- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 17, 2020

RENO, Nev. (AP) — All bars, nightclubs, restaurants and gyms will close in Reno by 5 p.m. Friday in an effort to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Hillary Schieve announced.

Schieve initially included casinos on the closure list late Monday with plans to begin the shutdowns Tuesday morning. But she quickly rescinded that directive and further clarified restaurants can continue carry-out orders and keep drive-thru windows open.

The selected businesses should begin winding down operations Tuesday with a goal of closing by 5 p.m. Friday and remain closed until 11:59 p.m. on April 5. The business restrictions are based on state and federal guidance and recommendations on social distancing, she said.

“I am simply trying to limit areas of high-exposure risk,” Schieve said.

Officials for the neighboring city of Sparks and surrounding Washoe County said Tuesday they have no immediate plans to follow Reno’s lead. The mayor of Las Vegas - where several large casino resorts have closed on the Strip - said a mandatory closure of bars and restaurants there would be devastating.

“My hope is that private industry rises to the top, that they’re allowed to stay open and take care of these families that are paycheck to paycheck,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Nevada has reported more than 50 cases of the virus so far. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Nevada’s online health insurance exchange announced Tuesday that it had opened a special open enrollment window where people could sign up to get insurance if they don’t have it through an employer, starting Tuesday and running through April 15.

Several major U.S. cities have closed bars and restaurants in response to the outbreak. Reno’s move came after six San Francisco-area counties about 200 miles (320 kilometers) to the west directed residents on Monday to shelter in place.

“We are trying to avoid what we are seeing in other large cities throughout the United States in terms of complete shutdown of all businesses and all activities … like in San Francisco,” Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said Tuesday.

“The idea behind this is if we get ahead of it instead of behind it, it will affect you less,” he said during a conference call city officials arranged with local business owners.

“The fear is you’d have to shut down several months instead of until April 5,” Soto said, adding, “We are encouraging our border cities to follow suit.”

After initially announcing she planned to close casinos, Schieve said in a revised statement that casino gambling will be allowed to continue to operate under conditions set by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Casino dining areas in restaurants and bars should be closed, but room service could continue for guests on the property, she said.

Assistant City Manager Bill Thomas said on the conference call limited to 200 participants any extension of the closures would be publicized well in advance, but “everything we are doing now is fluid.”

“If you can’t assure 10 people or less of gathering, or keep a 6-foot-separation, we would encourage you not to operate your business,” he added.

“If there is a bar in a casino, just like a free-standing bar, it would close… The restaurant ban is simply on dine-in activities.”

The Cosmopolitan, the Venetian and the Palazzo became the latest resorts on the Las Vegas Strip to decide to temporarily shut their doors because of the new coronavirus. The Cosmopolitan announced Monday night it will close starting 6 p.m. Wednesday after working to check out all of its hotel guests and stay closed through March 31. The Venetian and Palazzo resorts would begin closing Tuesday and stay shuttered at least April 1, according to the resorts’ owner, Las Vegas Sands.

All three resorts will continue paying full-time employees through the closure.

MGM Resorts International on Monday night began closing its 13 properties in Las Vegas. Wynn Resorts plans to close its Wynn Las Vegas and Encore resorts Tuesday evening.

The MGM casino closures Tuesday night included the famous fountain show in front of the Bellagio, which often draws a crowd gathered the fountains shooting as high 460 feet (140 meters) into the air, choreographed to lights and music.

With casinos closing, tourism expected to drop off and fewer people dining out or doing non-essential shopping, the state is expected to take a financial hit, but how big is unknown.

In Nevada, gambling taxes are second only to sales taxes as a percentage of the state’s annual budget. The leisure and hospitality industry directly employs one of every four workers in the state and has an economic output of about $68 billion in Nevada, according to the Nevada Resort Association.

The state’s biennial Legislature isn’t scheduled to meet again until 2021, and legislative leaders are not yet planning to go into a special session to address Nevada’s budget.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, both Democrats, said in a joint statement provided to the Associated Press on Tuesday that they’re evaluating all options and they’re working closely with the governor.

But “at this time, we have no plans to go into a special session,” they said.


Associated Press writer Michelle L Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report

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