Bellagio Fountains New Year’s Crowd Size May Be Coronavirus Superspreader, Social Media Warns

Posted on: January 1, 2021, 10:27h. 

Last updated on: January 2, 2021, 03:29h.

The sizable number of Las Vegas Strip revelers assembled at the iconic Bellagio Fountains on New Year’s Eve was widely condemned on social media Friday because of its risk of spreading COVID-19.

Many of those present failed to wear masks
A sizable crowd is seen near the Bellagio Fountains on New Year’s Eve. Worries followed that the Las Vegas Strip event could lead to more coronavirus cases. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Posters pointed out that many of those present failed to wear masks, were huddled close to one another, and their numbers far exceeded state recommendations for public events.

The outdoor crowd celebrating the start of 2021 had “packed” The Strip, “particularly around the Bellagio Fountains,” by 11 pm on Thursday, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The throngs continued to hang out at the site through the early morning hours on Friday.

A specific crowd estimate was not immediately available from Las Vegas Metro police on Friday. Photographs showing the turnout at the fountains was tweeted by Review-Journal reporter Briana Erickson. Within a short time, its contents led to criticism from social media posters.

For instance, Steve Friess commented, “Sigh. Congrats #Vegas on another successful superspreader event!”

Another social media poster predicted, “When we’re on lockdown again I don’t wanna hear anyone bitching.”

Still, another poster, identified as xdemelza, proclaimed, “I see more dead people.”

Also, Karl Catarata complained the “tourists” in the photos were “reckless. “No masks. No social distancing. Literally in the middle of a damn pandemic. No thought for the thousands of Nevadans who have died because of #COVID19.”

Another social media poster, identified as Ashley, said in part, “It would be one thing if the majority of these people wore masks, like people did at the protests. I see maybe 2 masks worn correctly.”

A poster who identified herself as Leah called the crowd size and their behavior, “ridiculous. I can’t believe we encouraged this by closing the Blvd.”

Metro police closed Las Vegas Boulevard to cars on New Year’s Eve. They also set up barriers on the key road to control crowds, the Review-Journal said.

Las Vegas Strip Crowds Violate Directives: Social Media

The New Year’s Eve crowd actions also appear to violate Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) recent COVID-19 order that public gatherings were limited to no more than 50 people or 25 percent capacity, whichever is less, social media posters pointed out.

Also, Sisolak has warned Las Vegas visitors to practice social distancing and wear face masks. Many in the Bellagio photos appeared to do neither.

When it comes to casinos, Sisolak put into place an ongoing 25 percent cap on gaming floor occupancy, as well as bar and restaurant occupancy. For the few remaining shows, basically there cannot be more than 50 people in a casino showroom audience.

For a couple of months, the governor saw criticism for the restrictions by those who worry they would hurt Las Vegas’ economy. For instance, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman (I) called the rules “crushing” to the city.

But Sisolak said he is balancing the economic needs of the gaming and hospitality sectors — and their workers — and the need to curb the spread of coronavirus.

As of Friday, Nevada saw 2,315 new COVID-19 cases. There were 21 more deaths.

In total, the state has experienced 227,046 cases since the outbreak began early last year. There have been 3,146 deaths.

It’s always a big challenge here in Vegas of balancing tourism and public health,” UNLV School of Public Health epidemiologist Brian Labus told the Review-Journal. “We, on the public health side of things, would obviously prefer not to see people gathering. But there’s not much more anyone could have done other than close down Las Vegas completely, and that’s just not realistic.”

Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft said weighing the two concerns represents “a delicate balance,” the Review-Journal adds.

“It’s just not realistic to tell people they can come to Vegas, but then force them to stay in their hotel rooms the whole time they’re here,” Naft told the newspaper. “So we did everything we possibly could to get the message out, requesting that people follow the governor’s guidelines, and I think the properties and law enforcement did a great job of enforcing things as best they could.”

Fremont Street Crowd Size Curbed

In contrast to The Strip, organizers of the Fremont Street Experience late this week chose to limit New Year’s Eve crowds on its pedestrian mall to just hotel guests, the Review-Journal reported. The area is a five-block entertainment district in downtown Las Vegas.

Before the new restriction, New Year’s Eve crowd sizes at Fremont Street were expected to total 14,000 revelers, the report said.