencing a spike. As you know, we are currently holding in phase two of our public roadmap to recovery plan, allowing our medical, public health and emergency response professionals to evaluate and analyze new trends that have shown a continuous upward trend of new cases daily.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (02:42)
We have taken steps to slow the spread, including increasing our contact tracing efforts to make sure that Nevadans who may have been exposed to the virus are aware and can take the appropriate actions to safeguard their health and the health of others. We’ve also phase two until at least the end of July and implemented a mandatory face coverings directive, which took place at the end of June. I’ve been pleased to see that state and local officials working with businesses and communities to enforce these important measures.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (03:16)
Nevadans, by and large, continue to heed the call to protect themselves, protect each other and protect our state. We’re aware that it will take several weeks for the mitigations that we have put in place to reflect in our case data. But these measures will help us battle this virus. While we know the case data may take some time to reflect the changes, the state has also been watching compliance efforts led by OSHA and complemented by efforts in counties and cities. OSHA has completed more than 1,500 initial observations so far with the compliance rate of 79%.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (03:58)
That means 1/5 of businesses visited by OSHA inspectors are not in compliance with our measures, and this is simply unacceptable. We’re still watching the continued increase in our confirmed and suspected COVID-19 hospitalizations as well. As many of you know, the trends are more than concerning in certain counties in our state. 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. We do not want this to happen here, so we will do what we must to make sure that our hospitals are able to provide the best positive care to all patients
Governor Steve Sisolak: (04:45)
Today, my office had a call with representatives from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. While discussing Nevada’s data and using other states’ data as guides, the federal representatives advised us that if Nevada did not take swift policy action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout our state, we would likely soon be in a precarious condition where hospitals are overwhelmed with patients in the very near future. This information based on the increasing trends we’ve been experienced led me to my decision today.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (05:26)
The decision is based on targeting high risk areas where infection is more likely to occur. That is why tonight I am announcing that as of 11:59 PM tomorrow, Friday, July 10, bars in certain counties in Nevada will be returning to similar restrictions laid out in phase one of our Nevada united roadmap to recovery. We know that COVID can easily spread when people are congregating for long periods of time, like inside a bar. In states where we have seen significant spikes, such as Arizona, Texas, and Florida, they’ve all taken actions to roll back bars.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (06:07)
Recently, Dr. Fauci, the US top infectious disease expert, advised that congregating in bars poses a significant risk and is one of the most dangerous things people could do right now. We must heed his advice. Additionally, I’m concerned because based on our inspection thus far, fewer than half of the bars that OSHA inspectors have visited have been found to be in compliance. Right now, our HHS teams are confirming the criteria that were designated County in Nevada as a hotspot. Tomorrow, I will be releasing that criteria and the names of the counties that will be required to close bars tomorrow beginning at 11:59 PM per this directive.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (06:52)
Just like in phase one, this applies to the bars and taverns that do not serve food. They can still provide curbside pickup and delivery were allowed locally, but they can no longer have patrons on the premises. Restaurants with bar areas must close the bar areas to patrons and continue to limit capacity to 50%. Customers seated at tables can still be served alcohol, but they cannot congregate in the bar area or be served at the bar. All bar tops will be closed regardless of whether they have gaming machines installed.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (07:30)
In addition to the rollbacks in certain counties, I am also adding new statewide restrictions in this directive. All restaurants and other food establishments like pubs, breweries, distilleries or wineries, which are licensed to serve food may not seat parties larger than six people indoors or outdoors. And while this directive does not prohibit indoor dining, I’m strongly encouraging all food establishments to promote outdoor dining as much as possible as well. This measure will go into effect Friday at 11:59 PM and will stay in place until further notice.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (08:13)
I am hopeful we’ll see a downward trend in numbers so we can continue to reopen safely. And while not in the directive today, I want to assure all Nevadans and visitors that we are monitoring other areas where fellow states have taken action, areas like swimming pools and gyms. I want to be crystal clear unless you are actively walking into a pool, swimming in a pool or walking out of a pool, you should have a face covering on at all times. It’s as simple as that. And when it comes to gyms, you must wear a face covering at all times, unless you were actively engaged in a high intensity workout.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (08:57)
