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Face covering mandate being followed by most in Las Vegas

Las Vegas appeared to be adjusting well to a new masked existence on Friday, as most visitors and residents encountered by dozens of Review-Journal journalists throughout the day were wearing their face coverings — be it grudgingly, joyfully or somewhere in between.

Friday marked the first day of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s order mandating face coverings be worn in public, with some exceptions for children, those with disabilities and people actively eating or drinking. Nevada became the 17th state to enact the new rule.

After shopping at Walmart, Lavette Sawyer said she was happy with the governor’s mask rule. She said she won’t be able to get regular shifts at her job at the Bellagio until people stop getting sick and tourism picks back up.

“If it’s going to keep down this pandemic that we have, I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

While Aliante security guards were nudging gamblers to pull up their masks if they weren’t smoking or drinking, a gray-haired man with a cane in one hand and a can of soda and a disposable mask in the other stood in line at the cashier cage.

Once he approached, he laid his mask on the counter while his transaction was conducted. At the end of the exchange, the cashier told him he needed to wear that mask, not just carry it around.

“I know, I know,” he muttered — as though they’d been married for years — as he walked away, mask in hand.

Once he sat down at a nearby video poker machine, though, the mask went on and stayed there, except when he reached for a sip from that soda.

One customer at the Target on Cheyenne Avenue and Tenaya Way went above and beyond the order, donning a large, clear-plastic face shield.

Sisolak’s latest order comes as COVID-19 cases have begun to climb since the state’s partial reopening a few weeks ago. A record high of 497 cases was recorded statewide on Thursday.

Police departments throughout Clark County said Friday they would not actively enforce the mask rule, instead opting to educate anyone found not wearing a face covering on the benefits of doing so.

‘Didn’t get the memo’

Businesses are also compelled to require face coverings under the governor’s order, though this section was interpreted in many conflicting ways on Friday.

In the early morning hours, a clerk at the 7-Eleven on Las Vegas Boulevard at Stewart Avenue ordered an unmasked customer to wear a face covering, which he promptly did.

The Albertsons at West Charleston Boulevard and Desert Foothills Drive posted a sign asking customers to wear a mask, but an employee said the store was not stopping those who did not and employees were not handing out masks. Most customers, the employee said, were complying, but some “didn’t get the memo.”

But at the Lowe’s in Centennial Hills, most patrons and at least three employees were not masked. A fourth employee said the store could not enforce the order because it is only a mandate, not a law.

At the H&M clothing store in Town Square, a security guard just inside the front door instructed a couple to each put on a face covering if they wanted to enter, which they obliged.

“It’s weird, right?” the security guard said.

“Strange as (expletive),” the woman replied.

Sitting on a bench outside the It’s Sugar candy store in Town Square, Paulette Bryden expressed support for the mandate.

“I think it’s fine to wear face masks,” she said. Though she wasn’t wearing a face mask at the time, she said she normally does. “I know it’s bothersome when you’re out in the heat and stuff like that, but it’s basic to protect everybody. Me being an older person, I would appreciate that. I don’t see anything wrong in that at all. Life has changed completely anyway, you know?”

At the Wassa Wear boutique nearby, sparkly handmade face masks and those with lush floral designs were prominently displayed in the front of the store. They were created by proprietor Wassa Coulibaly, who says she’s already seen an increase in patrons wearing face masks after the governor’s mandate.

‘People are listening’

“Today I noticed it more,” she said. “People are listening. People are buying more masks, too, because now it’s a must.”

She was also quick to note that just because you have to wear a face mask doesn’t mean you have to compromise any style while doing so — hence, her fashion-conscious creations.

“You still want to be healthy and safe,” she said. “But let’s not get out of fashion.”

Along the Strip, most casinos seemed to be preaching compliance through mask giveaways at entrance security stations. Gloves and hand sanitizer were also available. Most patrons seemed to be following the order, though some wore the mask incorrectly — hanging them below their noses or dangling them from their neck or wrists while talking on the phone.

Almost everyone in the hotel and casino areas at the MGM Grand was wearing masks, though some were worn around people’s chins while they took a drink or smoked a cigarette. A few people were seen slipping a straw up their mask to avoid taking their masks off while they drank.

In the sports betting area, chairs were spaced apart to allow for social distancing. Everyone had a mask, but some were wearing them incorrectly.

As soon as visitors entered Wynn Las Vegas from the parking garage or any other entrance, they were greeted with a thermal camera taking their temperatures and each person was required to wear a mask.

Masks are provided at each entrance. This appeared to be a successful strategy, as only two or three people were seen without a mask on — apart from those at restaurants and bars.

Roughly 90 percent of customers at Paris Las Vegas were wearing masks. One man who was not was told by an employee if he had a mask to put on. The employee told the man he could not be inside without one, and an employee fetched one for him.

In northwest Las Vegas, most of the customers at stores located along Centennial Center Boulevard, just off Ann Road, wore masks, which made non-wearers stand out. .

Based on the difficulty some seemed to have putting the masks on in their cars or while walking in from the parking lot, it likely was many customers’ first mask-wearing experience.

And, based on the speed with which they removed their masks after leaving stores — like a parochial school kid ripping off his itchy, first-day-of-school pants the moment he gets home — they likely didn’t enjoy the experience.

Review-Journal staff writers from around the valley contributed to this report.

Contact Rory Appleton at rappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0276. Follow @RoryDoesPhonics on Twitter.

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