Clark County has re-imposed a mask mandate but only for employees of indoor businesses in the county, including all casinos. Just days before, the Westgate Hotel-Casino required its employees to mask up again whether they are vaccinated, part of the efforts to keep guests and staff safe as the Delta variant explodes.
Las Vegas Sands changed its mask policy at that time as well.
“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,” Sands said in a statement. “Complimentary face masks are available to our guests at front desks, grazie desks, and concierge desks.”
Las Vegas Sands spokesman Keith Salwoski said in an email Monday that all employees of the Venetian, Palazzo, and Sands Expo—vaccinated or not—be required to “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.”
The problem is the low rate of vaccinations for Nevada residents, less than 50 percent.
The Culinary Union has undertaken a campaign to convince members to get vaccinated as almost all admissions to hospitals for Covid-19 are from the unvaccinated population.
Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV, said a return to masks make sense but that doesn’t make the option any easier for locals and tourists.
“I would recommend a middle-of-the-road approach where employees return to wearing masks, masks are available for customers, in the guest rooms and at the entrance, and consider a return to more visible cleaning standards,” she said.
Josh Swissman, founding partner of the Las Vegas-based Strategy Organization, like so many others trumpeted the need for vaccination as a way to slow down the infection spread and thus the need for restarting masks.
“The most important message that should be shouted from the rooftops is that everyone who hasn’t gotten vaccinated yet should do that,” he said.
Vaccination remains the best defense, and Nevada businesses including the resorts are working awfully hard to get their employees vaccinated, Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine said. “We’re going to comply with it,” said Valentine, who leads the association made up of large casino resorts. “We think it’s an important step.”
The Clark County Commission made it easier by voting to make employers require workers to wear masks in indoor public spaces like stores, malls and clubs, and post signs citing local health district advice that everyone vaccinated or not should wear face coverings.
“We’ve got to do something,” Commissioner Jim Gibson said as he raised the specter of crowded hospitals and canceled trade shows. “We have already been through a shutdown and a start-up. We cannot afford to have major conventions choose to go elsewhere.”
A hastily called and sometimes contentious emergency meeting drew a big audience and about 50 speakers—almost all opposed to mask requirements, vaccinations and business closures and distancing.
The commission voted to require locations with more than 250 people submit plans about possible next steps to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The vote made the mask rule effective July 22 with a follow up review on August 17.
Some indicated they won’t comply.
On May 13, Governor Steve Sisolak, following CDC guidelines, dropped the requirement for vaccinated people to wear face coverings in Nevada. Unvaccinated people were still advised to wear masks.
In the two months since then, the Delta variant has attacked Nevada.
“The Delta variant has changed the game,” said Brian Labus, a longtime Southern Nevada Health District epidemiologist who now teaches public health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He said in an interview the debate about masks re-emerged “because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.”
Labus has advised the governor on pandemic issues and has called for people to get vaccinated. He acknowledged data shows that most people now contracting the virus are not vaccinated, according to the Associated Press.
The number of new cases of Covid-19 reported July 20 in Nevada exceeded 1,000. State vaccination rates have stalled. Less than half are fully vaccinated. The state hit a seven-day average of 708 cases on July 19, numbers not seen since early February, said the Nevada Independent.
“You don’t want to alienate customers,” Belarmino said. “It’s hard to tell people again they’re going back to restrictions. But I think most people would rather wear a mask than not be able to leave home.”
The Gaming Control Board will enforce the mandate at gaming locations.