LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The week ahead will be perhaps the most important since the lockdowns plunged Nevada's economy into a free fall, as some sporting events welcome fans back and thousands of Clark County's youngest students return to classrooms.
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The increased social and physical activity means more people will be out and about and interacting with each other -- a key way the virus has spread and lingered for the past 11 months.
The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is set to hold the largest allowed crowd of people since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect last March.
Next Friday, the facility is allowed to have 12,500 fans in attendance.
"Somehow the Southern Nevada Health District decided we should only have 15%, that includes 2,500 people in the suites," said Chris Powell, the president of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Powell says the venue is open-air, and nearly one mile long with space to accommodate thousands more while still socially distanced.
Powell points out Gov. Steve Sisolak said events could resume at 20% of fixed seating capacity if all other necessary precautions were taken and approved by state and local authorities.
While the state currently allows the 20% limit, local authorities can apply stricter standards.
"We're quite disappointed, we feel strongly that it's time for Las Vegas and Southern Nevada, our great state, to get back to some sense of normalcy," said Powell.
"The COVID numbers have clearly gone down for the last couple of months," added Powell.
The speedway is taking several precautions including temperature checks, increased cleaning and enforcing social distancing.
Powell says the SNHD cited the high transmission rate for the reduced limit on capacity.
According to state data, as of Friday, the test positivity rate had fallen to 8.3% which has been declining rapidly since recent record highs of more than 20% set last month.
The rate is an indication of how many people who are tested are receiving a positive result.
The World Health Organization recommends a threshold of no more than 5% to control the spread.
Total new cases and hospitalizations connected to the virus have steadily dropped in recent weeks.
The Vegas Golden Knights will welcome back fans to T-Mobile Arena on Monday.
The organization is held to the same 15% capacity limit which is approximately 2,600 fans.
13 Investigates has also reported OMNIA and Wet Republic are set to reopen on Friday, March 5.
Additional venues have announced openings later in March.
"I don't want people to think this is a license to go out and party," said Dr. Christina Madison with Roseman University
Dr. Madison says the coming days and weeks will be another crucial test for mitigation efforts as people will become more active and it could lead to more opportunities for viral spread.
"The reason why we're able to start kind of coming off these restrictions is because we've been doing so well with mask-wearing, social distancing, testing and vaccination," explained Dr. Madison.
Dr. Madison recommends regular testing for individuals, especially for those who plan on attending events.
She recommends getting a test 3 to 5 days after the gathering or event.
Some Clark County students will return to classrooms for the first time in nearly a year starting on Monday.