LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada state and local officials implored people to heed the governor’s directive to wear masks and keep safe distances apart, while acknowledging they await a possible increase in coronavirus cases following Independence Day revelry.
Clark County Commission Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick cited news reports and cellphone video of a nighttime July 4 party in a Las Vegas desert area that apparently drew hundreds of people not wearing masks or keeping a recommended 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
“That is not the way to help us move forward in this process,” Kirkpatrick said of efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19.
A day ahead of a political action group's planned “No Mask Nevada" protest in suburban Henderson, the chairwoman of the lawmaking body with jurisdiction over the Las Vegas Strip said county code officers, state casino regulators and Occupational Safety and Health inspectors had visited thousands of businesses since Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mask mandate took effect June 26.
Nevada OSHA reported Tuesday that mask use at the 169 stores, pharmacies and restaurants its inspectors visited statewide on Monday was nearly nine in 10 in northern Nevada and eight in 10 in southern Nevada.
Kirkpatrick conceded that officials have found mask use scarce at Las Vegas resort pools, and said she was considering issuing a new advisory for those locations.
Late last week, regulators reported just 40% compliance at casino and hotel swimming pools.
“Wearing masks and social distancing are more important than ever,” Caleb Cage, Nevada’s COVID-19 response director, told reporters in a separate briefing.
Cage said the state is seeing an increase in the virus, with hospitalizations more than doubled since last month. But he said there has been enough hospital space, about one in four intensive care beds remained open statewide, and about two-thirds of ventilators remained available for use.
The state Department of Health and Human Services reported Tuesday that 23,785 Nevada residents have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 876 since Sunday. Eleven additional deaths brought that number to at least 548.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for up to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems can face severe illness and death. The vast majority recover.
In other developments:
— A town court in Nye County was closed Tuesday after officials said several workers were exposed to a person who tested positive for COVID-19. Pahrump Justice Court judges issued an order saying all staff members will be tested Wednesday for COVID-19, and no in-person hearings will be held until after staff members have tested negative. Pahrump is about 60 miles (96.5 kilometers) west of Las Vegas. The courthouse also closed for several days in April after an employee tested positive and other workers were exposed to the virus.
— A state court judge appointed a Reno lawyer to investigate claims by independent contractors, self-employed and gig workers who are suing the state over pending claims under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. Washoe County District Court Judge Barry Breslow on Tuesday named attorney Jason Guinasso to gather information and recommend possible additional action in the case filed in June against the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation. Breslow set another hearing July 16.