Las Vegas Sun

July 26, 2021

Currently: 78° — Complete forecast

Las Vegas-area lawmakers end local virus rules as of June 1


John Locher / AP

Masked and unmasked pedestrians walk along the Las Vegas Strip, Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Las Vegas.

Updated Tuesday, May 18, 2021 | 3:15 p.m.

Clark County is dropping all of its pandemic mandates on June 1, unanimously voting today to abandon restrictions as federal and state guidelines have relaxed with the widespread distribution of the COVID vaccine.

That means no requirements on capacity limits, physical distancing or mask mandates. The vote also removes the benchmark the county set last month to fully expand capacity in public spaces once 60% of residents had received at least one shot.

The county won’t take the option away from private business owners to maintain masks and other house rules to mitigate disease spread. Masks will still be required in some controlled places, such as hospitals and healthcare facilities, and at airports and stations and on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation.

“Note also that masking has never been something that we were acting upon until just now,” Commissioner Jim Gibson said. “The masking was something that the governor withheld when he delegated responsibility for coming up with a plan and executing of a plan to us. When the CDC and then the governor acted, that changed everything here.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most indoor settings. This was a game-changer: Gov. Steve Sisolak followed up promptly with an amendment to the state’s mask directive putting it in line with the CDC’s guidelines, and the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which regulates casinos independently of counties, said that all licensees will be allowed to follow the updated guidance.

To that end, many properties immediately passed on the flexibility to guests. Several casino operators had already received waivers from the gaming control board to operate their gaming floors at 100% with no social distancing after submitting requests noting that the vast majority of their employees were vaccinated against COVID-19.

Gibson praised the local hospitality industry for its vaccine uptake to protect workers and guests. He said show producers and convention organizers have asked resort officials how much of their staff is vaccinated.

All this suggests that the economy can’t bounce back unless Vegas is safe for visitors.

“I appreciate the efforts that the employees and the owners in the resort corridor and the hospitality industry have given, because they have given some measure of confidence and peace to us that as things become more relaxed, we’re less likely to put ourselves in a position where things have to go backwards,” Gibson said.

Commission chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick said that hundreds of hours of conversation had to occur among local leaders to pivot after the CDC’s announcement last Thursday.

“All of the cities and Clark County have worked together to help get our community vaccinated and to take the necessary steps to safely reopen,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said in a statement. “We are one community, and I am excited that we are now fully reopening our economy.”

“While the COVID-19 virus is far from eradicated, the widespread availability of effective vaccines has greatly lowered the risk to the community and it is time to loosen restrictions,” Henderson Mayor Debra March added. “By continuing to follow the guidelines established by the CDC, we can safely transition Clark County residents back to their pre-pandemic lifestyle with family, friends and coworkers.”

Commissioner Tick Segerblom said the county will continue to promote the vaccine, especially in lower-income neighborhoods that were hardest hit by disease.

The commission voted last month on the path toward full reopening when it assumed local control of COVID-19 mitigation from the state. Everything in that document expires June 1. Even dance floors, one of the last amenities being restricted under the plan, will reopen.