Las Vegas between a Rock and a Hard Place As COVID-19 Returns

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Cue the Jaws theme and the voiceover. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, the threat returns. COVID-19 is trying to stage a comeback, even as more people are being vaccinated. As health officials try to figure out where Big Pharma went wrong, regions dependent on travel could consider bringing back COVID-19 restrictions. Implementing those restrictions, according to experts who spoke with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is easier said than done.

COVID-19 Returns to Vegas

According to the latest data, the number of COVID-19 cases in Nevada isn’t dwindling; it’s rising. On July 12, around a month after vaccinations began, the number of new cases jumped to 1,673. Every day since then, the number of cases has remained higher than the seven-day average. According to Amanda Belarmino, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, this puts Sin City in a “very tricky place.”

Belarmino adds that, while area properties are following the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there could be a call to bring back at least some of the health and safety measures that were implemented last year. Given the blowback received by John Q. Public in 2020, any attempt to re-introduce mandatory masks, commercial closures and more would most likely be met with significantly more resistance than last year.

However, changes are almost certainly coming. The Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) is recommending that all businesses have their employees wear face makes, even if they’re vaccinated, and more restrictions might be implemented. Some Vegas properties have already heeded the suggestion, such as The Venetian, which is now requiring employees to wear masks. Others, such as properties owned by MGM Resorts, are taking a wait-and-see approach per orders from the top floor. If, however, gaming regulators decide to follow the SNHD and order face masks to be worn, they will be forced to comply.

Vegas to Evolve Day to Day

Continued diligence is the key to, once again, beating down COVID-19 and keeping Las Vegas from suffering another year of massive losses. Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors, adds, “Since the federal mask mandate was lifted back in May, it has been about the honor system and I think that needs to continue forward. Vaccines and continued precautions are the keys to getting this under control and continuing the economic recovery.”

Economic recovery in Nevada is not going to be an easy achievement, especially if travel warnings start popping  up. The LA County Health District in California has already issued a travel advisory for areas with high infection rates, such as Las Vegas, which will keep some would-be visitors away. Bussman adds, “We are still early on in the recovery and a potential setback with rising cases would limit our current trajectory. The meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions business is just starting to bounce back and we still need to bring back the international segment. At this point, it is about personal responsibility to keep this recovery pushing forward.”

According to available data, around 43.4% of the population in Nevada has been completely vaccinated against COVID-19. That is one of the lowest percentages in the US (Georgia sits at the bottom of the list at 37.5%) and, if vaccinations are the key to recovery, the state needs to pick up the pace. Being heavily reliant on tourism, it can’t afford a COVID-19 sequel.  

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