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Food service and hospitality workers can now get vaccines

Updated March 11, 2021 - 10:33 pm

Hospitality and food service workers, who make up the backbone of Southern Nevada’s tourism-driven economy, became eligible Thursday for COVID-19 vaccination in Clark County.

High-risk residents 55 and older could also receive immunizations at pharmacies statewide starting next week, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s spokeswoman Meghin Delaney wrote in a statement.

The announcements came just days after county health officials shared concerns about thousands of vaccine appointments going unfilled and urged state officials to broaden eligibility.

“We are following the state’s guidelines and expanded eligibility should help to fill available appointments,” Southern Nevada Health District spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore wrote in a statement.

Effective immediately, restaurant, food delivery and cafeteria workers are eligible. So are front-line hospitality workers, including casino employees, if they have prolonged customer interaction.

Essential workers must bring photo identification and proof of employment, such as an employee badge or pay stub, to their vaccine appointment. They can schedule appointments through the state’s vaccine appointment scheduler.

The move was lauded by Nevada’s largest union, which represents tens of thousands of hospitality workers.

“The Culinary Union applauds Gov. Sisolak for his efforts to include and prioritize allocation to hospitality workers, including Black and brown communities who have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19,” Culinary Local 226 spokeswoman Bethany Khan wrote in a statement.

Nevada gaming regulators released guidance Thursday instructing Clark County operators to inform their employees of their eligibility and encourage them to get vaccinated. At least two major gaming companies reported starting immediately.

“Getting people vaccinated is how we are going to beat this pandemic, and we will be encouraging all eligible team members to make an appointment to get the vaccine as soon as possible,” Boyd Gaming Corp. spokesman David Strow said.

A Caesars Entertainment Inc. spokeswoman said the company will “strongly encourage,” rather than mandate, its employees receive a vaccine.

Golden Nugget employee Shauna McQueen said she signed up for a vaccination time slot immediately after she learned that she would be eligible.

The front desk worker has been out of work the past few months but is set to return as an on-call employee as soon as this weekend. She is scheduled to get her first dose Tuesday and plans to visit her father soon after.

“I was bouncing off the walls,” she said. “It feels like a weight is being lifted off my shoulder.”

Nevada Resort Association President Virginia Valentine said vaccinating workers in the tourism industry will hasten the state’s economic recovery and get more residents back to work.

Casinos have been operating at reduced capacity since June, following a monthslong shutdown during the start of Nevada’s COVID-19 outbreak. On March 15, casinos, restaurants and bars will be allowed to operate at half-capacity, up from a 35 percent cap that was put in place Feb. 15.

“Opening eligibility to hospitality workers will save lives, increase equity in vaccine distribution given our industry’s diverse workforce and send a clear message to visitors and meeting and convention organizers that Nevada is the world’s safest travel and tourism destination,” Valentine said in a written statement.

The state is also working with the Nevada Board of Pharmacy to open appointments to people 55 and older who have underlying health conditions, disabilities or are homeless. The plan is expected to be put into motion next week, Delaney’s statement said.

That expansion will deviate from the state’s original vaccination playbook. The document calls for the next eligible group to be Nevadans ages 16 to 64 with underlying conditions, disabilities or who are homeless.

Before receiving his vaccination at a Las Vegas grocery store Thursday, Sisolak said the next vaccine-eligible group would be people 18 and older with underlying conditions, per the playbook.

“We’re trying to get to people that are most susceptible and vulnerable to the disease, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

The health district is offering six vaccination sites for hospitality workers:

■ Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Road.

■ Cashman Center, 850 Las Vegas Blvd. North.

■ Canyon Springs High School, 350 E. Alexander Road, North Las Vegas.

■ Heritage Park Senior Facility, 300 S. Racetrack Road, Henderson.

■ UNLV Student Union, 4505 Maryland Parkway.

■ Nevada Partners, 690 W. Lake Mead Blvd., North Las Vegas.

In a prime-time address Thursday evening, President Joe Biden said he is directing states to make all adult Americans eligible to receive COVID-19 shots by no later than May 1 and expressed hope for families to have the ability to get together safely by the Fourth of July. He also announced a national website to help obtain doses will be launched by May 1.

Contact Mike Shoro at mshor @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290. Follow @mike_shoro on Twitter. Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz @reviewjournal.com. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter. Review-Journal staff writers Michael Scott Davidson and Damon Seiters contributed to this report.

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