Commissioners say counties should decide which businesses reopen

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Before President Donald Trump outlined his plan last week to move forward from the coronavirus pandemic and restore normal activity in what he terms “a phased and deliberate approach,” Churchill County Manager Jim Barbee and the county commission discussed at their second meeting of the month the future reopening of local businesses.

In his remarks to the nation, the president said restoring the economy would be a deliberate process, and communities with declining infections and strong testing could begin a three-phase gradual reopening of businesses and schools. Trump also said the reopening of the states will rest with each governor.

Commissioner Bus Scharmann said the governor should direct the counties and cities to decide which businesses or services need to reopen or restrict depending on local conditions. Both Scharmann and Chairman Pete Olsen said schools should be a top priority, yet Olsen said he doesn’t know how schools would open with social distancing.

The opening of schools, though, would come from the governor’s office, though. As for local businesses, Olsen feels the county can loosen up requirements once Gov. Steve Sisolak reveals his plan. Because of state law, only the governor can order changes to the current directives he has issued.

“Open the restaurants, and they can practice social distancing,” he said, using them as an example. “It (the closures) is killing our economy.”

Olsen said the virus threat cannot be eliminated, but the risk can be mitigated. Scharmann said companies need to be proactive and could request the wearing of masks and taking employees’ temperatures when they came to work. He said standards may have to be implemented in order to have businesses reopen.

Barbee said the counties are putting together their proposals for reopening businesses and will forward them to NACO, the Nevada Association of Counties, along with the other counties. NACO will then present its recommendations to the governor’s task force, which will review and consider.

“I feel everything is being ruled like Clark County,” Scharmann said.

As of the weekend, Churchill County has reported four confirmed COVID-19 case. A man in his 50s, died Saturday at Renown Medical Center.

Barbee said the county receives information every weekday on the number of total people who are tested with negative and pending results and number of confirmed cases. Churchill County’s information comes from Banner Churchill Community Hospital (also includes Naval Air Station Fallon), the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe and Narag Fallon Family Clinic.

Although the first positive case pointed to a location for possible exposure to the virus, Barbee said the county, once it receives each day's figures, must follow the law for releasing identifying information.

“It’s important we protect individual privacy information and HIIPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) guidelines,” he said.

Due to those privacy concerns, Barbee said the county will not release detailed information on any Churchill County patients.

The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services directs the Churchill County health district and completes an exposure investigation with each positive case of COVID-19 in the county. Once the investigation is complete, DHHS contacts those who have possibly been exposed and provides guidance on their health situation.

The county reminds residents that if they believe they have been exposed, or are exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19, call the Nevada Coronavirus direct line at 800-860-0620 and complete prescreening before going to a medical facility. Individuals will be evaluated for their need for testing and assisted in obtaining testing if they meet the appropriate criteria.

Churchill County leaders collect COVID testing numbers on a regular basis from Banner Churchill Community Hospital, NAS Fallon, the Narag Fallon Family Clinic and the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe and reports those cumulative totals as they come in on its website and social media platforms.


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