Task force won’t impose COVID-related closures on Washoe County
After being told that small businesses like bars, restaurants and retailers aren’t the problem, the Coronavirus Response Task Force agreed Thursday to a series of changes in how Washoe County can control the growing spread of the virus without mandating business closures.
The plan calls for greatly increased enforcement, more testing and, especially, targeted testing in zip codes with increased infection rates, communication outreach to educate people who are getting tired of restrictions.
In addition, the plan would extend the Washoe County Health District’s decision not to allow gatherings of up to 250 for the foreseeable future, maintaining the 50-person, 50 percent capacity limit instead.
The plan also includes working with the state health lab to improve the turnaround time for COVID tests to greatly improve contact tracing. In addition, it calls for fleshing out how Washoe’s proposed health risk meter — much like an allergy risk meter or smog meter now works, to help advise people on days of increased risk — would work to tell people if today’s risk is in the green, yellow or red zone.
The task force approved a motion directing the different experts to work out details of that plan by next Thursday’s meeting when the task force will formally vote on it.
Washoe Commission Chairman Bob Lucey and health district officer Kevin Dick both said the surges in infections are not coming from the usual suspects — bars, restaurants, gyms and small retailers. But he pointed out that enforcement is very low in Washoe with only about 2 percent of 35,000 businesses having been tested.
Dick said the spread is coming primarily from private parties and being spread among members of a household once one person gets infected. He said it’s also coming from workplaces, grocery stores and other places where people gather.
But they said in Washoe, a significant number of infections are coming from area jails including the Washoe County Detention Center, which recently instituted a lockdown to keep inmates and staff safe.
He said the organizations with more than four positive cases are those with large numbers of employees and participants including the school district, UNR, Renown Health staff, a Fed Ex freight facility, Tesla and Panasonic among others.
Lucey and others called for more targeted testing in areas that have higher infection rates saying Clark County has had excellent success reducing the spread in those zip codes in the Las Vegas area. The Washoe zip codes he listed are a primarily blue collar area of the North Valleys where many trades people and hospitality workers live, old central Sparks which has a similar population and a zip code that includes an area near UNR where students live.