And if that’s the case, you must be at least six feet apart from other people. And when I say gyms, I am including yoga and Pilates and dance and the other things that are associated that people do for physical exercise. We will continue to monitor compliance in these areas as well as follow the COVID-19 data and continue to evaluate and take action as necessary. Again, these decisions are not decisions that are easy to make or decisions that I take lightly, especially while lawmakers just sat down and are evaluating the budget reductions the state has put forward.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (09:38)
We know that additional business closures will further affect our economy and impede our economic recovery. When we began reopening, I committed that we would remain flexible and let data and recommendations of public health and emergency management professionals dictate the best course of action for protecting Nevadans. I’ve committed to being transparent and honest with Nevadans since this all started. And that’s exactly why I’m here today and what I am doing today. Protecting the health and safety of Nevadans is and always will be my top priority.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (10:15)
Right now, that means re-implementing some of these restrictions in order to save lives and protect our healthcare system. And it means reminding Nevadans that some simple truths that have not changed throughout this pandemic. We are safer at home. If we must go out, we’re safer when we wear masks and practice social distancing. We must remember to wash our hands and avoid touching our faces. I’m just going to go off script here. Masks are not partisan. They’re not political. They’re not a joke. They’re not funny. They’re not things that people go to social media and make all kinds of comments and funny jokes about and think that they’re being cute.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (11:01)
It is costing lives to have people not mask and to be totally effective with face coverings we need a 95% compliance to really flatten the curve and slow the spread. And I ask everyone that is watching, listening, reading, please protect our state, protect your family, protect our neighbors, wear masks. Thank you for your time. And I’d be happy to take three questions.
Speaker 2: (11:31)
Speaker 3: (11:31)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (11:48)
The decisions that we made were made on the advice of medical professionals, like I mentioned, Dr. Fauci, our own medical professionals, the data that we have arrived that that is one of the places that we’re developing, that we’re recognizing as a part of the hotspots. And it’s found to be in talking to my colleague governors it’s the biggest area, so that’s why [inaudible 00:12:08].
Speaker 4: (12:07)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (12:21)
Boy, that is a question that believe me has cost me a lot of nights sleep. I said at the beginning, I didn’t want ticket writers and then people don’t wear a mask or don’t comply. We worked with businesses. And like I say, the good part is 79% of the businesses do comply. They’re following our directives and they’re protecting their employees, they’re protecting customers, they’re protecting all the citizens. Sadly, 20% of them are not compliant. And the 20% are undoing the good that the 79% are doing. So we have active investigations going both on the gaming control board side, on the OSHA side, the county licensing, the city licensing departments in order to bring people into compliance.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (13:08)
It was my hope and continues to be my hope that these businesses will realize that it’s in everybody’s best interest to enforce these simple regulations that we put forward.
Speaker 5: (13:19)
[inaudible 00:13:22]. What were the specific trends that they saw [inaudible 00:00:13:30]?
Governor Steve Sisolak: (13:32)
They were concerned not just with the high number of positives and some of the agencies got great graphs that deals with this. I know we’ve got it on our dashboard. Indy has it on their dashboard. Positives are important, but our positives are going up, 20 to 25% of them are directly related to contact tracing. We’re testing a pool of individuals that are more likely to have the virus. They have informed us that they were concerned about our positivities and they’re concerned as I am about our hospital capacities. When you need a hospital room and you need an ICU room, you need it now.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (14:11)
You don’t need it next week. You need it when you’re the most sick. And these cases are surging and you can see these dashboards. When you look at them, they’re going up 40, 50, 60 a day. We can only take so many days of that before we’re overwhelmed and you have to implement procedures before you get to that part because there’s going to be a lag period to get there, so that led to the decision.
Speaker 6: (14:35)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (14:37)
I’m sorry. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (14:42)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (14:45)
Well, like I say, we’re developing the matrix and we’re going to have it in the directive which specific. It’s obvious that the largest two counties, Clark and Washoe, are included in the directive, but some of the counties and I understand have had zero or one case. And we don’t want to implement a restriction there, if it might not be necessary. So we’re going through that and we’ll have those criteria made available tomorrow morning and the list of those counties, but certainly the biggest two counties, you’re going to see.
