Nevada gaming regulators will allow casinos to decide their own mask policies after the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on Thursday said individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could resume activities without wearing facial coverings in indoor or outdoor settings.
In a statement, the Control Board said it followed the decision by Gov. Steve Sisolak, who aligned the state earlier this month with all CDC recommendations on mask usage, including any subsequent advice.
“The updated guidance on masks issued today by the CDC is effective immediately in Nevada,” Sisolak said.
As of Thursday morning, the Gaming Control Board was requiring mask usage on casino floors by both customers and gaming employees, even in properties that had been cleared this week to return to 100% capacity.
Late Thursday afternoon, however, following the CDC’s announcement and Sisolak’s decision, Control Board Chairman Brin Gibson said in a statement that the agency’s “position regarding mask requirements for indoor and outdoor gaming floor areas would follow” the governor’s decision.
However, the Control Board said casino operators “may have mask policies that are more restrictive than the CDC guidance.” Regulators suggested casino employees “consult with their employers regarding workplace COVID-19 safety protocols.”
The Control Board is leaving the decision up to gaming operators if they wish to confirm a customer’s vaccination status. Casinos, however, are encouraged to post signage with the latest CDC mask guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated guests.
The CDC recommended people who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 continue to wear masks.
In a subsequent statement, Gibson said Control Board agents “will not attempt to confirm vaccination status of patrons. Consequently, unless circumstances change, it is not practical for the board to attempt to enforce a mask mandate tethered to an individual’s vaccination status.”
Most of Las Vegas’ major casino operators were cleared this week by the Gaming Control Board to return their casino floors to 100% capacity without social distancing measures. Regulators cited the companies’ efforts in vaccinating their workforce against COVID-19.
The use of masks was still required, but that was lifted by the Control Board Thursday afternoon.
Casinos approved for 100% capacity included the combined 18 Strip properties operated by MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment. Boyd Gaming and Red Rock Resorts, the two largest locals gaming operators, had their casino floor capacity limits lifted. Also, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, the off-Strip Silverton, and downtown’s Strat Tower and Resort were cleared by regulators.
However, capacity limits of 80% and social distancing of three feet apart remained in place at the resorts’ non-gaming amenities, such as restaurants, retail, and entertainment areas.
Sisolak made vaccinating the state’s frontline casino and tourism employees a priority in order to help the economic rebound. Earlier this week, Wynn Resorts said 91% of its workforce had been vaccinated. Other companies said their vaccination rates were in the 80% range.
Gibson said the Control Board “is proud of the industry’s outstanding efforts to vaccinate its hospitality workforce. This remarkable work, resulting in vaccination of a substantial percentage of the people who make up the hospitality workforce, will benefit the gaming industry, the local governments that rely upon the gaming economy, and, ultimately, it will benefit the state.”
In a statement Thursday evening, Wynn Resorts said it began to notify guests that they are not required to wear masks at Wynn Las Vegas or Encore if they are fully vaccinated. Those not vaccinated must wear masks.
“The resort trusts guests to take the appropriate precautions based on their personal vaccination status,” Wynn said in a statement.
The company added that Wynn employees who have provided vaccination verification will not be required to wear a mask and those who have not provided vaccination verification will be required to wear a mask while at the resort.
On Thursday morning, the CDC said individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 could resume activities without wearing a mask or staying 6 feet apart, both indoors – in most circumstances – and outdoors. An exception is where mask-wearing is required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, including local business and workplace guidance.
The governor’s office said private entities and organizations are allowed to have mask policies that are more restrictive than the CDC guidance. It was suggested workers consult with employers regarding workplace COVID-19 safety protocols.
The state also neither requires nor prohibits private entities from confirming the vaccination status of individuals. Employers and organizations were encouraged to post signage with the latest CDC mask guidance for vaccinated and unvaccinated guests.
Clark County lawmakers with jurisdiction over Las Vegas-area businesses have approved plans to allow 100% occupancy once 60% of eligible county residents receive a COVID-19 vaccine shot. On Thursday, Clark County commissioners added to their Tuesday meeting agenda to discuss mask guidance within their COVID-19 mitigation plan.
Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.