Washoe County cutting 250 limit on gatherings back to 50

Reno county saw cases increase 40% over the past week

Associated Press
October 30, 2020 - 5:05 am
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RENO, Nev. (AP) — Beginning next Thursday, public gatherings in Washoe County will be subject to the same 50-person limitation that was in effect before Gov. Steve Sisolak raised the statewide cap to 250 on Oct. 1 as part of a relaxing of COVID-19 restrictions.

A state task force approved the change Thursday at the request of Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks in response to a dramatic spike in the spread of the coronavirus there over the last two weeks.

The return to the previous cap is part of a broader action plan the county submitted to the Nevada COVID-19 Mitigation and Management Task Force. It applies only to Washoe County, although all counties remain free to implement limits more stringent than the governor’s statewide directive.

“We think that a reduction in the gathering size is an important step to take at this point with the level of disease transmission we have,” Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick told the panel on Thursday.

The 50-person limit — or 50% of the fire code capacity, whichever is less — applies to all public gatherings indoors or outdoors in Washoe County effective at 11:59 p.m. Nov. 5. The county’s plan said it wanted to wait until then to implement it partly “in consideration of currently planned activities” related to Tuesday’s election.

The cap applies to churches but not businesses that have been allowed to reopen at 50% of capacity since widespread closures were ordered in March.

The county will continue to review requests for larger outside events with fixed seating on a case by case basis. There will be no change in the directive Sisolak issued effective Oct. 1 limiting private gatherings to 10 or fewer indoors and 25 or fewer outdoors statewide.

The task force agreed with the county’s recommendation to review the region’s progress over a two-week period ending Nov. 19 to see if any further changes are necessary.

“If we do not see adequate improvement in the metrics, we will propose further mitigation measures to the task force at that time,” the county’s action plan states.

The task force plans to work with the county, Reno and Sparks to determine details on additional parts of that plan to consider for approval at its next meeting next Thursday. That includes plans for increased inspections of businesses, stepped up testing in specific neighborhoods with high COVID-19 rates and a new marketing strategy to better inform the public about the need for individuals to more aggressively work to guard against the spread of the virus.

Washoe County’s active COVID-19 cases continued to rise in the latest report the health district released on Wednesday’s to 2,129 — a 40% increase in just a week from 1,516 last Thursday.

Dick said Wednesday if the recent “huge” increase continues unchecked it could force businesses to close again. The county’s seven-day moving average of new daily cases has more than tripled from about 57 in mid-September to 182 on Wednesday.

The daily testing rate is the only baseline threshold Washoe County’s currently meeting among three Sisolak has set to help guide COVID-19 mandates in individual counties.

Washoe County’s new cases the last 30 days have climbed to 678 per 100,000 residents, more than three times greater than the governor’s threshold of 200 per 100,000. The rolling 14-day average positivity rate of 9.3% also exceeds the governor’s 8% threshold.