Nevada’s gaming floors, bars, and restaurants must keep in place the 25 percent occupancy limit for another 30 days due to coronavirus risk, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced on Monday. But the move led experts to question its effectiveness and the impact on the economy.
“You do wonder how much longer the Nevada economy can take lockdowns of 25 percent,” said the Rev. Richard McGowan, a finance professor at Boston College who closely follows the gaming sector, to Casino.org on Tuesday.
Even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo [D] has decided to start lifting restrictions or otherwise, as he has stated, “There will be nothing to open,” McGowan warned.
There is the added question of just how useful such steps are to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“One must wonder just how effective these lockdowns have been,” McGowan said. “Florida has been one of the less restrictive states and yet its rate of COVID is considerably less than states with very restrictive policies.”
Extension of 25 Percent Cap Not a Surprise
Stephen Miller, director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, told Casino.org on Tuesday “after the governor’s first extension of his ‘pause’ in mid-December, I predicted that things would not improve in 30 days.
So, now the governor extends the ‘pause,’ which is not surprising, given the holiday events and a strong desire to congregate with others,” Miller added.
For instance, during New Year’s Eve, thousands, if not tens of thousands of visitors, congregated by the Bellagio Fountains. Many were unmasked. Most did not appear to practice social distancing.
Since then, members of the public and health specialists shared concern about the risk that the impromptu gathering will have on the state’s COVID-19 case numbers.
Nevada health officials said impact from the gathering on the number of cases will take another couple of weeks to appear.
As of Tuesday, Nevada saw 2,593 additional COVID-19 cases. There were 46 more deaths.
Since the outbreak began last year, the state experienced 252,842 COVID-19 cases. There were 3,546 deaths.
Among those contracting COVID-19 are Las Vegas Metropolitan police officers and TSA screeners at the local airport.
Between March and December, 976 Metro officers tested positive for coronavirus. Two officers died from the virus, Metro Capt. Dori Koren recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Last week, Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport ranked among the highest airports nationally for the number of TSA workers infected with coronavirus, KLAS, a Las Vegas TV station reported.
McCarran took the 10th-highest spot for the number of TSA screeners with the virus, the report said. As of Jan. 4, there have been cumulatively 121 cases among all TSA employees at McCarran, the report adds.
COVID Economic Impact Continues in Nevada
The pandemic additionally has impacted Southern Nevada’s economy, which is dependent on casinos and tourism. For the region to “return to more normal times,” COVID-19 vaccines must be taken by residents and tourists, Miller warns.
“Unfortunately, the delivery of vaccine injections is going much more slowly than anticipated,” Miller said. “Thus, the eventual further recovery is being delayed.”
Looking ahead, the recently approved $900 billion COVID-19 federal relief bill will provide “some welcome relief for small businesses and their employees. Whether that bill is supplemented by the new Congress and [Biden] Administration is still an open question,” Miller said.
Already, several Las Vegas resort casinos were forced to voluntarily close hotels in the middle of the week because of lower occupancy. The occupancy cap on gaming floors has led to lower revenue for properties.
The state’s casinos and other non-essential businesses were shuttered for several months starting in March as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19. It led to high unemployment, Sisolak has recalled.
Later in the year, Sisolak directed that restaurants, gaming floors, and bars limit capacity to 50 percent of occupancy. In December, Sisolak extended Nevada’s 25 percent occupancy limit on gaming floors, bars, and restaurants until Jan. 15. The 25 percent restriction initially was put into effect before Thanksgiving.
Beyond that, capacity limits at casino showrooms remain in effect. That limits attendance in showrooms to no more than 50 in the audience, or 25 percent capacity, whichever number is lower.
In December, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said she favors lifting the restrictions in Nevada. But she was happy Sisolak did not add new coronavirus restrictions in December.
She has called the statewide restrictions “devastating” and “crushing to the city,” the Review-Journal said.
Similarly, Miller cautioned in December that Sisolak’s “current restrictions and [the] continuation may push the economy in a downward direction in the near future.
“Once recovery does begin, however, it should be robust, as many people will be looking for opportunities to get away and have some fun.”
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