Nevada reimposes indoor mask mandate in Las Vegas

Jul 28, 2021

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The much-ballyhooed Vegas comeback has run into another obstacle, as the state of Nevada is reinstating its indoor mask mandate for everyone in an effort to containing the spread of COVID-19.

Governor Steve Sisolak issued an emergency directive on Tuesday, requiring face masks be worn indoors in public places by everyone — vaccinated or not — in 12 of Nevada’s 17 counties that show high rates of COVID transmission.

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That includes Clark County, which the City of Las Vegas is a part of. The governor’s edict follows the latest update by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention regarding masks. The CDC now recommends people wear masks indoors in areas with high transmission rates, whether they are vaccinated or not.

If you’re planning a visit to Vegas in the foreseeable future, this means you need to pack your masks. As of 12:01 a.m. Friday, July 30, face coverings are mandatory inside casinos, restaurants, bars and shops. The governor gave businesses and residents a three-day grace period to prepare for the change.

The casino industry supports the decision. The Nevada Gaming Control Board put out its own directive to the state’s gaming licensees, instructing them to follow the CDC guidelines and Sisolak’s order. Casinos must also post signage across their properties letting customers know where face masks are required.

MGM Resorts, the biggest casino operator in Vegas, issued a statement saying, “Nothing is more important than the health and safety of guests, employees and our community. We continually evaluate and update our policies based on the latest information and guidance from health experts and public officials.”

Wynn Las Vegas also put out a statement saying it will comply with the mask decree. “We will follow the Governor’s and Control Board’s directive and require all guests and employees to wear masks indoors, which we will communicate with signage and masks at entrance doors to the resort,” it said.

The state’s directive does provide exceptions for participants in certain activities or events, including athletes, performers and musicians. Customers at those performances and events, however, will have to mask up.

In a statement announcing the new mandate, the governor’s office said, “Businesses and residents in counties with substantial or high transmission are strongly urged to adopt the changes as soon as possible.”

According to CDC data cited by the governor’s office, the following counties fall into this category: Carson, Churchill, Clark, Douglas, Elko, Esmeralda, Lincoln, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Washoe and White Pine.

The return of mandatory mask usage in Vegas has seemed inevitable for weeks, even as local officials struggled to balance concerns about restarting the area’s tourism-dependent economy with public safety worries.

Clark County had recently ordered all Vegas employees who work indoors to mask up, but resisted extending the mandate to tourists and other customers over the objections of local health officials.

Governor Sisolak dropped the indoor mask-wearing order in May for vaccinated people, again following CDC guidance. It remained in place for unvaccinated people, but that order was mostly unenforced and flat-out ignored according to local media reports. Within weeks, as the state relaxed most pandemic restrictions and the delta strain began spreading, COVID-19 rates started to climb.

Related: Some states warn against visiting Vegas for fear of rising COVID rates

Nevada is currently struggling with one of the highest rates of COVID-19 infections in the U.S. Hospitalizations are rapidly climbing in the area — with Clark County, in particular, seeing a sharp rise — and nearly all of the new cases can be traced to the highly infectious delta variant.

The CDC’s new recommendation for indoor mask usage applies to areas where there are at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. That includes about 60% of U.S. counties, according to The Associated Press. There have been 236 new cases per 100,000 population in Clark County in that time frame, according to the Southern Nevada Health District’s website.

Health district officials said in a statement they support the state’s new directive, and added, “While using masks correctly has proven to be effective in helping to prevent people from getting and spreading COVID-19, the best, most effective step people can take to protect themselves is to get fully vaccinated.”

Of course, Las Vegas isn’t the only city in Nevada where the mask mandate could have an impact on tourism. Carson and Washoe are home to a number of casino resorts. Reno is in Washoe, so that city’s casino properties will also be impacted by the new mask rules.

Featured photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images.

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