NV Casinos Blamed for COVID Infections

Nevada’s government is being urged to revise its policies after a spike in coronavirus infections were linked to the reopening of its casino industry. One complainant is the Culinary Worker Union, who has reported that 22 of its Las Vegas casino-working members or their family members have died from the virus.

Caesars Palace Casino and Resort in Nevada.

Nevada is being sued by the Culinary Workers Union for not doing enough to ensure casinos are safe work environments in the wake of a Caesars Palace employee’s coronavirus-caused death in late June. ©FilipFilipovic/Pixabay

The Culinary Workers Union has filed a lawsuit against a number of Vegas casinos to ensure further protections for its casino workers. It claims that casino hotels have not adopted adequate health and safety precautions, are failing to conduct contact tracing, and have not notified employees when co-workers have tested positive for the virus.

Both the Culinary Union and Bartenders Union reported that hospitalizations for its members, their housemates, or their kin have climbed 800 percent since casinos reopened on June 4. Nevada is currently in the top ten states for the most coronavirus cases per capita.

In late June, a utility porter at Caesars Entertainment died two days after testing positive for the virus in Las Vegas. This prompted the casino to enforce a company-wide mask policy, though the news has caused a ripple of anxiety throughout the state’s casino and hospitality industry workers.

Bethany Khan, the communications director for the Culinary Union, has described that many of its members are going to work in fear that they will contract the virus or bring it home to their families. Khan believes the lawsuit will help to ensure workers don’t have to be put at risk just to make an income.

Some of the demands from the lawsuit include requiring casino resorts to enforce daily cleaning of hotel guest rooms, regularly test employees before they return to work and during work, and provide more adequate PPE. Although the Nevada Gaming Control Board already has similar policies such as these, the union believes they aren’t strict enough.

Another issue seems to be that guests visiting casinos are not taking measures seriously enough. According to Brian Labus, a professor of public health and outbreak investigation at the University of Nevada, the state is in a difficult position in needing to balance its tourism economy with its residents’ safety.

“You have to remember the kind of people who are coming to Las Vegas right now. It’s the people who are the least concerned about this outbreak right now… When you are on vacation, you want to forget about all your problems—and that includes the coronavirus. But there is still a pandemic, and not following health guidelines puts everyone at risk.”Brian Labus, Professor of Public Health, University of Nevada speaking to The Daily Beast

Nevada Struggles With Infection Spike

As cases in Nevada explode, a growing number of experts are suggesting a link between the casino industry and the infection spike. Health data released by the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services reports that at least 123 out-of-state visitors to the state’s casinos tested positive for the virus last month.

This marked jump was noted in the weeks following the state’s casino reopening on June 4. Although Governor Steve Sisolak first encouraged visitors to come and have a good time at the casinos, new health data may influence the Governor to reimpose closures or mandate tighter casino restrictions.

Sisolak has already canceled the next phase of reopening plans, introduced a mandatory mask mandate, and re-closed bars in seven counties including Las Vegas. However, he has stopped short of intervening with casinos for now, leaving the decision up to local leaders on how to progress.

A recent study has also suggested that Nevada’s surge in cases is among the highest in the world. In fact, Nevada’s surge in infections ranked higher than Brazil, a country that is considered to have had one of the world’s most severe outbreaks since its first case was reported in March.

A majority of Nevada’s cases are among Las Vegas’ residents, and some insiders at the city’s hospitals are reporting that they are nearing a total loss of control of the pandemic. Nevada’s hospital’s ICU occupancy has exceeded 90 percent in recent weeks, with the daily confirmed cases rate climbing above 1,400 last Thursday.

Even the White House has acknowledged that Nevada is weathering a disastrous impact from the virus. Health officials have declared the state a red zone status, indicating that there are more than 100 cases for every 100,000 residents. The administration suggested the state close down indoor establishments such as casinos.

Some believe that the number of infections is likely to be far higher than what is being reported due to low testing rates. The current NV fatality number stands at 647 people, though health officials have solemnly declared that the number is expected to climb much higher.

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