Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak says it’s possible the state’s 17 counties will be back to running at 100 percent capacity by June 1.
The plan is scheduled to kick in May 1 when the state restores to local officials some of their powers to respond to the Covid crisis in their own ways. The state’s mask mandate will remain in effect, Sisolak said, and restrictions could tighten again if the situation deteriorates, but for the first time since the pandemic hit last March, counties will be able to set capacity and social distancing guidelines for themselves.
“Some counties may make the decision to move to 100 percent capacity as early as May 1 when they gain the authority and others may not,” the governor said at an April 12 news conference. “Each county in Nevada is unique and has different factors to consider,” he said, such as vaccination coverage, infection rates and the prevalence of variants of the potentially deadly virus.
In neighboring states, Colorado Governor Jared Polis lifted mask mandates in roughly half of the state’s counties on April 2 to account for different severities in rural and urban parts of the state. In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey lifted capacity restrictions and some mask mandates throughout the state in late March. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom has announced plans to lift some capacity restrictions by June 15, depending on the progress that’s made locally to contain the virus and vaccinate people.
In Nevada, county officials have begun presenting their reopening plans to a state task force.
In Washoe County, home to the Reno and Lake Tahoe gaming markets, County Commissioner Bob Lucey, an outspoken opponent of the state’s mask mandates, said “I applaud the governor for reopening the state on June 1 and getting our economy moving again.”
Sisolak credited the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the casino industry with efforts to set up vaccination sites on their properties to speed up the inoculation of their employees, which is viewed statewide as one of the keys to getting tourists to return.
In related news, the shoots of a recovery in the Vegas convention market began to sprout last week with the arrival of the city’s first large-scale trade show since the Covid pandemic hit more than a year ago.
Las Vegas Market, a twice-yearly gathering of buyers and sellers in the home furnishings and décor industries, was expected to draw upwards of 10,000 attendees from April 16 through April 21 at a new $103.5 million addition to Downtown’s World Market Center.
The Expo, as the new space is called, features 315,000 square feet and is designed to serve as a gateway between temporary exhibits and permanent showrooms at the sprawling 5 million-square-foot facility near the intersections of US95 and Interstate 15.
“People are anxious to get back face-to-face. There’s no question about it,” said Bob Maricich, CEO of International Market Centers, owners of the World Market Center.
“In many ways, they’re Zoom-fatigued and they can hardly wait,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And the economy is just really robust for furniture, gifts, home décor and fashion. There’s a real economic need to get back at a market like this.”
The severe travel restrictions and limits on public gatherings in force over most of the last year has created a robust appetite for the show’s offerings, attendees said, and it’s estimated that around 20 percent of those exhibiting and shopping at the Expo last week were first-timers.
“People use Zoom, they use all the different technologies, but there’s only so much you can do,” said Gerard O’Keefe, vice president of sales at Nourison, a New Jersey company specializing in rugs, carpets and home décor. “We’ve done virtual markets, we’ve done Instagram things and social media. But our business, it’s about aesthetics and it’s about a tactile business. People want to touch and feel, and they want to see true colors. And, at some point, they want to get back to seeing the product in person.”
Observers in and around Las Vegas are hoping similar needs will drive a speedy resurgence in the conventions and meetings that are integral to hotel occupancy, especially midweek, and non-gaming spending.
At a gathering last week of gaming and tourism leaders at the Las Vegas Convention Center’ newly expanded West Hall the mood was optimistic.
“We’re making great strides, and I think things will continue to move quickly,” said Steve Hill, president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
“People are ready,” said Stephanie Glanzer, chief sales officer and senior vice president of sales for MGM Resorts International. “Groups have been surprised by how popular face-to-face gatherings are.”
Mike Massari, chief sales officer for Caesars Entertainment, said meetings and shows are picking up where they left off in 2019.
“We’ve booked more in the past 12 months than we’ve had” leading up to the closure, he said. “And that’s how you grow.”
World of Concrete, the first major show at the expanded West Hall, is slated for June 8-10. The event drew more than 60,000 attendees in 2019.