Mask up: Sisolak gives hope for the struggling Las Vegas convention industry By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports October 28, 2020 at 8:30 pm For some, and let’s hope their numbers are dwindling, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has moved too slowly to reopen the state’s economy amid a deadly coronavirus pandemic. Let the chips fall where they may, his critics say as they defy mask mandates and grumble about lost freedom. Fortunately, most Nevadans get it. They know Sisolak has a difficult job balancing the safety of residents and visitors with a COVID-19 battered economy and a high unemployment rate. Conventions, an important driver of the economy, have all but ceased since mid-March. But that may be changing soon. On Monday, Sisolak announced another step forward in Nevada’s plan to safely reopen its schools and multibillion-dollar convention business. If the numbers are right, and other factors fall into place, on Jan. 1 conventions will be able to proceed at up to 50% capacity. It’s not business as usual. It’s not the end of the nightmarish COVID-19 era. But it’s a step toward the light of recovery. For a gaming industry put on the canvas by the coronavirus pandemic, it couldn’t come at a better time. Sisolak also said he continues to strategize with health and education leaders to plan the safest way to reopen the state’s school system. “These are just some of the goals we’re working on,” Sisolak said. “But whether or not we get there is not a matter of luck, it’s not a matter of chance, it’s not a matter of we’ll see what happens, it’s a matter each and every one of you. We need the public’s help and cooperation to make this possible.” The governor reminded the public and the business community that the rate of recovery is in their own hands. Wear a mask, social distance, act responsibly. In short, whether the storm together or suffer the increasingly dire consequences. “You are the deciding factor of whether or not we can make this happen,” Sisolak said. “And I’m going to ask for your help, again, I’m going to ask for your help. You have to make a choice today, to make a choice this week and in the months ahead of us, that you care more about your child returning to in-person learning than you do to attending that Halloween costume party. You care more about returning to your job than having a gathering at your home with no social distancing or no masking. Because those are the choices we have to make.” Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak That doesn’t mean he has “set in stone” numbers in mind that will trigger a reopening of the convention business in a meaningful way. The rate of hospitalization is an important factor. He said he would be focused on the trending of the virus, surely both in Nevada and around the country. That’s one of the challenges of trying to reopen one of the world’s biggest convention centers: It won’t mean much unless there is recovery across the country and overseas. “That’s my goal: 50 percent by January first,” Sisolak said. “But we’re not going to get there by flipping a coin. We’re going to get there if everybody is willing to put in the hard work to get us there.” The final decision in December, he said, would be data-driven. “I’m hopeful that we’ll be on a downtrend at that time,” Sisolak said. “I’m hopeful there will be a vaccine available at that time. I’ve got a lot of hope. But the reality is going to come at the end of December when we find out where we’re really at.” He said he was impressed by the industry’s protocols and expressed hope that airline travel would continue to increase while maintaining safe practices. No one wants a Las Vegas comeback to be tainted by super spreader events. That’s the irony at work with the 2020 presidential race less than a week away. While Sisolak is busy trying to move the state’s gaming-dependent economy forward safely, Las Vegas casino titans have cut big checks to support the presidential fortunes of the man most responsible for the catastrophic response to the pandemic. Sisolak at times sounds like a nagging parent on the subject of wearing masks and social distancing, but Trump has endangered lives by scoffing at mask-wearing and continues to downplay the science and medical facts. And he just can’t resist holding glorified super spreader events disguised as campaign rallies. “I choose our students. I choose our jobs,” Sisolak said. “But I need all Nevadans to make those choices with me, to make those our priorities.” It’s way too late now, but it would have been nice to just once hear such sincerity from the Commander-in-Chief. John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.