WHO Declares COVID-19 a Global Pandemic, Impact on Gaming Properties, Conventions Escalates

Posted on: March 11, 2020, 04:01h. 

Last updated on: March 11, 2020, 05:37h.

The increasing number of coronavirus cases worldwide has led to the World Health Organization declaring the illness a pandemic Wednesday. That news came as a woman who was a guest at The Mirage in Las Vegas has tested positive for COVID-19.

A guest at The Mirage in Las Vegas tested positive for coronavirus. (Image: Booking.com)

The female guest at the MGM Resorts-owned hotel appears to be the first person who stayed at any Las Vegas property who is likely to have the illness. She is in her 40s and is from New York.

The unidentified woman was hospitalized on March 8 and is now isolated and in stable condition. She arrived in Las Vegas on March 5 to attend the Women of Power Summit at The Mirage, which ran through March 8.

“Professional cleaners with expertise in this area are deep cleaning and sanitizing the individual’s room, as outlined in … [MGM’s] health and safety procedures and in accordance with CDC [Centers for Disease Control] guidelines for eliminating the presence of the virus. Access to the room remains restricted as it undergoes this comprehensive cleaning and disinfectant process,” according to an MGM statement.

We are currently coordinating with the Southern Nevada Health District [SNHD] to notify guests and employees who may have had close prolonged contact with the individual and are directing our employees to follow all self-quarantine requests,” the company statement adds. “We wish the individual well and offer our support in her recovery.”

With the case involving The Mirage, there are now five patients who tested positive for the virus in Clark County.

In total, there are now seven COVID-19 positive cases in Nevada.

Las Vegas’ NAB Show Canceled

The threat of coronavirus has also led to the cancellation of major conventions, such as the NAB Show, in Las Vegas.

The National Association of Broadcasters show was called off on Wednesday. It was scheduled for April 18-22 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The trade show was expected to attract between 90,000 and 100,000-plus attendees. Other Las Vegas meetings have also been canceled.

Altogether, conventions brought in 6.5 million people to Las Vegas in 2018, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA). That directly supports some 45,000 jobs, $2 billion in wages, and provides $6.6 billion in direct economic impact, the LVCVA adds.

Hotels, Casinos, Restaurants Impacted

In response to the health threat, Wynn Resorts announced on Wednesday that beyond following recommendations from the CDC and the SNHD, the company hired a consultant, Rebecca Katz, director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University.

“We are in constant communication with our employees to reinforce our sanitization safety procedures in both guest-facing and back-of-house areas,” the company said in a statement. “We are sanitizing high-traffic public areas at an increased frequency.”

Wynn employees are prohibited from work if they have a transmittable respiratory illness. A new sick leave policy offers five days paid leave to ill employees, and patients with coronavirus will be placed on medical leave. Wynn also updated its reservation policies, making it easier to cancel bookings.

The Buffet at Wynn will remain open, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It will have workers at food stations serve guests, so guests do not touch utensils.

MGM Resorts is temporarily halting buffet service at several of the company’s Las Vegas Strip venues. On Sunday, buffets at the ARIA, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor, and Excalibur will be closed temporarily.

Asian restaurants in Chinatown and throughout the Las Vegas region saw a 40 percent drop in profits since the virus outbreak, according to the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce.  On the Strip, restaurant profits dropped more than 50 percent, the Asian Chamber survey revealed, according to KVVU TV.

The LVCVA says the COVID-19 threat is causing uncertainty surrounding the city’s economy. LVCVA Chairman Steve Hill reveals the agency is holding conference calls twice a day to address the health crisis.

“What’s in front of us is uncertain, but we know that there is going to be a reduction in our revenue over the next couple of months,” Hill said. The LVCVA operates the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Elsewhere, New York’s MGM-owned Yonkers Raceway was shuttered Tuesday after a long-time trainer and office worker afflicted with coronavirus died.

The employee was identified by the New York Post as John Brennan, 69, of New Jersey. He is the first person to die in the Garden State from coronavirus.

MGM said he was employed by the Standardbred Owners Association and worked in an office at Yonkers Raceway. Raceway employees who came into close contact with Brennan are requested by MGM to remain at home.

The Encore Boston Harbor is planning to take temperatures of all guests and employees entering the property. Anyone entering the Everett, Massachusetts gaming venue that has a temperature of 100 degrees or higher will be referred to medical personnel for treatment.

The Wildhorse Resort & Casino in Oregon closed for two days recently for a deep cleaning “out of an abundance of caution” after one of its workers was declared presumptive positive for COVID-19. The Wildhorse is owned and operated by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR).

Also, Washington state’s Little Creek Casino Resort security staff asked a husband and wife in their 70s to take off their protective face masks recently. It was an apparent effort to enforce security procedures in the Shelton tribal gaming property despite the threat of COVID 19.

As far as Las Vegas culinary workers, on Wednesday Culinary Workers Union Local 226 spokeswoman Bethany Khan said a public statement on coronavirus may be forthcoming from the union later this week.

The Culinary Union is sending requests to all of the casino companies to meet immediately and bargain on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak,” the union said in a recent email sent to members, according to KVVU TV.

When it comes to financial impact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Wednesday in bear market territory, given its over 20 percent decline, CNBC reported.

Among the hard-hit companies in trading on Wednesday were some travel, hospitality, gaming, and entertainment businesses. These include MGM Resorts International, Penn National Gaming, and International Game Technology, The Motley Fool reported.

The severity of the viral outbreak has led political and health leaders to also express concern and encourage further action.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and other politicians are asking President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency because of the virus. At least 17 governors have declared emergencies in their states, CNN reported.

Health Officials Issue Warnings

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the President’s task force on coronavirus, told members of Congress Wednesday that the outbreak in the US is only “going to get worse.”

Testifying before the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Fauci said, “The flu has a mortality of 0.1 percent. This [virus] has a mortality of 10 times that.”

“If we are complacent and don’t do really aggressive containment and mitigation, the number could go way up to many, many millions,” Fauci warned. “This is a really serious problem, and people need to take it seriously.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, further cautioned Wednesday that, “We’re deeply concerned, both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.”

Coronavirus Cases Increase

As of mid-day Wednesday, US cases of coronavirus surpassed 1,100. The US death toll reached 37, CNN reported.

Close to 120,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus globally.