With the counties assuming control of their re-opening plans, events such as the annual Fallon Cantaloupe Festival shown in this 2018 file photo appear to be on track for the summer. (Photo: Steve Ranson/LVN)
The governor’s Task Force has approved Churchill County’s plan to open to 100% capacity on Saturday.
In addition to Churchill County, the Task Force said counties that met the governor’s expectations and requirements on Thursday included Douglas, Nye, Elko, Eureka and Humboldt. The Task Force approved the state’s other counties at a previous meeting.
Churchill County commissioners passed a resolution at their April 21 meeting to terminate a Declaration of Emergency that was adopted more than 13 months ago to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.
After passing the latest resolution, the commission sent the re-opening plan to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Task Force for review. After a review, each county’s plan goes into effect on Saturday with everything opening in Nevada after June 1 except mask wearing. The state first issued a State of Emergency on March 17, 2020, to battle the pandemic.
County Manager Jim Barbee said the county is assuming control and based on current vaccination percentage and recommendations from the Board of Health, Churchill is poised to move forward. The governor’s office informed the counties on Feb. 15 they would take control on May 1.
The county’s resolution stated the positivity rate is down to one new case and no deaths over a two-week period. Barbee said the measures put in place such as vaccinations and testing are showing a downward trend.
“We feel that it is time we would go ahead and remove ourselves from the emergency declaration and continue forward, and in response to COVID issues as they are needing more maintenance effort in dealing with the virus,” Barbee said.
Before voting on the resolution, commissioners opened the floor for comments. One member of the Battle Born Patriots, a group that originally formed to recall Sisolak but now also encourages citizens to protect the Constitution, said the governor’s directives are illegal. Dee Mounts, Battle Born Patriots Nye County leader, said she agreed with the commission’s resolution, but she also said businesses have been harassed by the state’s OSHA over the directives, which she claimed are illegal.
Another member, Linda Thompson of Churchill County, said she’s not happy with the mask requirements. She also said more flu deaths have occurred during past years than those cause by COVID, but the latest statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention differ.
Thompson claimed this is not an emergency although Nevada Revised Statute 414, which was signed on March 12, 2020, states during times of emergency, the governor “may exercise all powers necessary to promote and secure the safety and protection of the civilian population.”
Thompson said adults should be able to decide for themselves and for their children, not the state, and businesses have the right to decide if they want mask requirements. She said constitutional rights have been stomped on.
Tanya Freeman asked the commissioners to drop the mask mandate. She said there is no reason to have masks, and schools must re-open. Churchill County public schools, however, have been open all year by operating a hybrid method and offering both in-school and online learning.
Amber Sanchez of Churchill County said she agreed with the previous speakers but told the commissioners they must “stick up to the dictator because that’s how he’s acting.” She said it’s time for normalcy to return.
Olsen then read the resolution into record to terminate the Declaration of Emergency, and it unanimously passed, 3-0.
Barbee said the commissioners approved the template, the Nevada Roadmap to Recovery Transition plan, with the county’s Board of Health before sending it to the governor’s Task Force. The state reviewed the plan and then notified the county to move forward and implement the new policies late next week.
According to Barbee, the county will continue to work with federal and state partners to ensure ongoing testing and vaccination efforts. Furthermore, he said the county will follow the state’s baseline mitigation measurements based on directives that require mask requirements, social distancing and hygiene as recommended by the CDC, school reopenings and operation requirements and crisis standards of care.
Barbee said the school district is looking at benchmarks to take specific action. Other agencies will be regulated through their professional licensing boards or through independent regulatory bodies such as the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Reno attorney Joey Gilbert spoke to the commissioners via Zoom and said there is no longer a public health emergency. He said the CDC has given an update on the guidelines for mask usage as of April 19. During his comments, he said the governor of Arizona has eliminated the usage of masks. Gilbert said hospital capacities are down, and he strongly urged commissioners to follow the science and data.
“Churchill County should not be doing anything the governor suggests,” he said.
Other speakers then voiced their opinions. Thompson said the state looks like Nazi Germany with the shutdowns, and Sanchez said the mask mandates are stupid. Mounts asked commissioners to deny a vaccine passport.
After the comments, both Commissioners Greg Koenig, a former school board trustee, and Justin Heath said the school district decides its requirements not the county commission. Heath suggested people attend a trustees’ meeting. Both Koenig and Olsen said the enforcement of the mask requirement falls to the sheriff’s office, but there will be no changes from the original county directive. Olsen said the resolution to terminate the emergency is short.
“Churchill County has one page — we’re open,” he said.
Commissioners then voted 3-0 to accept the local COVID-19 transition plan and send it to the state.