Some leading casinos in Las Vegas have ordered their staff to wear masks again after a recommendation by a Nevada health body as COVID-19 cases spike statewide. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Nevada health body makes recommendation
Some Sin City casinos – Las Vegas Sands, Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino, and The Venetian – have stipulated that employees must mask up again as Nevada struggles to contain surging COVID-19 cases predominated by the ultra-contagious Delta variant.
The move by casinos came after a July 16 mask-up recommendation by the Southern Nevada Health District, (SNHD) which took to Twitter on the same day to share its guidance:
The SNHD called for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to don masks in crowded indoor public spaces, including […] casinos” to counter the wildfire transmission of the aggressive virus. The wearing of masks is, however, not a state-enforced mandate at this stage.
According to a report published by the SNHD centered on Clark County, following a relatively stable period in May, new COVID-19 cases began topping the 200-a-day mark around mid-June. Since July 5, daily cases have exceeded 400. According to the Associated Press, 938 new cases were reported across Nevada on July 15, marking the biggest single-day COVID-19 spike since February.
Nevada’s call to re-cover up came a day after Los Angeles County said it required people to return to wearing masks indoors. Citing John Hopkins University data, USA Today posits 1,000 new COVID-19 infections across the US every hour – an average of 25,300 fresh transmissions daily.
Déjà vu for Vegas?
The imposition of mask wearing on employees of Las Vegas Sands, Westgate Las Vegas, and The Venetian comes with some casinos offering complimentary masks to visitors. USA Today reported that MGM Resorts International, which runs the Bellagio and other Strip resorts, is keeping a close eye on the situation but has not altered its masking policy as of July 16.
mask recommendation may make little inroads on people’s current trending desire to travel
The US daily also quoted casino consultant Debi Nutton as saying that the mask recommendation may make little inroads on people’s current trending desire to travel to Vegas. “Right now, travel to Las Vegas is high,” Nutton observed, adding: “I think our guests are comfortable… I don’t know if this is going to have a huge impact.”
For an industry that suffered huge losses under shutdowns when the pandemic first broke loose in March 2020, skeptics will be feeling a sense of déjà vu, no matter how innocuous the return of masks might sound now.
Wearing masks will do little to conceal the smile in the eyes of casino resort operators in Nevada after a massive month of May. Across the state, casinos posted a record gaming win of $1.23bn for the month. The figure broke the October 2007 record of $1.165bn and signaled a happy rebound to good business for the gambling and tourism industry.
Riding the feel-good wave
As Nutton illustrated, the pent-up demand for travel to Vegas shows no sign of letting up. After months of shutdowns, every small step along the way in the albeit slow drip-feed return to Nevada’s casinos operating at full capacity has felt like a big victory.
In May, the removal of masks and barriers in several Nevada casinos prompted a comment via Twitter from poker pro and YouTuber Jeff Sluzinski (aka Jeff Boski) about “a timeless moment in poker history”:
At the time, MGM Resorts CEO Bill Hornbuckle dubbed the eased restrictions “a significant milestone” and played cheerleader-in-chief to his staff, urging them to “keep that excitement and momentum going.”
In the same month the masks came off, Nevada posted its record gaming win. It remains to be seen what, if any, impact comes from the masks going back on.