RENO, Nev. (AP) — Trick-or-treating at the Nevada governor’s mansion has been canceled this year due to the pandemic, and state health officials are advising people marking Halloween and El Día de los Muertos to avoid large gatherings.
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Wednesday that his official residence in Carson City will be decorated but the annual festivities will not take place to keep staff and visitors safe.
The announcement came as the state COVID-19 response office issued guidelines in English and Spanish saying costume masks do not count as the type of face coverings that must be worn in public.
“Participating in virtual activities is the safest option,” the recommendations said. “The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services encourages alternatives to traditional, door-to-door trick-or-treating this year to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.”
The guidance said people opening doors and handing out candy are unlikely to remain at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) from visitors. Several pages of advice also include suggestions that people remain outdoors, if possible, for short visits in small groups.
Meanwhile, Sisolak and state Treasurer Zach Conine announced a $20 million grant program to buoy businesses with less than 50 employees that have struggled to remain afloat amid the pandemic. The program will offer small businesses grants of up to $10,000 to cover payroll, personal protective equipment or other coronavirus-related expenses.
Sisolak said the relief program was designed to help businesses that have had to shut their doors to prevent the spread of the virus, “which is why we made sure that Nevada’s bars, pubs, taverns breweries, distilleries and vineyards are prioritized for access to this grant money.”
In Washoe County, Health District Officer Kevin Dick believes a recent rise in the county’s seven-day rolling average to more than 100 new cases a day is the result of too many people relaxing safety practices.
“I think that we have COVID fatigue going on, and people want things to be back to normal. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be normal for a while,” he said. “We basically keep building up to new plateaus.”
Dick continues to recommend — with some exceptions — that public gatherings be limited to 25 people despite an Oct. 1 directive from the governor raising the statewide maximum cap from 50 to 250.
Dick pushed back against those who advocate an increase in the 250 cap. “I think it’s very unwise for us just to swing open the gates to allow even larger gatherings to occur until we see what happens with the increase in those gatherings,” he said.
Nevertheless, Dick said he’s approaching outdoor events with fixed seating on a case-by-case basis. He said the district has approved a plan by Reno’s team in the United Soccer League to have up to 700 fans at Saturday’s match against the Phoenix Rising FC at Greater Nevada Field,a downtown stadium.
Dick said district officials visited a Reno 1868 FC match attended by nearly 250 people and were pleased with what they saw.
The governor’s directive allows concerts and sporting events to submit individual plans to operate at 10% of capacity at venues with 2,500 or more fixed seats.
Reno 1868 FC’s plan for 700 fans still must be approved by the Nevada Division of Business and Industry.
Dick said he hasn’t had any discussions with officials at the University of Nevada, Reno about the possibility of having more than 250 fans at future football games at Mackay Stadium. Only 250 family members of players and fans will be allowed at the Oct. 24 season opener against Wyoming.
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter in Las Vegas contributed to this report.
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