Gaming regulators told Nevada’s healthcare system ‘can take care of’ casino visitors with COVID-19 Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · May 26, 2020 at 5:20 pm Nevada gaming regulators were told Tuesday the state’s healthcare system has the ability to take of casino visitors, as well as the local population, should an influx of COVID-19 cases surface. The state’s casino industry could reopen a week from Thursday after being closed for more than two months due to the spreading coronavirus. The Gaming Control Board, during a workshop hearing, wanted to confirm health and safety guidelines were in place to protect casino customers and employees. Mason Van Houweling, CEO of Las Vegas’ University Medical Center, said the public hospital has agreements in place with 10 non-gaming hotels in Southern Nevada that have agreed to accept COVID-19 positive visitors who need to be quarantined for 14 days. Van Houweling told the Control Board the hotel names will be provided to casino operators. In addition, Southern Nevada health authorities have created an additional 2,116 beds for COVID-19 patients at five locations, including up to 900 beds at the Las Vegas Convention Center. “I’m confident we can take care of the visiting public,” Van Houweling said. The remarks came during a nearly three-and-a-half-hour workshop with health and safety experts involved in managing Nevada’s response to COVID-19, including the state’s director, hospital officials from Reno, and Las Vegas, and several first responder representatives. The workshop, conducted in a virtual format, at times drew more than 1,200 viewers. Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said it was rare to have state and local health professionals answering regulator questions. But with the reopening of the Las Vegas Strip and other casino markets planned for June 4, regulators wanted to be sure health and safety protocols for casinos – including those recommended earlier this month by the agency – were sufficient. Fermin Leguen, chief health officer for the Southern Nevada Health District, said COVID-19 testing should be provided to “100 percent of all frontline casino employees” and be repeated “systematically.” Leguen said casino employees should wear masks and any employees who have a high temperature should not be able to return to work until cleared by medical professionals. Van Houweling said the hospital is working with several hotel companies and the Culinary Workers Union to test Nevada casino workers before the properties reopen. Caleb Cage, the state’s COVID-19 Response Director, told the board Nevada has conducted 133,508 tests since March. On April 24, there was a cumulative 12.2% positive test. As of Monday, there 6.9% had tested positive, which he said marked a 30-day decrease in the state. Leguen said it was recommended that all guests are subject to temperature checks and hotel guests are asked to self-check their temperatures every morning. Van Houweling said a procedure has been suggested to resort operators that if a guest has a temperature above 100.4 degrees, they are given a second test. If the temperature continues to be high, they are taken to a secondary screening room. The Health District is also creating a COVID-19 information card in English, Spanish, and Chinese for resort guests that includes recommendations, including suggestions for they wear face coverings. The Gaming Control Board’s guidelines – a seven-page document dealing with resort casinos and locals’ gaming properties, and a four-page notice for operators with up to 15 slot machines, such as taverns, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and supermarkets – established initial requirements covering operations, customers and employees. Casinos run by resort operators will be limited to no more than 50% their maximum occupancy capacity, must increase the space between their slot machines, and will be required to limit the seating at table games – three players for blackjack, six for craps, four for roulette, and four for poker. Morgan said the board would release an updated set of guidelines on Wednesday. The Control Board also had more than a dozen public comments read into the record, including several dealing with officially releasing the plans for reopening submitted by casino companies and eliminating smoking inside Nevada casinos. Morgan, in consultation with the Nevada Attorney General’s office, said the casino operator reopening plans are private by state law and can only be made public by the companies. Also, any changes to ban smoking inside Nevada casinos can only be authorized by the Nevada Legislature. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.