While the public still doesn’t have to wear masks indoors in Las Vegas, casino workers must following a new Clark County mandate. [Image: Shutterstock.com]
Workers in Clark County must cover up
First it was a recommendation last week leading to some Las Vegas casinos voluntarily implementing an employee mask policy. Now it’s an official mandate — all public-facing staff in Clark County must once again cover up indoors.
The Clark County Commission, issuer of the new mandate, took to Twitter to share the requirement that all employees in the county working in public indoor spaces must wear masks from 12:01am July 22 through August 17.
The new mandate also requires employers to erect signs stating that, whether vaccinated or not, everyone should follow health advice and wear masks. Right now, only workers and not the general public are required to cover up in public indoor spaces in Clark County as the region battles a sharp rise in the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19.
The Clark County Commission is an eight-member elected body that has jurisdiction over the Las Vegas Strip, after Nevada handed local authorities in the state the power to make such policy decisions on May 1, 2021.
The commission’s counterpart in Washoe County, which covers the Reno, Sparks, and Carson City areas, said it had “no plans to implement mask requirements or recommendations in their region” according to the Associated Press.
Mask move draws heavy fire
Admitting to “coronavirus fatigue” after an emotionally fraught emergency meeting, the commission’s decision to apply the mask mandate drew fire from many quarters. Around 50 speakers attended the meeting, which the commission shared via Twitter:
According to the AP, almost all the people attending the meeting were “opposed to mask requirements, vaccinations and business closures and distancing.”
Security officers at the meeting removed one speaker after a vocal outburst. “Vaccines should be up to us,”, she had said earlier.
It will fail to be enforced. We the people say, ‘No more.’”
Another speaker went as far as predicting people will simply not comply with the face mask rule, saying: “It will fail to be enforced. We the people say, ‘No more.’”
Commissioner Jim Gibson said the region could not “afford to have major conventions choose to go elsewhere.”
“We’ve got to do something,” he said.
Representatives from The Nevada Resort Association (NRA) and Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce were on Gibson’s side, agreeing with the mandate while requesting guidance in writing about enforcing the rule.
Despite 1,004 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nevada on July 20, there have been no new deaths. A sign of the aggressiveness of the new Delta strain, however, is ominous. According to a report published Friday by the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, the Delta variant was present in “76% of samples collected and sequenced from Las Vegas and surrounding Clark County.”
More COVID-19 clouds on the horizon?
The commission’s mandate this week comes after the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) recommended on July 16 that people mask up in indoor public spaces. Sin City casinos Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino and The Venetian were early adopters of a masks-on for employees policy following the SNHD’s advice.
For Nevada’s casino industry, which posted a record-busting gaming win of $1.23bn for May 2021, the return to any form of regulation has ominous overtones. Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the tourism, health, and safety balance was “tricky” territory for public officials.
“You don’t want to alienate customers,” Belarmino said.
She added that 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.”