As COVID-19 cases rise again in Nevada, the health district covering the Las Vegas area has recommended face coverings for all people in crowded indoor places.
That has led two casinos on The Strip to once again require face coverings of all its employees to help prevent the spread of the newer strain of coronavirus.
The Venetian and Palazzo, both owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp., is mandating that all employees wear face masks whether they’re vaccinated or not, a company spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review Journal. The casinos, as well as the Sands Expo and Convention Center also owned by the company, are in addition posting at all public entrances a new Southern Nevada Health District recommendation urging mask use by anyone in a crowded indoor place.
That recommendation covers those both vaccinated and unvaccinated.
“Using masks correctly has proven to be effective in helping to prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19,” the SNHD statement read. “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.”
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In May, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak dropped mask mandates for those who were vaccinated, part of a gradual return to normal that followed the complete shutdown of the gaming industry for several months of 2020 because of the pandemic. In February, Sisolak began rolling back casino floor capacity limits and other protocols the state had implemented, citing the dropping case counts and high vaccination rates of the time.
But the spread of the far more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus has altered the picture in Nevada and elsewhere in the United States. Nevada’s average positive test rate reached 15.45% on July 16, according to the Mayo Clinic, and Clark County (where Las Vegas is located) was deemed a hotspot with around 600 new cases a day. The state also has barely half its population fully vaccinated, ranking 35th nationally. In Los Angeles, a top county health official warned residents against traveling to Nevada.
The Southern Nevada Health District does not have the authority to issue a mask mandate, which would have to be done by Clark County or the state. The Centers for Disease Control has not recommended that vaccinated people wear masks, though White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Review-Journal that such a step might be warranted in areas with high case rates.
It’s all unwelcome news for a Nevada gaming industry that made $7.873 billion in a pandemic-wracked 2020, nearly 35% lower than the $12.032 billion it collected in 2019. Nevada casinos won $1.230 billion in May 2021, the most recent month for which the state gaming control board has released figures, increasing from $1.039 billion in April.