County Plan Will Open Community 100% on May 1

  • 2021-04-22, 06:51 AM (update 2021-04-22, 06:03 PM)
  • Rachel Dahl
County Plan Will Open Community 100% on May 1 Social Services Director Shannon Ernst and County Manager Jim Barbee present the county reopening plan to the Board of Health yesterday.

Update: According to Commissioner Heath and County Manager Jim Barbee, the county transition plan was accepted by the State COVID Task Force at their meeting on Thursday, April 22.

On Wednesday afternoon, Churchill County Commissioners terminated the emergency COVID declaration that has been in effect since last March and approved a Local COVID-19 Transition Plan. Presented first to the County Board of Health for their approval Wednesday morning, the plan will be presented today to the State COVID Task Force and if approved, will go into effect May 1.

“I wholeheartedly approve of our plan and support opening up 100%,” said Commission Chairman Pete Olsen.

The state template for local transition plans requires commissioners to address monitoring, mitigation, and enforcement of state COVID restrictions. Manager Jim Barbee clarified that the local plan “recognizes” the statewide mask requirement, school reopening requirements, and the state regulation of industries through independent regulatory bodies such as the Gaming Control Board, Board of Cosmetology, and the Cannabis Compliance Board.

“We will continue enforcement working across agencies, and continue providing public information, recognizing there is one person responsible for enforcement in our county, our elected Sheriff and we will follow his lead.”

Sheriff Richard Hickox has said his office will not enforce state-mandated restrictions. Wednesday he said, “I’ve been on the record, we will not be enforcing COVID restrictions.”

Under the transition plan, authority for enforcing COVID restrictions moves from the Governor under his emergency declarations, to local governments on May 1, with plans to lift statewide restrictions on June 1. In his February 15 announcement, Governor Sisolak directed counties to follow a template with specific guidelines in creating their reopening plans.

The county will continue monitoring COVID-19 measures and indicators with testing and rates of positivity to “determine prevalence and community spread.” Barbee said the positivity rate is still being used by the state in decision making as the key leading factor in terms of decision making, however, fewer and fewer people are being tested, and anyone who has been vaccinated cannot be tested, leading to skewed data. “A 6% positivity rate today is 20 positives over a rolling 14-day period and that is a lot different than a 6% positivity rate last November when we were seeing 75 positives in one day,” he said.

Barbee said county staff is working on ways they can continue testing enough people to keep the positivity rate down.

Commissioner Justin Heath, M.D., agreed, saying, “the data needs to reflect a trend.”

Under “Mitigation Measures” the county plan lifts occupancy restrictions for public gatherings, events, and activities, youth and adult sports. The county staff will continue to provide important public health information to promote public health measures, encourage testing, vaccines, and provide regular data updates. There are no additional restrictions on libraries, museums, art galleries, gyms, places of worship, or food and beverage establishments other than the state directives for face coverings.

The transition plan was presented to the County Board of Health Wednesday morning for approval and then sent to the Commissioners at their regular meeting Wednesday afternoon.

During the Board of Health meeting, Barbee and Shannon Ernst, social services director, presented data from the county response, saying so far there have been a total of 7,275 doses of the COVID vaccines administered in the county with 6,074 of those being actual residents of Churchill County. Testing since May 4, 2020, has shown a total of 742 positives out of 11,154 tests given.

According to Ernst vaccinations have slowed somewhat, saying, “we’re lucky to see 200 in a day.” The new vaccination facility was designed to deliver up to 300 vaccinations per hour. County Health Officer Tedd McDonald said everyone is having a hard time getting people vaccinated, “we are seeing a difficulty reaching out and bringing them into the immunization herd.”

Representatives of the City of Fallon, Churchill County School District, Oasis Academy, Banner Churchill Community Hospital, and the Pennington Life Center attend the Board of Health meetings and weighed in on the plan.

Mayor Ken Tedford offered “complete confidence and support of this transition plan.”

Superintendent Summer Stephens said the county has been responsive any time anything would happen. “I’m sure you would just reconvene yourselves if something needed to happen.”

She also said the face-covering mandate is something the district will continue through the end of the school year on June 4. “I don’t know everyone’s vaccination status in this room, but I’m the only person wearing a face-covering in a face-covering mandate situation so I would reiterate it is important to us in school that that not become a challenge for us as kids see out in the community that people do or do not follow that…we will continue that in our schools and I feel like I could not leave here today without making that comment as a leader of the system.”

Commissioners heard public comments from local community members, as well as comments over the virtual platform from people who are not residents of the county. Speakers urged the county to open 100% and drop all mask mandates, saying children particularly are suffering from being forced to wear the mask at school.

Heath said the commission would like the schools to be open and encouraged people to contact the school board. “Make sure you let your voices be heard at the next school board meeting, this plan is to reopen fully, there are no restrictions to open completely.”

Koenig reiterated, “We have no control over the school district, we have no say in their decision. We’re opening everything up. The template says we have to say masks, but as of May 1, the enforcement leaves the state and converts to the county, and the person who enforces that is Sheriff Hickox.”

