Wynn Resorts’ Health Expert Advising on National COVID-19 Policy

Posted on: November 10, 2020, 01:58h. 

Last updated on: November 10, 2020, 04:58h.

A health consultant who helped Wynn Resorts shape its response to the coronavirus pandemic will advise presumptive President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force.

Wynn Resorts
A national health expert was brought in to help Wynn Resorts, whose Las Vegas properties are seen here, shape its COVID-19 policy. Now Rebecca Katz will assist the incoming White House administration on its pandemic response. (Image: Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Though Rebecca Katz is not on the task force, she will serve as an adviser helping guide White House policy for the Democratic administration that may take office early next year. Katz is director of the Center for Global Health Science and security at Georgetown University Medical Center.

At the onset of the pandemic last spring, Wynn Resorts announced Katz was hired as a health consultant. In a video in March, she spoke to Wynn’s 15,000 employees working at the company’s hotel-casinos in Las Vegas and Boston, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Matt Maddox, Wynn Resorts’ CEO, told the newspaper he and Katz were “in almost daily contact for months during the shutdown of the travel industry.”

He said she helped the company develop its heath and safety plan, allowing the Wynn Resorts to reopen its properties.

“I believe she is one of the brightest minds in global health security,” Maddox said.

Tourism Slowdown

The first known COVID-19 cases in Nevada were reported March 5 in Washoe and Clark counties. Reno is in Washoe County in the northwestern part of the state. Las Vegas is in Clark County in Southern Nevada.

With COVID-19 cases spiking in March, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) ordered casinos and most other businesses to close statewide. He allowed casinos to reopen on June 4 with health measures in place. Some reopened more quickly than others.

However, resorts in Southern Nevada have not regained their pre-pandemic footing. Arriving and departing flights from McCarran International Airport were down more than 60 percent in September, when compared to the same month the previous year.

Also, a recent wave of violence on the Las Vegas Strip sparked concerns about the negative impact on tourism. The combined city-county Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department since has beefed up its presence on the Las Vegas Strip and other tourist areas.

Compounding the problems, the normally strong midweek convention business has dried up. In response, some resorts are not taking room reservations until the weekends because of low consumer demand. These include the MGM Park and Encore properties on the Strip.

Casino historian David G. Schwartz of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas told Casino.org tourism will pick up when the public feels safe regarding the pandemic.

“People are going to want to travel to Las Vegas,” he said.

High Hopes

The announcement this week that Pfizer has data showing its vaccine could be 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 has buoyed hopes in the tourism industry. Stocks prices for casino companies and other leisure and entertainment operators shot up on the positive news.

Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said on CNBC  this development in the fight against COVID-19 was “a great day for humanity.”

I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb said on CNBC the vaccine should be widely available by the third quarter of 2021, which begins next summer.

Since the virus emerged in China in late December, more than 50 million people worldwide have been infected. More than 1.2 million people have died. Almost a fifth of all infections and fatalities globally are in the US, according to CNBC.