The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported this week its busiest 24-hour period for airport passenger screenings since the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a travel halt back in March. That’s good news for Las Vegas casinos that are in desperate need of guests.
TSA checkpoint numbers show airport security screened 1,191,123 travelers on Wednesday, December 23. That’s the highest single-day screening total since March 16, when 1.25 million people made their way through terminal checkpoints.
In mid-March, state governments across the nation ordered residents to stay home and avoid all nonessential travel. Now nine months later and COVID-19 still running rampant, dozens of governors, as well as the CDC, continue to urge their constituents to avoid air travel this holiday season.
It appears many are not heeding those calls.
The TSA did not report screening more than one million passengers in a single day from March 17 until October 18. The one million mark was only eclipsed once in November. But December has recorded four days with at least one million US airport passenger screenings.
No state relies on tourism and hospitality to fuel its economy more than Nevada. With domestic travel at a standstill for much of the year, the Silver State has suffered greatly.
In Las Vegas, visitor volume is down 54.2 percent through October. More than 19.2 million fewer people have traveled to Southern Nevada through 10 months of 2020 compared with 2019. McCarran International Airport has serviced 56.6 percent fewer passengers.
Last week, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) said the state experienced a record number of one-day COVID-19 deaths. He extended the 25 percent occupancy limit on gaming floors, bars, and restaurants until January 15.
However, the governor said Nevada casinos remain open for business. Sisolak reasoned that gaming is the state’s “only big industry” and one that “if we take away, the bottom falls out.”
Sisolak’s message was a bit different for Nevadans than potential out-of-state visitors.
Avoid gatherings,” he added. “Stay home as much as possible. Choose takeout or delivery to limit exposure while also supporting our small businesses. The choice we all make will make the difference.”
It’s not the first time the governor has sent mixed messages. In November, he asked Nevadans to stay home for two weeks, but welcomed tourists.
“They [tourists] certainly should come because they are protecting our jobs,” Sisolak answered a reporter’s question. “I’m encouraging them to come. But I’m encouraging them to please follow the rules.”
The US averaged 213,472 cases per day over the last week. That’s a two percent increase on the previous two-week average.
Health experts say the surge in holiday travel and gatherings will likely result in further coronavirus pains.
I think January is going to be terrible,” opined Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier this month to Newsweek. “It’s entirely conceivable that January could be the worst.”
Adding to the worry is a new COVID-19 strain detected in London that the CDC believes has the potential to spread easier. The CDC says scientists are working to learn whether the current vaccines being distributed across the nation will protect people against the new mutation.