Hawaii, Illinois Advise Against Visits to Las Vegas, Cite Delta Strain

Posted on: July 23, 2021, 11:25h. 

Last updated on: March 22, 2023, 10:15h.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Las Vegas, officials in more jurisdictions are starting to advise their residents to either wear a mask when they go to the Nevada resort mecca or hold off on making a trip there for the time being.

Las Vegas masks
Casino workers at The Westgate wear masks on the gaming floor. The Las Vegas resort made it a requirement after area health officials recommended everyone in large public spaces wear one regardless of their vaccination status. As COVID-19 cases increase in the Las Vegas area, health officials in other states are advising their residents, especially unvaccinated ones, to reconsider taking a trip to the popular tourist destination. (Image: KTNV-TV)

On Thursday, representatives from the Hawaii State Department of Health Kauai District noted that contact tracing and investigative work indicated that many of the new cases originate from people who have traveled. Las Vegas, district officials said in a statement, attracts a lot of visitors from the island.

“This destination poses significant risks,” the district said about Vegas. “The popular activities are largely indoors and can be crowded. Visitors stay indoors for prolonged periods, mingling with others from all over the country. Masks are not required. The result is a set-up for the spread of COVID-19.”

District officials didn’t advise against going, but asked anyone planning a trip to first become fully vaccinated. Once in Vegas, they urged residents, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to “follow Hawaii’s prudent rules” that call for wearing a mask in busy indoor areas.

However, Hawaii Lt. Gov. Josh Green pulled no punches when he gave his assessment. In a short video clip aired Thursday by Las Vegas TV station KLAS, Green, a medical doctor and the state’s liaison to medical providers, said the odds don’t favor those who refuse to get a shot, but are eager to get on a plane.

You’re taking a huge risk, and you will very likely catch COVID if you go to Las Vegas,” Green said. “You’re in restaurants or in a casino where most people are not wearing masks. That’s what’s going to happen. You will definitely catch COVID. Then you’ll come back, you’ll be asymptomatic for a few days, you’ll test positive for COVID, and you’ll give it to your whole family.”

Earlier this week, in an effort to stop the surge of COVID-19 cases in Southern Nevada, the Clark County Commission voted unanimously to mandate workers don masks when they work in indoor public spaces. That move came after the Southern Nevada Health District recommended all people, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks when they’re in crowded public settings.

Nevada Advisory Now in Effect in Illinois

Hawaii isn’t the only state advising residents about possible trips to Las Vegas or Nevada.

Starting on Friday, a travel advisory announced on Tuesday by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is in effect for Nevada. The advisory urges, but does not mandate, that unvaccinated city residents traveling to Nevada or unvaccinated travelers arriving from the state do two things: either show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken less than 72 hours before arrival, or quarantine for 10 days after arriving.

The advisory exempts vaccinated individuals from taking either step.

Nevada was one of three states and the US Virgin Islands added to Chicago’s advisory this week. Other states added this week were Florida and Louisiana. Previously, Chicago officials established an advisory for Illinois and Arkansas.

States are added to the list if they surpass an average daily infection rate of 15 infections per 100,000 people each day.

Last week, the top health officer for Los Angeles County, during a presentation before the California county’s Board of Supervisors, advised residents to reconsider going to Nevada or other states where positivity rates were high.

NGCB: Mask Mandate Applies

What’s fueling the current spike in COVID-19 cases in Nevada and other hot spots is the presence of the delta variant. That’s a strain health experts say is 225 percent more transmissible than the original strain that led to the pandemic nearly 17 months ago.

When Clark County commissioners discussed implementing the new mask mandate, which is slated to run through at least Aug. 17, there were discussions whether, when it comes to gaming, the employee mandate should cover all gaming licensees, or just the casinos. Some commissioners were concerned that extending it to all licensees would make it more difficult to enforce because of the sheer number of establishments.

The day after the Commission established the policy, the Nevada Gaming Control Board issued a statement saying that it would apply to all gaming licensees. Board Chair J. Brin Gibson said that board members knew the pandemic would continue to evolve even after restrictions were lifted, and counties would need to act if another wave emerged.

“As a partner in the mitigation and management of the COVID-19 pandemic since its inception, the Board is fully supportive of the Southern Nevada Health District and the Clark County Commission in its mask mandate for employees in Clark County,” Gibson said. “The Board will ensure compliance with this requirement in Clark County within the Board’s areas of jurisdiction.”