Washoe bars, taverns, can reopen at 50 percent at midnight on Wednesday

Washoe County bars, taverns, wineries and distilleries can reopen at midnight Wednesday.

The governor’s COVID-19 task force voted to let Washoe bars reopen at 50 percent capacity provided the county implements promised enforcement and penalty enhancements by Wednesday. Those include mandating a 36-hour closure for a first offense violation, 14-day closure for a second offense and an indefinite, potentially permanent closure for a third violation.

Task Force members including Task Force Chairman Caleb Cage were highly complimentary about the Washoe plan describing it as a model for other parts of the state. Cage said enforcement and other efforts have improved dramatically over the past couple of weeks.

Washoe is still above the limit on two of the three conditions to reopen. The county is no longer testing at least 150 per 100,000 residents and still has a positivity rate above the mandated limit of 7 percent, although narrowly above at just 7.4 percent.

There was also significant discussion at the meeting about the potential to raise the positivity ceiling to 8 percent.

State biostatistician Kyra Morgan said the lower number of tests isn’t a problem in Washoe since the positivity rate isn’t rising, indicating that Washoe is testing appropriately. Several members of the task force pointed out that fewer people are showing up to get tested across the state.

Washoe Health Officer Kevin Dix told the Task Force the most recent compliance numbers show more than 90 percent of inspected businesses complying with social distancing and other rules.

He said there are only two entities in Washoe with 10 or more infections — UNR and the school district.

Dix pointed out that a coalition of bar and tavern owners have come together and are working with the county to ensure that they can all reopen safely.

And he said Sparks has now joined Reno in dispatching so-called “party cars” to patrol for private gatherings that have been blamed for surges in positive cases. Officials said that has become a bigger problem with the reopening of classes at UNR and the community colleges around the state

He also pointed out that Washoe has a significant number of residents who live in Washoe but work in Carson City or Storey County at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. He said the huge staffs at major businesses at TRIC need to be properly tracked because positives there may be currently being counted in Washoe, not the place where they were infected.

Dr. Chris Lake made the motion to let Washoe bars reopen provided they implement the enhanced penalties for violations.

Clark and Elko counties, however, didn’t fare as well. Association of Counties Director Dagney Stapleton moved to let Clark reopen as well but Business and Industry Director Terry Reynolds and Cage said they couldn’t support that because Clark’s positivity rate is still over 11 percent. Cage said the county has put forward an excellent plan but that, “it’s not apples to apples” with Washoe.

Elko officials were told they have made excellent progress in the past two weeks but their plan still needs some work.

Commissioner Delmo Andreozzi pointed out that an outbreak at a skilled nursing facility literally doubled the county’s death rate and that Elko has no control over those facilities that are governed by the state.

Elko and Clark will return for another attempt to get reopened next Thursday.


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