Updated June 24, 2020 - 9:12 pm
Now that Gov. Steve Sisolak has announced requirements to wear masks in public settings in the state, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will have the task of delivering the message to prospective visitors.
The LVCVA launched its #VegasSmart social media campaign urging mask use shortly before the June 4 reopening of casinos after being closed 78 days as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill says it will be important to explain that before tourists arrive. Hill received a heads-up before the announcement to make sure the resort community was aware as well.
“We not only need to let them know, but we need to let our customers who are coming to town know as well,” Hill said Wednesday. “We don’t want people showing up and being surprised when they arrive.”
The #VegasSmart took a somewhat lighthearted approach to encouraging mask use. The message may now change somewhat, now that it’s a requirement instead of an option.
“I’ve said pretty often that we’ve got an obligation to keep our employees safe as well as our customers safe, with all the peace of mind that we can, that working in Vegas and coming to Vegas and having fun can be a safe and healthy experience,” Hill said. “This is just a necessary and smart step on behalf of the governor to make sure we can continue to do that.”
Hill said he understands why there is reluctance to wear masks, but he also knows the numbers don’t lie and the percentage of positive tests is on the rise.
“I think we’ve all seen that folks who were cooped up for three months while we made a lot of progress squashing the virus during that period of time came out pretty carefree when they came back to Vegas and we’re seeing our numbers move back up in terms of percent positives with the tests that have been run,” he said. “We know that masks are probably the No. 1 most effective deterrent to spreading the virus so we certainly support what the governor is doing.”
Asked how the LVCVA would appeal to prospective visitors who refuse to wear masks, Hill said, “we’ve done some preliminary research that shows a large majority of visitors would be willing to wear a mask if required.”
Greg Mullen, vice president of CDC Consulting, which has had people attend 80 casino reopenings nationwide, said he’s mostly worried about the enforcement of the new policy.
“If this is what it takes to keep our industry open and continue allowing guests their opportunity for entertainment, then patrons will need to follow these rules,” Mullen said. “With that said, how does a casino truly enforce this rule along with all the other procedures already in place? We have witnessed several other protocols completely ignored and this most likely will follow suit.”
Mullen was critical that action wasn’t taken sooner.
“For Nevada, this appears to be another reactive rather than proactive approach to guest safety,” he said. “From our experiences in other states, the smoke in a casino, mixed with the mask will be the biggest complaint and driving factor for guests to oppose this rule. Employees will continue to be very vocal as we already hear them voice their complaints; however, they now have to deal with this issue their entire shift.”
Hill said the LVCVA approach would likely be through social media and an offshoot of the #VegasSmart campaign that used front-line workers and celebrities to deliver the mask message.
“The general workforce and our celebrities have been really helpful in being a part of those campaigns,” Hill said. “We’ll integrate the mask-wearing into that theme.”
Hill said there was no other conversation about when and how the meetings and convention industry would return to Southern Nevada.
“The conversation this week has been around the masks and what we’ve seen in test results over the past week or so,” Hill said. “In order to continue to keep the city open and take the next steps in reopening, we need to make sure that we’ve got our arms around the health situation in the community, so this step needs to be taken in order to continue to the next steps.”