Citing a troubling uptick in the state’s number of COVID-19 related cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Steve Sisolak has announced a new state mandate requiring members of the public to wear a facial covering while in public.
Sisolak made the announcement on Wednesday during a press conference in Carson City, following in the footsteps of neighboring states such as Washington and California that have issued mandates requiring people to wear masks while out in public. He introduced a new state slogan: “No shirt. No shoes. No mask. No service.”
Sisolak said he is declaring a mandate through a directive, but added that he hopes not to have to impose criminal or civil penalties. The governor said any discussion of moving into the next reopening phase has been “tabled.”
The governor, who in the past has been hesitant to require mask-wearing, said he was concerned with both the rising COVID-19 caseloads in the state as well as well-documented photos and videos of crowded Las Vegas casinos with most people not wearing any kind of facial covering.
As with the rest of the nation, the number of new COVID-19 cases statewide has ticked up significantly in the last two weeks, with the 7-day moving average of test positivity rate exceeding 10 percent for the first time since early May.
It marks the first significant mitigation effort and tightening of restrictions since Nevada entered “Phase 2” of limited business reopenings at the end of May, and nearly three weeks since the state’s casino industry was allowed to reopen for the first time since March.
A study published earlier this month indicated that one of the most effective ways to stop person-to-person spread of the virus is through wearing a mask. Facial coverings and masks can limit the spread of the virus by preventing outward transmission of the virus from an infected or asymptomatic individual, as well as protecting oneself when surrounded by people who could be carriers.
Sisolak previously raised the idea of requiring facial coverings, saying last Friday that he was asking his medical advisory team “to evaluate potential options for enhanced face covering policies.” Several local government leaders, including Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, have indicated support for a mandatory mask policy.
The politically powerful Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which represents many workers at Las Vegas Strip properties, called for a mandatory mask policy earlier this week.
Several hours before the governor’s announcement, Caesars Entertainment made masks mandatory for anyone inside its casino properties, including guests, vendors, contractors and employees. The new rule went into effect at noon, with exceptions carved out for when people are eating or drinking. It builds upon the prior policy that required face masks for all employees and guests playing table games.
People who refuse to wear a mask after being asked to do so will be directed to leave, company officials said.
“We promised that Caesars would continue to evaluate the latest recommendations, directives and medical science regarding the COVID-19 public health emergency and modify our enhanced health and safety protocols accordingly,” Caesars Entertainment CEO Tony Rodio said in a statement. “As a result, we are immediately requiring everyone in our properties to wear masks, because the scientific evidence strongly suggests that wearing masks and practicing social distancing may be the most important deterrents to spreading COVID-19 from person to person.”
Jackie Valley contributed to this story.
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.