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Las Vegas resort pools packed with little fear of pandemic

Updated July 5, 2020 - 5:15 pm

Las Vegas resident Michael Davis said there’s a good chance he’ll wait for the pandemic to end before he visits local resort pools again.

Davis went to two pools over the past three weeks: one at Caesars Palace, the other at Bellagio. He said the experience wasn’t bad, but the new social distancing protocols could be confusing at times.

“We had servers (at Caesars Palace) scolding us in the pool to separate, even though we were in one group and had a cabana that fits 10,” he said. “I guess it’s OK to be close in the cabana, but in the pool you had to separate?”

He also said social distancing rules were often ignored.

Similar crowds have been seen at other Las Vegas resort pools. While some guests said they felt completely safe at resort pools, others say they were turned off by the new protocols.

“This was a really interesting experience. I’d say it wasn’t a great overall experience (for my friends in town),” Davis said. “It wasn’t as good as what I expected it to be.”

But others have said they had positive experiences in Las Vegas resort pools. Another local, Ariane Anderson, said she enjoyed her time at Green Valley Ranch pool in early June.

It was “very friendly, very welcoming, all staff (were) wearing masks,” she said, adding that she saw socially-distanced chairs and customers, as well as frequent cleaning and disinfecting by staff. She was also impressed by the pool’s QR-code food and drink menu.

“I felt completely safe and enjoyed my experience there,” she said.

‘I don’t want to return’

Phase two of Nevada’s reopening plan — which was recently extended — prohibits nightclubs and day clubs from reopening, but allows pools to operate. In turn, a number of Las Vegas’ former day clubs have reopened as pools.

The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, for instance, has opened The Pool Marquee, which had been operating as a club before the pandemic, along with its Boulevard Pool and Chelsea Pool.

The company said the pool is now reservation-only, with no general admission and dedicated socially-distanced seating areas.

But a number of Marquee employees told the Review-Journal that they regularly witness new health and safety guidelines being ignored. They have all been granted anonymity to protect their jobs.

A statement from the Cosmopolitan said guests and employees are required to stand at least six feet away from other groups, but one Marquee worker said guests often avoid social distancing. He added that the cabanas, which are supposed to have 10 people or fewer, often fit up to 15 or 20.

And while the hotel-casino said guests are required to wear a face covering while walking to and from their seats, within the bar areas, and while using the restrooms, workers said those rules are often ignored.

“Employees are very uncomfortable, and we don’t know what to do. … Everyone’s fed up with it,” said one employee. “Once (guests) come in the club, it’s like the virus doesn’t exist.”

Two other employees backed up his claims.

According to the Cosmopolitan, pool employees are required to wear masks at all times, while guests can remove face coverings while seated at the pool.

The company also said the venue is now considered a pool and not a day club because there is no dance floor, but employees say little else has changed.

“It’s just a day club without general admission,” said one employee.

A statement from the Cosmopolitan said cabanas, daybeds and lounge chairs are spaced to allow for social distancing, and each pool remains at or below 50 percent capacity at all times. Other new protocols include advanced cleaning and sanitizing and installing hand sanitizing stations.

COVID-19 risks at a pool

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website says there is no evidence that the virus can spread through the water in pools.

Brian Labus, an assistant professor in epidemiology and biostatistics at UNLV and a member of the medical team advising Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, said the risk of getting COVID-19 from pool water is unlikely, since the chlorine should inactivate the virus.

But there are risks when large crowds congregate inside or around the pools.

“The pool’s not the problem. A crowded pool is a problem, the locker room is a problem,” Labus said.

While being outside does reduce transmission, there are potential risks because patrons can’t wear masks when swimming.

The key to staying safe while at a pool is social distancing, Labus said.

“The more distance we can put between people, the better,” he said. “If (guests are) all standing on top of each other, that’s where the risk comes in.”

Company policies

Pool health and safety policies vary across properties.

A statement from Las Vegas Sands said its pools are monitored with access “strictly controlled.” The area is also thoroughly sanitized daily.

Lounge chairs have been rearranged to allow for physical distancing, and guests must wear masks when entering the pool deck, receiving service from an employee, at the towel desk, cabana reception desk, pool bar and when walking the pool deck to locate a chair or go to the restroom.

The company has reopened The Venetian Pool Deck and The Palazzo Pool Deck for its resort guests, with availability subject to weather and capacity limits.

The Strat, which has its pool open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily with a 50 percent occupancy limit, said masks are required in the pool area when lounging. Guests don’t need to wear a mask while in the water, but must remain six feet apart. Staff — including lifeguards, pool managers and security — are in charge of monitoring and enforcing the new safety protocols.

“We have found that with consistent regulations throughout the Strip, people are more apt to follow these guidelines,” said Stephen Thayer, vice president and general manager of the Strat. “Our team members have done a fantastic job of consistently reminding our guests that masks are mandatory and we have had very few issues with guests.”

Wynn Las Vegas’ Tower Suites Pool, Resort Pool and Sunset Pool have reopened with a 50 percent occupancy limit, physically distanced seating and more frequent sanitation. Encore’s Resort Pool and Adult Pool and the Encore Beach Pool have reopened with the same policies. Jacuzzis remain closed.

Face coverings are required for guests not in the water, sitting at a lounge chair or walking to or from the water. Security, pool attendance and supervisors are on hand to remind guests of the new policies, according to spokeswoman Deanna Pettit-Irestone. Complimentary masks are available at pool bars and towel distribution areas.

MGM Resorts International’s new guidelines say lounge chairs will be placed with 6 feet between groups of guests, and every other cabana will be used, when applicable, to allow physical distancing. The company also does not allow cocktails in its pools, and has internal team remind people in the pool to socially distance, according to spokesman Brian Ahern.

Boyd Gaming Corp. spokesman David Strow referred to the company’s updated health and safety protocols, which say pool seating will be configured to allow for at least six feet of separation between groups of guests.

Company spokespeople at Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Station Casinos did not respond to requests for comment.

Station Casinos’ protocols say pool seating are reconfigured to comply with CDC and state and local requirements and to allow for appropriate distancing.

Caesars’ safety plan says cabanas and lounge chairs are arranged for social distancing. Seating is cleaned and disinfected between guest use, and hand sanitizer is available throughout the area.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas Sands operates The Venetian and Palazzo.

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0233. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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