LAS VEGAS >> Casinos throughout Nevada were closed Wednesday along with other nonessential businesses following an unprecedented order from Gov. Steve Sisolak, who also urged residents to stay home to help curtail the spread of coronavirus.
After gambling halted at midnight, pedestrians on the casino-lined Las Vegas Strip were scarce. Vehicle traffic was flowing Wednesday afternoon, but it was lighter than usual. Large orange barricades were placed in front of driveways to the Wynn and Encore casinos. Padlocked gates blocked walkways and entrances to a nearby shopping mall.
Sisolak ordered a monthlong freeze on gambling, shutting down the well-known casinos of Las Vegas and Reno along with slot machines and other devices found in grocery and convenience stores.
The broad directive also included the closure of non-essential businesses such as bars, movie theaters and gyms. Restaurants must shutter their dining rooms and only offer takeout or delivery.
In downtown Reno, “Closed” signs were plastered across pawn shops and gift stores near the famous Reno arch, and yellow crime tape was strung across The Nugget casino — a locals’ favorite as the marquee blinked “In downtown Reno for 50 years.”
Officials from Washoe County and the cities of Reno and Sparks said at a news conference that they were trying to sort out how to enforce the shutdowns of non-essential businesses. Sheriff Darin Balaam said deputies have stepped up unified patrols with Reno and Sparks police partly out of concern for potential looting or break-ins at shuttered storefronts.
“Absolutely, that’s our concern any time we have a reduction like this,” Balaam said.
The governor released a list of businesses considered essential and non-essential.
The closures are part of federal guidance recommending social distancing. President Donald Trump also urged older residents to stay home.
Nevada has reported more than 80 cases of the virus, including one death. For most people, 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.
In addition to casinos, Sisolak said salons, gyms, nightclubs, bars, bowling alleys, movie theaters and malls were among the businesses that should close. Strip clubs and legal brothels, which are scattered across rural Nevada, were also recommended to close.
Sisolak said essential businesses that should remain open include pharmacies, banks, gas stations, hardware and grocery stores. Essential services such as police, fire, transit and health care should remain operational along with businesses that provide services like food and shelter to the needy.
At a Las Vegas City Council meeting Wednesday, Mayor Carolyn Goodman pleaded for Sisolak to shorten the 30-day closures, saying the shutdown would cripple the local economy.
Sisolak’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Inside a liquor and wine store in Henderson, two long lines of customers waiting to check out snaked to the back of the store. A few shoppers were wearing masks, and a store worker greeting customers said the shop would not be closing.
Patricia Beck, who was loading several cases of beer into the trunk of her car, said she lost her job Wednesday night as a manager at a casino because of the governor’s closure order and is unsure if she’ll get her job back.
Beck said she disagrees with Sisolak’s order. “He’s basically seizing private property and shutting it down.”
“I know why he did it. I get it,” Beck said. “But they don’t understand the impact of a four-hour notice that your life’s over.”
Officials at McCarran International Airport said in a tweet that it will remain open but late Wednesday an air traffic controller tested positive for coronavirus, temporarily closing the air traffic control tower.
KTNV-TV reported the temporary closure and positive test were confirmed late Wednesday evening in a statement released from the FAA.
The airport remains open. Operations will continue but at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved.