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The pressure on Nevada casinos to require patrons to wear masks just like employees may build amid an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Monday night that the third phase of the reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic will have to wait while they monitor an increase in infections over the last 10 days.

That will allow medical experts to monitor the caseload and make assessments, Sisolak said. The increase, however, hasn’t “negatively impacted the capacity of hospitals” so far, he said.

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Sisolak said he’s being cautious because he doesn’t want to proceed with any reopening and then take a step back. He said the public shouldn’t abandon social distancing and the wearing of face masks because those measures allowed for the reopenings in the first place.

The Southern Nevada Health District on Monday urged that businesses require their customers wear masks — a recommendation that Sisolak wouldn’t make specifically for business or casinos, leaving it to the Nevada Gaming Control Board instead. 

“This is a time to double-down on that,” Sisolak said of people wearing masks in general. “We can only stay open if we stay safe. I know there are a lot of theories of what’s driving the increase in cases. Whether it comes from reopening businesses, increasing the limits on the size of public gathering or the recent protests or reopening of gaming, we need to allow our expanded contact tracing system time to assess where these new cases may have originated.”

Sisolak said they are looking at options when it comes to mask wearing. There’s been some concern over employees facing a backlash and threats from customers over a mask requirement.

“If we show (with the contract tracing that) there’s a problem in the casinos and evidence that they are not wearing masks, that is something we will have to consider and working with the health district” said Sisolak who praised Gaming Control Board Chair Sandra Douglass Morgan and had faith in her decisions. “I don’t want to go there if I don’t have to. … I deal with the gaming properties on a regular basis, and they are going out of their way to encourage customers to wear masks. They are even offering incentives to get the customers to wear masks and some are more successful than others. We’re going to continue to pursue it right now on a voluntary basis.”

Las Vegas casinos reopened June 4th as part of the second phase that started May 23rd with the reopening of gyms, bars and churches.In his press conference, Sisolak highlighted the gaming properties reopening with social distancing and other restrictions set by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

“Before expanding our reopenings and entering phase 3 (by the end of June), which must continue to allow ourselves the time to evaluate this new medical information along with the impact of reopening to make sure we’re doing all we can to protect ourselves and the capacity of our health care system to respond to the virus,” Sisolak said.

Sisolak said Nevada residents have made sacrifices in dealing with the virus, and he doesn’t want to let that “go for naught” with a setback.

“I am encouraging people to double-down on those efforts and make sure we can continue to move forward, although it might be at a slower pace,” Sisolak said.

About the Author

Buck Wargo

Buck Wargo is a former journalist with the Los Angeles Times and has been based in Las Vegas as a business, real estate and gaming reporter since 2005.

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