While Las Vegas Booms, the COVID Delta variant does too

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Posted: July 2, 2021, 11:55 a.m.

Last updated on: July 3, 2021, 7:17 a.m.

Weeks after Las Vegas began to fully reopen after the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourist destination has become a hotspot for the Delta variant. It is a strain of coronavirus that scientists say is significantly more transmissible than the original virus. However, it doesn’t look like Nevada officials are planning to reinstate restrictions on businesses, including casinos, anytime soon.

Las Vegas Delta variant COVID-19
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (second from left) attends the Grand Opening of Resorts World Las Vegas on June 25. This week, he asked for federal help as the state seeks to vaccinate more people against COVID-19. In recent weeks, the city has become a hotspot for the more transferable Delta variant. (Image: KSNV-TV)

The push, for now, is to increase the number of residents vaccinated. This is because the rate has dropped significantly from its peak almost three months ago. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday called for federal assistance to help the state cope with the effort.

According to data from the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, 39.6% of Nevada residents are fully vaccinated. This ranks 34th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and well below the national average of 47.5%.

During the same period, business in Las Vegas – particularly along the Strip – has been booming. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported that nearly 2.9 million people came to Sin City in May. This is the third month in a row that the city has surpassed the 2 million visitor mark.

It is no coincidence that the Nevada Gaming Control Board reported that casinos across the state made more than $ 1.2 billion in May, breaking an almost 14-year-old revenue record of around $ 60 million. Las Vegas and other Clark County casinos were worth over $ 1 billion.

Nevada COVID-19 cases are on the rise again

Now, however, this combination of booming tourism and a more contagious virus is starting to show up in the state’s daily COVID-19 reports.

The state’s 14-day positivity rate on Friday was 6.2%, the highest since March 7. The state reported 390 confirmed hospitalizations from COVID-19 on Friday, the highest total since February 28.

Data shows that most cases occur in the southern Nevada region, the state’s population center. This prompted Sisolak to appeal for help from the White House to secure an “emergency team” to help with the state’s Get-Out-the-Vaccine initiative.

“My office works around the clock with state agencies and local partners to coordinate robust immunization efforts, including, but not limited to, setting up more immunization and testing sites, organizing Get-Out-The-Vaccine activities throughout the valley, and developing a workplace vaccination program, ”Sisolak said in a statement. “This additional support from our federal partners is needed to support our outreach efforts and help meet the needs of communities in southern Nevada.”

What is the Delta variant?

According to the World Health Organization, the Delta variant originated in India, the first cases documented in October. It is one of the four “variants of concern”, according to the WHO, because of its transmissibility. Experts say the Delta variant is up to 60% more transmissible than the British-origin Alpha variant, which itself is believed to be up to 80% more transmissible than the original coronavirus.

However, rather than calling on businesses to shut down or downsize, officials in Nevada along with their counterparts in other states are once again urging the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. A British public health study from a few weeks ago indicated that two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 80% effective against the Delta variant and 88% against the Alpha variant.

Questions remain, however, whether the Delta variant, along with its emerging offshoots, is more lethal than the other strains.

Las Vegas casino workers among the most vaccinated

It is not known exactly how many Las Vegas casino workers received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Two months ago, state gambling officials estimated that around half had at least started the vaccination process.

However, several casinos were cleared to operate at full capacity almost a month before the official reopening on June 1, with some citing high vaccination rates.

On May 3, Wynn Resorts received approval from the NGCB to operate at full capacity after it showed that 88% of its workforce had been vaccinated. A day later, The Cosmopolitan announced its state approval after showing that 80% of workers had been vaccinated.

On May 12, the board of directors approved the removal of restrictions on gambling halls at MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Station Casinos properties. None of these companies disclosed the percentage of their workforce vaccinated.

Culinary Workers Union Local 226, which represents 60,000 casino workers in Las Vegas and Reno, has hosted several events with arcade workers, bartenders and other casino staff on vaccines. This includes connecting workers with healthcare professionals to answer questions and dispel myths.

Earlier this week Bethany Khan, the union’s director of communications and digital strategy, said Casino.org who the union organization continues to encourage hotel workers to get vaccinated.

Getting vaccinated is a critical step in fully reopening Las Vegas, getting workers back to work, protecting our families and helping our union stay strong, ”said Khan.

On Thursday, Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, released a statement indicating that 95% of people in the Las Vegas area who have been hospitalized with COVID-19 were not vaccinated.

In addition, she added that workers could take another step to protect themselves and others by continuing to wear face coverings.

“Some employers still require workers to wear a mask, and some don’t,” Argüello-Kline said. “If workers want to continue to wear face masks at work, it is their right, and we will uphold it. “


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