Las Vegas in ‘very tricky place’ after COVID warnings

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Las Vegas Review-Journal 17 July, 2021 - 12:26am 8 views

Is Vegas requiring masks?

The Southern Nevada Health District on Friday recommended that all people, regardless of whether they've been vaccinated, wear face coverings in public settings such as stores, malls, casinos and events. ... U.S. News & World ReportSome Vegas Properties Require Workers to Wear Face Coverings

Health officials from popular tourist destinations are telling everyone, vaccinated or unvaccinated, to wear masks in crowded indoor public places.

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Health officials from popular tourist destinations like Los Angeles and Las Vegas are asking more people to mask up indoors.

The Southern Nevada Health District is now recommending people wear masks in crowded indoor public places – including Las Vegas casinos – regardless of vaccination status, according to a Friday statement.  

The announcement comes one day after Los Angeles County announced that it would reinstate an indoor masking policy due to a recent surge in new COVID-19 cases. More counties in California followed with mask recommendations Friday.

The mask guidelines are meant to help quell the spread of COVID and the highly contagious delta variant, which has caused an uptick in daily cases in some regions across the U.S.  

The Southern Nevada Health District said it was updating its guidance Friday, since “using masks correctly has proven to be effective in helping to prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19.” 

Eight more areas in California – Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Sonoma counties and the City of Berkeley – on Friday recommended both vaccinated and unvaccinated people wear masks indoors in public spaces. 

The guidance is a precaution for those fully vaccinated and meant “to ensure easy verification that all unvaccinated people are masked in those settings,” according to a joint statement.

The daily COVID case count has been climbing in both Nevada and California in recent weeks. 

California reported 4,651 new cases – 5.4 per 100,000 people – on Friday, according to the state’s website. About 52% of people are fully vaccinated in the state. 

Daily COVID cases in Southern Nevada – where the Delta variant is the dominant strain – have returned to levels not seen since February. More than half of the state’s eligible population is not fully vaccinated

Clark County – the home of the Las Vegas Strip – continues to account for the bulk of COVID-19 cases in the state as well as the highest incidence rate. Nearly 78% of COVID-19 cases in Nevada occurred there.

Brian Labus, an epidemiologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says the Southern Nevada Health Department is trying to combat the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

“Our numbers are trending in the wrong direction,” Labus said. “Our recommendations have to change to match what the virus is doing.”  

Nevada health officials are pushing for more mask-wearing, but visitors may not heed their advice. 

“We don’t see very many people in public wearing masks (in Las Vegas), unfortunately," Labus said. “People have kind of rejected that guidance and are just not wearing masks, and I don’t know how much this recommendation will really change that.”

The Nevada Gaming Control Board would have the authority to reimpose mask mandates on Las Vegas casinos but made no changes as of Friday. The board declined to comment. 

Labus said health officials will need to consider political and economic consequences before reimposing COVID restrictions or mask mandates.

Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates The Venetian on the Strip, said it would require vaccinated and unvaccinated staff to wear face masks while working in public indoor areas, but the resort is not requiring masks among guests.

MGM Resorts International, which runs the Bellagio and other Strip resorts, is "closely monitoring the situation" but did not change its masking policy Friday, according to spokesman Brian Ahern. Both MGM and Sands plan to post signs at public entrances sharing the new masking recommendation.  

Dr. Hana Hakim, an associate member of the St. Jude Department of Infectious Diseases, said it's not clear whether more face masking policies will be implemented. That will depend on vaccination rates and more data on the prevalence of breakthrough infections, or COVID cases in those fully vaccinated, she said. 

"Understanding the impact of the delta variant on vaccine efficacy will be essential in the re-masking implementation decision," Hakim said via email. "For now, the critical message would be 'get vaccinated.'"

Casino consultant Debi Nutton said she doesn’t expect the recommendation to curb pent-up travel demand Las Vegas has been benefiting from in recent months. 

“Right now, travel to Las Vegas is high,” she said. “I think our guests are comfortable. ... I don't know if this is going to have a huge impact." 

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Nevada health officials recommend masks regardless of vaccination status

KTNV Channel 13 Las Vegas 18 July, 2021 - 07:10am

Westgate among first Las Vegas casinos to mandate masks for employees, vaccinated or not

KTNV Las Vegas 18 July, 2021 - 07:10am

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Casinos and resorts are reviewing their mask policies after the Southern Nevada Health District announced its recommendation that all vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals should wear a mask if in a crowded, indoor, public place.

The Westgate Las Vegas is among the first properties to require its employees to return to wearing a mask.

“It was a really tough decision,” said Gordon Prouty, the vice president of Public Relations and Community Affairs. “But we really feel that it was the best in order to keep our team members and our guests as safe as possible.”

The policy is reinstated for employees as the spread of the coronavirus Delta variant rages across Southern Nevada.

In Nevada, the test positivity rate in COVID-19 cases has spiked to 11.3% in the past two weeks. SNHD now recommends that all individuals, vaccinated or not, wear a mask in crowded public settings. That includes grocery stores, malls, large events and casinos.

"Everyone feels they can police the ones who haven't been vaccinated, but it's really difficult to do that," Prouty said. "And there are so many guests that are coming in who aren't vaccinated.”

Prouty says Westgate offers vaccinations on-site for its team members while educating, encouraging and incentivizing its employees to get the shot.

The Culinary Workers Union has also been pushing its members to get vaccinated.

“We’ve held town halls in English and Spanish,” said Bethany Khan, union spokesperson.

“We’ve sent hundreds of thousands of text messages and emails to members and non-union workers educating them about the vaccine," she said. "The vaccine is safe, proven effective and we will remain vigilant to ensure workers are protected at work.”

Protecting its employees and guests is what Westgate says is a top priority, calling its team members the heartbeat of the property.

“We’ve got to keep this momentum going," Prouty said. "The last thing we want to do is step back.”

Nevada COVID-19 numbers

8 News NOW Las Vegas 18 July, 2021 - 07:10am

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