During the Board of Health meeting, Tedford said the plan is local control of state parameters. “We have come up with something for the community that fairly reflects what those who elected us, and even those who didn’t, is something that we can all live with and will be favorable for our people.”



Rachel Dahl



Comments (14)

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Fact Checker
Fact Checker 2021-04-25, 09:51 AM
The masks need to GO. It is proven that masks do NOT stop a virus and do more harm than good!
Anonymous 2021-05-03, 01:34 PM
Look up Republic, WA where 10% of the population currently has Covid-19. It is a place a lot like Fallon where they wanted to open fully and don't like to wear masks.
Telling the truth
Telling the truth 2021-05-01, 10:27 PM
That is so TRUE. The facts and evidence overwhelmingly prove that.
Step Up
Step Up 2021-04-25, 08:40 AM
I can not understand how failure to support the mask mandate reflects my vote! I support many things. The most important in this context is supporting the laws of the land. That doesn't mean blindly following the law. It means knowing and learning about the "rules." No matter if I agree with the law or not, I do my best to follow it. If I disagree with a law I will work to have it changed. It bothers me that my tax dollars go to pay a sheriff that picks and chooses the laws that he will or will not enforce. It bothers me that we have a board of county commissioners that also pick and choose what law or mandate they support. Thank you to the school board superintendent for pointing out that we expect our children to become law abiding citizens yet so many role models in our community fail to set a good example. Heck yeah! Open our community! But show some d&-+ respect for our vulnerable community members and the law!
Quit complaining
Quit complaining 2021-04-25, 06:56 PM
Masks are not a law. They never have been. The order to wear masks was an emergency mandate! Never once was this signed into law. I’m proud of our sheriff for choosing to use his time to enforce actual laws and not waste his time with “mask violations”. Business owners can worry about mask mandates as they should. If people are bothered by wearing or not wearing masks that is their problem. Wear them as you choose. I wear mine, but most certainly don’t get bent out of shape when others don’t.
Anonymous 2021-04-25, 06:32 AM
I think people should wear face coverings for a while. They have documented, so far, over 8000 cases in fully vaccinated people with close to 80 deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations. Face masks are still your best protection. I don’t enjoy wearing one, especially in the hot weather, but It is the smartest choice at this point.
Another concerned citizen
Another concerned citizen 2021-04-24, 11:50 AM
I wonder if the state will reconsider their approval of the county’s plan based on the Sheriff’s statement that he will not enforce the state mandates
A general citizen.
A general citizen. 2021-04-25, 06:58 PM
He has said this since the beginning and his stance has never changed. It didn’t matter to the state then, and it doesn’t matter now. Do what you feel is right. No one is forcing you to remove your mask.
Aaron 2021-04-26, 08:42 AM
It didn’t mean anything when the Sheriff said it the first time because law enforcement was not tasked with enforcing the mask mandate then-because State agencies were given enforcement duties. Enforcement of the statewide mask mandate is now being given to him directly from the Churchill County Commission and he refuses to uphold the State of Nevada mandate. Doesn’t matter how busy he is or what his personal political beliefs are because he is an elected official and the leader of a law enforcement agency in the State of Nevada. He doesn’t have the option to refuse the mandate of the State he operates under. He is subordinate to the authority of the State and all of its mandates.
Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen 2021-04-22, 11:47 AM
If I personally knew the Sheriff, I would advise him to consult with an attorney outside of Churchill County before making any further public statements. Legal forums have been abuzz about lawsuits coming down the pike on behalf of people harmed by Covid when mitigation measures weren't followed. Some already have been filed in Washoe against employers. I guarantee the Sheriff that the court venue won't be in Churchill County, so cases won't be dismissed by people you know. Get some legal advice before becoming the liability fall-guy for the county. State's off the hook because of the mask mandate and the county's off the hook because they are making you responsible.
Churchill Resident
Churchill Resident 2021-04-22, 08:55 AM
Way to pass the buck! Make it REALLY bad for people working in casinos and hair salons who could still be fined, closed, or lose their jobs over the mask mandate. What a bunch of weak elected officials too afraid to tell residents we still have to wear masks! Let’s elect some adults next time.
Churchill county resident
Churchill county resident 2021-04-24, 01:42 PM
Or maybe everyone is fed up with these bs restrictions and are ready to get back to their normal life’s. COVID is nothing but a hoax.
Jon 2021-04-25, 12:21 PM
You can go about your normal life, just with a mask on in public. I am for opening, but masks have to stay for now since not many people have been vaccinated yet and since there are new strains that may require a new booster shot not available right now. The last thing we need is to go backwards, when a little more mask can prevent that from happening.
Telling the truth
Telling the truth 2021-05-01, 10:31 PM
The masks are not doing one single thing except what they're intended to do: -make people afraid and bend their minds into governmental submission for what is coming up next. The purpose of the mask is to create an attitude of compliance, confusion and fear. Its doing that brilliantly I might add.