Nevada: COVID-19 pause continues, but plans in place to vaccinate casino employees Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · January 12, 2021 at 7:33 am COVID-19 mitigation efforts in Nevada will continue for another 30 days, which means the state’s casino industry remains at reduced capacity limitations and is operating under strict social distancing guidelines. In a briefing Monday afternoon from Carson City, Gov. Steve Sisolak said it will take the rest of the month before health officials can determine the impact holiday gatherings and events had on the state’s coronavirus numbers. Meanwhile, the governor announced a new COVID-19 vaccination strategy to distribute doses to essential workers and priority segments of the economy – which includes frontline casino employees. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak Timing, however, was uncertain. Still, Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine said expediting the frontline hospitality workforce up in vaccine eligibility was “welcome and encouraging news” that could help repair the state’s damaged tourism community. “Protecting the frontline members of Nevada’s economic engine sends a clear message to visitors and meeting and convention organizers that Nevada is the world’s safest travel and tourism destination,” Valentine said following Sisolak’s nearly 45-minute briefing. The governor said the state could see increased COVID-19 numbers over the next two weeks from holiday gatherings that happened during December. The impact from New Year’s Eve crowds won’t be measured until the end of January. “It’s for these reasons that we will be continuing the mitigation measures that are currently in place,” Sisolak said. “At this time and for planning purposes, we are looking to keep these measures in place for another 30 days.” Virginia Valentine, president, Nevada Resort Association Under the statewide “pause,” businesses such as casinos, bars, and restaurants – as well as bars and restaurants inside gaming properties – are limited to 25% capacity and must operate under the health and safety guidelines implemented by state gaming regulators last June. Public gatherings are limited to 50 people and private gatherings limited to 10 people. The use of masks is required statewide. Nevada’s casino industry suffered through a 78-day shutdown that ended on June 4. But the state’s tourism market has been slow to return due to lack of airline travel and canceled conventions and meetings in Las Vegas. Through 11 months, Nevada gaming revenues are down 34.5% from 2019 and Strip gaming revenues are down 42.6%. In Las Vegas, visitation is down 54.5%, which includes a 72.6% drop in convention and meeting attendance. Sisolak said he was extending the “pause” because of the increased burden on the state’s hospitals. “We remain at an all-time high and due to Christmas and New Year’s, our case numbers are likely to increase over the coming weeks,” Sisolak said. On Monday, Nevada public health officials reported 1,681 new coronavirus cases. Since early March, the state has reported 250,249 cases. Nevada’s total death toll from COVID-19 since March reached 3,500 on Monday. The state has averaged 19 deaths a day over the past two weeks, according to state officials. The state’s two-week positivity rate reached 21.1%. The revised COVID-19 vaccine rollout plan that was unveiled Monday was viewed as a way to provide additional doses to a wider audience by increasing the number of eligible participants. Under the new plan, “Frontline Commerce and Service Industries” would cover food service employees, as well as the hospitality industry’s workforce. “We know Nevada is the hospitality capital of the world and those workers are essential to our state,” Sisolak said. Valentine said the resort industry has taken “responsible actions” to protect employees and guests since the pandemic began. “Swift vaccine access will provide another layer of protection for resort employees, their families, and the public while allowing our hospitals to restore capacity and Nevada’s largest industry to remain safely open and focused on bringing more Nevadans back to work,” Valentine said. Sisolak termed the COVID-19 vaccine a “hope on the horizon.” However, “full-scale vaccination will not occur until further into the year.” According to state health officials, Nevada had administered 61,644 COVID-19 vaccine doses, including more than 8,700 second doses, as of Sunday. The state has received roughly 170,400 doses. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.