Nevada’s gaming industry has just gotten back to its feet, with many casinos taking in visitors at full capacity and the revenue soaring to billion-dollar record highs. However, the post-pandemic momentum seems to have been met by a COVID-19 related stumbling block yet again. Infection cases have started going up, especially in South Nevada.
In Clark County, for instance, health officials have reported that the positivity rate for the past week has climbed to nearly 16%, from lows of about 4% earlier in June. Due to the rise of infection rates, the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) has recommended that all residents wear masks in crowded indoor public spaces such as casinos. This recommendation applies to both vaccinated and non-vaccinated Nevadans. The SNHD released an official statement on Friday morning to say:
“With the rise in cases and slowing vaccine rates in Clark County, the Health District’s recommendation to wear masks in crowded public settings, including grocery stores, malls, large events, and casinos, is a step to fully utilize the tools we have available to stop the pandemic,”
On its part, following the new recommendations by the SNHD, the Culinary Union has published a statement on its website encouraging unvaccinated Nevadans to take the jab:
“The CDC said this week that more than 97% of people who have been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 have *not* been vaccinated. The Culinary Union urges Nevadans who are not yet vaccinated to get the vaccine - it is the best way to protect you, your family, our community, our hospitality jobs, and our State’s industries. Hospitality workers have had access to the COVID-19 vaccine since March 11, 2021, and as of April 5, 2021, any Nevadan 16 and older can be vaccinated. As hospitality workers and their family members continue to get the vaccine, the Culinary Union continues to encourage workers to take advantage of on-site vaccine clinics at work whenever they are available,”
Las Vegas Sands Takes the Lead with the Mask Recommendations
While SNHD’s statement is just a recommendation that should be considered rather than a directive that must be adhered to, casino resorts across the state aren’t taking any chances. On Friday, Las Vegas Sands sent the following statement to KTNV citing the efforts that it has made to abide by the new recommendations:
“In response to new recommendations from the Southern Nevada Health District, we now require that all Team Members (vaccinated or not) wear company-issued face masks while working in indoor public spaces and in indoor areas where people congregate. In addition, we have revised our signs posted at public entrances to share this new SNHD recommendation. Complimentary face masks are available to our guests at Front Desks, Grazie Desks, and Concierge Desks.”
Las Vegas Sands operates the Palazzo, Venetian, and the Sands Expo & Convention Center. As such, all three Sands-operated venues have already implemented the said measures on their floors. In addition, other Sin City properties such as Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino have followed suit and required employees to go back to wearing masks irrespective of their vaccination status. Initially, in many Las Vegas casinos and resorts, only unvaccinated employees and visitors were required to wear masks in the venues.
Not All Sin City Entertainment Venues are Game
MGM Resorts has also laid up to ramp up safety measures that had initially been relaxed by adding new signs to alert patrons and staffers. However, unlike Las Vegas Sands and Westgate Hotel-Casino, MGM Resorts hasn't reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing requirements on its property. In a statement sent via email to a local Nevada media house 13 Action News, an MGM Resorts spokesperson said:
“Masks continue to be available at all MGM properties, and we remain vigilant with our health and safety protocols. We are closely monitoring the situation and are continually evaluating policies based on the latest information and circumstances. Our ongoing health and safety commitment incorporates lessons learned over the past year and a half and has permanently embedded health and safety protocols and preparation into our operations.”
Similarly, the likes of The D Las Vegas and Circa Resort & Casino indicated that they won’t be changing their policy at the moment but will continue monitoring the situation and act accordingly.
While health officials are concerned about the rising number of infections, not all regions in the Silver State, have been affected the same way. According to the Nevada Health Response Dashboard, the positivity rate of Washoe County is less than half that of Clark County, even though it’s still on an upward trajectory. Over the past week, Washoe County’s positivity rated rose to 5.9%, from just 2.9% in mid-June.
Based on recent data from health officials, 43.4% of Nevada’s population has been fully vaccinated. However, to avoid any more setbacks to the recovery of its lifeblood – the hospitality industry, it is vital that the Silver State ramps up its vaccination efforts.