Masks On: Omicron Variant and Winter Surge Maintain Mask Mandate in Nevada

At the end of July, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak put his signature on an emergency directive requiring masks to be worn indoors. The directive was also aimed at Las Vegas casinos, according to the most up-to-date guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time.

Sisolak’s policy adviser Duane Young reinforced the mask mandate during a recent press conference. Young said the state would keep ruling for masks to be worn indoors, no matter how many people might get vaccinated. The measures will be effective onwards, throughout the winter holidays at the end of the year and into the beginning of the next year. The decision has been heavily influenced by the threat of the latest coronavirus variant called Omicron, as well as the anticipated winter surge in Nevada.

Current Mask Mandate Situation in Las Vegas

For the most part, masks are mandatory at the vast majority of conferences, shows, and events in Las Vegas. Earlier in August, Sisolak issued a new rule allowing large event operators to opt out of the mask mandate provided they could verify all attendees were fully vaccinated. Partially vaccinated attendees and children were still able to enter the premises by wearing a face mask.

A number of casinos and hotels, including MGM Resorts and the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas Casino, keep offering the testing option to their visitors. Other establishments have decided to set on-site vaccination centers for their staff members.

Plus, MGM Grand Resorts was the first company in the gambling industry in Vegas that mandated its employees to get vaccinated, including both current employees and all future hires. Golden Entertainment’s The Strat Hotel, Casino & Skypod decided to implement a weekly testing approach or an alternative vaccination requirement for all staff effective September 15 onward.

While the majority of Covid-19 restrictions have been gradually lifted, casinos keep following the strict CDC and state masking mandates and guidelines. Plus, most gambling venues continue to follow sanitation and hygiene measures that have been in place starting March 2020.

What Casino Goers Have to Say About the Mask Mandate

As expected, many customers have expressed their complaints and dissatisfaction regarding the mask mandate aimed at Las Vegas casinos. However, this has not prevented them from visiting their favorite casinos and resorts once they were able to do it once again. Anticipating the travel industry eventually picking up with states reopening their borders, several brand-new resort-casino establishments were bold enough to open for business. 

Las Vegas now has its first adults-only casino resort. Circa is a luxurious resort that has opened its gates in October 2020. It hosts 777 rooms with a vintage design, as well as the largest sports booking stadium on the planet. The Virgin Hotels Las Vegas also joined the Strip in March 2021, taking the place of the famous Hard Rock Hotel.

Visitors are advised to always check the latest CDC updates regarding COVID-19 traveling and use Vegas Smart, which is a useful compilation of safety protocols issued by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Casino goers and tourists are also recommended to regularly check the Nevada Health Response platform and get in touch with the casinos and resorts they plan on booking to get information on the latest opening hours and any special requirements.

The Omicron Threat & Fears of A Winter Surge

In order for the mask mandate to be lifted in any county in Nevada, the respective county is required to have a low or moderate Covid-19 test positivity rate, which is below 8. The total number of cases should also drop below 50 in every 100,000 people. Both conditions refer to a period of two consecutive weeks.

For the time being, Nevada’s 14-day average of new cases went up to 408 a day from 393 on Wednesday, with 6 fatalities per day as the two-week, rising from four at the start of the week. While the numbers remain well below those recorded in the summer, during the surge, the latest numbers are enough to raise concern over a winter spike. The concerns are mostly aimed at the latest omicron variant of the virus discovered in South Africa and its unpredictability.

A Thursday report showed more than 52% of Nevadans had received at least two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, while Las Vegas’ Clark County has a lower vaccination rate of only 51.82%.