Speaker 8: (15:13)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (15:36)
Yeah. Pools is a little bit more complicated because you get your hotel pools, you’ve got your gym pools, you’ve got your community association pools. You’ve got a wide variety of these pools that have different aspects to them. We have currently 50% capacity at all pools, but our inspectors and our monitors are going to be focusing closely on those in water parks has come into this, be focusing closely on those facilities and if they are compliant not just with the capacity and the social distancing, but with the mask wearing. We’re having a problem in that area.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (16:11)
We’ve made it clear to those operators that they will be scrutinized very, very closely. The same is true in gyms. Some of them have been a lot better than others have and that’s why I mentioned some of the smaller studios, the yogas and Pilates and spin classes and that sort of thing don’t necessarily feel that they’re a gym. Well, they’re a gym. So they’re going to be under the same restrictions.
Speaker 8: (16:38)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (16:38)
Speaker 8: (16:38)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (16:38)
I can’t hear you.
Speaker 8: (16:38)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (16:39)
Casino floors, you’re wearing a mask now. So that’s already being enforced.
Speaker 9: (16:58)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (17:09)
Well, and I can’t speak to the specific which one that is and I don’t expect you to give me the name of the two restaurants with a bar, but those are usually under different licenses. A restaurant has to have a certain amount of their business being done from accounting days in terms of food sales. You can’t open up, call that restaurant, just serve alcohol. Now, if he’s in the middle, you can still serve alcohol in a restaurant. If it’s served at a service bar, the waiter or waitress gets it at the bar and takes it to the table. That’s okay. But the patron can not go up to the bar or sit at the physical bar and drink.
Speaker 2: (17:41)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (17:41)
Speaker 10: (17:48)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (18:00)
Yeah. The question was that we’re encouraging outdoor dining and will there be any specifics as it relates to that? That’s a local issue that they have regarding some restaurants are suitable for outdoor dining. Others are not suitable for outdoor dining. It’s just been proven that it’s safer than indoor dining. And I asked them to advise their local health districts or business license departments if in fact they can serve food outside. Yeah?
Speaker 11: (18:25)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (18:25)
The question was I’ve received criticism that I’m not leading enough to raise revenue and to deal with the budget situation, I guess. I don’t get to sleep a lot anymore. I don’t get to rest a lot anymore. And when I do try to sleep, it’s not been very sound sleep. These decisions are weighing very, very heavily on me. I will reiterate what I said in six different interviews yesterday. I’m happy to look at revenue sources, but I am not naive. It takes a Republican vote in the Senate to say they support revenue increases and I’m willing to listen. They all have my phone number.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (19:23)
Nobody has called since this has been brought up. Nobody has come and said, here’s my proposal to raise more revenue. I have to be realistic. We couldn’t raise revenue in the last session. Raising in this special session is not going to be any easier. If anybody in the Republican Senate side wants to raise their hand and say, here I am, governor, I’m supporting revenue increases. Let’s talk. We can have a much broader discussion. I haven’t seen that hand go up. So I’m hopeful that it will, but I will leave that to the legislature to make that call.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (19:58)
I mean, we spent a long time and I got a compliment here, and I’m going to say something that, well, I’m going to say it anyway. I’ve got cabinet heads, department heads gone over to the legislature and they’re getting beat up. I’m expected to get beat up. I ran for this job. I’m getting criticized every single day no matter what I do. I get that. They’re all like cute posts and comments that people make. My staff and my cabinet heads don’t deserve that. I mean, they are working overtime, they’re working as hard as humanly possible, and they are consistently criticized.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (20:37)
That’s not fair. So they want to criticize, go ahead.
Speaker 12: (20:41)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (20:56)
This and I answered this question again in interviews yesterday. It’s the same answer. I listened to the hearing. I watched it. I understand people’s frustration. I’m frustrated. The judge said he doesn’t want good, he doesn’t want great, he wants iconic. At the same time, and it’s important that the media point this out to people, we are bound by certain federal guidelines and rules. We have to follow those. If I don’t follow the guidelines that the Department of Labor puts out, I will put the entire system and everybody’s funds in jeopardy.
Governor Steve Sisolak: (21:28)
They can come in and say, you didn’t screen people. You didn’t vet them. You’re cut off. And you got to pay us back. Now, if I were to do that and just pay everybody, I’m going to be getting the same criticism. People are going to say, why did you do that to us for, governor? Everything was going fine. We’re working with the situation as best we possibly can. We’re adding more people. We’re adding more technology. I know people are frustrated. I appreciate that and I know they say that’s not enough. My apology isn’t enough. I don’t have any more to give.
Speaker 2: (21:59)
Governor Steve Sisolak: (22:02)