LAS VEGAS — Topless dancers in Las Vegas can soon shed coronavirus restrictions along with some of their clothing and once again get face-to-face with patrons under rules accepted Thursday by a Nevada COVID-19 task force.
But masks still will be required for adult entertainment employees and will still be recommended for customers.
Strip clubs that went dark when Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered casinos, clubs and nonessential businesses closed in March 2020 will be able to open May 1 at 80% of fire code capacity under strict social distancing guidelines.
The rules will allow strip club entertainers to get closer than three feet to patrons if the entertainer has gotten at least a first coronavirus vaccination 14 days earlier, according to county rules or if the dancers test negative in a weekly COVID test.
Occupancy limits will be relaxed but not completely lifted at many other businesses — stores, spas and saunas, restaurants and bars, even karaoke clubs — under a new reopening plan adopted by Clark County officials.
Deputy Clark County Fire Chief Billy Samuels.
Hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors and massage therapists will be able to book customers by appointment only.
A separate plan to lift restrictions almost completely in Washoe County skidded to a stop after health district, school and Reno city officials protested, pointing to rising coronavirus case numbers.
Existing rules including 50% capacity and six-foot social distancing will remain in effect.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 5,400 lives in Nevada and badly hurt an economy dependent on tourism, conventions, hotel bookings and big crowds. It also shut down businesses and threatened the livelihood of bartenders, waiters, entertainers and hotel clerks.
“We know there is COVID fatigue in our community,” Washoe County Commission Chairman Bob Lucey said before accepting an offer from task force chief Caleb Cage to broaden support and submit a finalized plan in coming days. No firm time frame was set.
Lucey had favored what he termed a “workable” plan to relax restrictions but acknowledged a rift among policymakers.
“People are going to return to life and the things they’ve missed in the last year whether we dictate mandates or not,” he said.
The snag came after last-minute protest letters Wednesday from county Health Officer Kevin Dick and Reno City Manager Doug Thornley pointed to a rise in the number of Washoe County COVID-19 cases linked to a variant first detected in the United Kingdom and a rise in the county’s 14-day test positivity rate to 7.2%. The World Health Organization goal to relax restrictions is 5% or less.
Scientists in Great Britain believe the variant is more contagious than previously identified strains. But U.S. health officials say vaccinations being given now are thought to be effective against the variant.
Dick and Thornley called for social distancing requirements to stay in place at least until June 1.
The governor has set a June 1 date for essentiallly lifting all state restrictions except for a requirement for people to wear face coverings.
Several rural Nevada counties received the go-ahead Thursday to relax restrictions and reopen businesses May 1, including Churchill, Douglas, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt and Nye. Other counties received approval last week.
Kyra Morgan, a Nevada state biostatistician, reminded the task force that lifting restrictions almost certainly will spread the virus.
The state Department of Health and Human Services has tallied more than 312,000 cases in the past 13 months. But rates have slowed since peaks in December and January.
As restrictions are relaxed in and around Las Vegas, bar seating will be OK next month with up to four people per group, and 12 people can be seated around dining tables, Samuels said. Most restrictions on youth and adult sports will be lifted.
Casino dayclubs and nightclubs can reopen, but designated dancing areas will remain closed until health officials report that a 60% community vaccination rate is met.
The reopening plan that Clark County lawmakers adopted for the state’s most populous area and its key economic region relies on reports from regional health officials about the percentage of people 16 and older in the county who have had gotten at least one vaccination shot, a number that’s now reached about 43%.