CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Bars and taverns in the Las Vegas and Reno areas will remain closed after Clark and Washoe counties didn’t offer new proposals Thursday to the state task force responsible for approving virus prevention plans.
The task force kept existing plans in place in counties flagged as high-risk. Meanwhile, bars can remain open in Lander County and all of Nye County except Pahrump.
Bars will remain closed in Elko County, despite requests from local officials to reopen. Health officials flagged Churchill and Lyon counties and removed Humboldt County from their list of high-risk counties.
Residents and businesses in all counties remain subject to Nevada’s mask mandate and limits on large gatherings.
Nevada reported 554 additional coronavirus cases and 21 deaths on Thursday, bringing the statewide totals to 67,220 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 1,271 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Nevada officials have long pointed to private gatherings like backyard barbecues as responsible for the continual spread of the coronavirus.
On Thursday, Reno area officials reaffirmed their fears about large house parties and said the Reno Police Department will dispatch special patrols dubbed “party cars” to monitor them for compliance, particularly around the University of Nevada, Reno campus, where the semester recently began. Sparks police will expand enforcement as well, according to a Washoe County plan submitted to the state task force.
“The region is experiencing an increase in party house activity in which large gatherings are occurring at private residences without fire marshal capacity limitations, regulatory oversight, or requirements for social distancing,” Washoe County officials wrote in the submitted plan.
The plan comes two weeks after local officials cited concerns about private gatherings to urge the task force to allow bars in the Reno-Sparks area to reopen with safety plans.
“We feel like it may be actually a better course of action for Washoe County than having bars closed and not having that opportunity for people to get together to socialize in a regulated and controlled environment,” Health District Officer Kevin Dick told reporters at the time.
The task force voted to maintain closures and rejected house parties as a justification to reopen bars.
At the time, Alex Woodley, a Reno code enforcement official, said complaints about large parties at single-family residences had spiked, a trend local officials suspect is due to people partying at home due to lack of other venues. As of mid-August, Woodley said there had been more than 60 complaints since March, including multiple complaints from a single residence where more than 100 people gathered.
AP writer Scott Sonner contributed from Reno
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
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