Pleas for Vaccinations Continue, As Las Vegas Area Health Leaders Urge Mask Use

Posted on: July 17, 2021, 05:01h. 

Last updated on: July 17, 2021, 01:11h.

Representatives from the Las Vegas tourism and gaming industry on Friday again called on more people to get a COVID-19 vaccine. That’s after area health officials issued a recommendation earlier in the day. The call asks for all individuals in the region to wear face masks in “crowded indoor public places,” even if they have been vaccinated.

Vegas mask
The Statue of Liberty replica at the New York-New York Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip gets its own facemask in July 2020. A year later, area health officials are encouraging people to put masks back on in public gathering areas as the region has become a hot spot for the COVID-19 Delta variant. (Image: KSNV/The Vox Agency)

While the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) didn’t mandate masks indoors, it said in a statement that properly worn masks have “proven to be effective” in containing the virus.

With the rise in cases and slowing vaccine rates in Clark County, the Health District’s recommendation to wear masks in crowded public settings, including grocery stores, malls, large events, and casinos is a step to fully utilize the tools we have available to stop the pandemic,” the district said.

The Friday morning statement by the district was issued less than 24 hours after Los Angeles County Health Officer Dr. Muntu David warned the 10 million residents of the southern California county against traveling to Las Vegas.

Crowds have been pouring into Las Vegas since March, and they’ve been only getting larger since the gaming capitol began to fully reopen back in May, with the mask mandate relieved two months ago for vaccinated individuals. Then, on June 1, Clark County lifted restrictions on capacity limits and adopted guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Those encouraged masks for non-vaccinated individuals.

In the past six weeks, images coming from Vegas attractions have shown the vast majority of people congregating mask-free.

In response to SNHD’s decision, a couple of Las Vegas casinos decided to reimplement a mask policy for their employees. According to KTNV-TV, Las Vegas Sands will require all employees, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask when they’re in indoor public spaces or in indoor places where people gather. The Westgate Resort and Casino will also require its workers to wear a mask.

COVID-19 By The Numbers in Nevada

Since late May, the number of COVID-19 cases has steadily risen in Nevada. In recent weeks, the Las Vegas area has emerged as a hot spot for the Delta variant, a strain of the virus that is far more transmissible than the initial strain that triggered the pandemic 16 months ago.

Data from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Research Center showed Nevada had a seven-day daily average of 141.6 new cases on May 28. On July 2, that average was 319.4, and the rise has only become steeper since. On Wednesday, the seven-day daily average was 831.6.

As nearly 75 percent of Nevada’s 3.1 million resides in Clark County, it’s not surprising that the Vegas area is home to the majority of those cases. According to SNHD, Clark County had a seven-day average of 500 new daily cases as of Monday. The district’s demographic data shows the biggest increases have come from the 18-to-24 and 25-to-49 age groups.

While the case numbers soar, the vaccination rates have trended downward since a peak in mid-April, and have appeared to plateau over the last couple weeks. Johns Hopkins reports that roughly 77,500 doses have been administered over the first two weeks of July.

At the beginning of the month, Nevada ranked 34th in the nation with 39.6 percent of the population fully vaccinated. Two weeks later, the state now ranks 33rd with 44.8 percent. The national average is slightly less than 49 percent.

Through Friday, SNHD reported 42 percent of Clark County were fully vaccinated.

Vegas Leaders Want People to Get a Shot

Outside of New York City, no other US city was likely impacted more by COVID-19 than Las Vegas as the pandemic led to a significant reduction in travel – especially by air. Now, that Vegas has turned the tide, stakeholders in the gaming and tourism industry want to keep it going that way.

The way to do that, they said, is by promoting the vaccines.

Lori Nelson-Kraft, the senior vice president of communications for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said in a statement to Friday that the top priority for Las Vegas is the well-being of its workers, residents, and guests.

“We remain committed to minimizing the spread of the virus and encourage everyone to follow the guidance by health experts, most notably to get vaccinated to protect yourself and others from the virus,” she said.

Geoconda Argüello-Kline, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union Local 226, said in a statement the union representing 60,000 casino workers in Las Vegas and Reno will continue to abide by the guidance of both local and federal health officials.

Argüello-Kline also cited a statistic from CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky that 97 percent of the people currently being admitted to hospitals because of COVID-19 are not vaccinated.

“The Culinary Union urges Nevadans who are not yet vaccinated to get the vaccine – it is the best way to protect you, your family, our community, our hospitality jobs, and our state’s industries,” she said.