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Sisolak: Recovery depends on hospitality workers getting inoculated

Updated April 30, 2021 - 8:50 am

Flanked by leaders in the hospitality and gaming industry, Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday made a plea to front-line workers and the broader community to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at a time when demand for a shot has waned.

“If you’re a hospitality worker who has not yet been vaccinated, I urge you to do so,” Sisolak said at an afternoon news conference at a vaccination center set up by MGM Resorts International at its Mandalay Bay Convention Center on the Strip.

“Do it for yourself and for your family. Do it for your community. For your own sake. Do it for your job,” he continued.

He and the other speakers used the news conference to emphasize the lengths to which industry members have gone to make shots available to their employees, including vaccination sites at workplaces. The Mandalay Bay site has vaccinated 5,000 MGM employees and their family members, as well as contractors, entertainers and tenants at the corporation’s Strip resorts.

“These are beautiful buildings, but the employees provide the heartbeat,” said John McManus, MGM’s executive vice president, general counsel and secretary. “And if they’re not safe. If they’re not healthy, we really have nothing to offer.”

Sisolak: Tourists need reassurance

The recovery of the local economy depends on workers getting vaccinated to make Las Vegas the safest possible tourist destination, Sisolak said.

On Saturday, business occupancy rates in Clark County, including at casinos, will increase to 80 percent from the current 50 percent limit as control of most mitigation measures shifts from the state to local jurisdictions. To return to 100 percent occupancy, Clark County and the Nevada Gaming Control Board are requiring that 60 percent of people 16 and older in the county receive at least a first dose of vaccine.

As of Wednesday, about 47 percent of those eligible for vaccination in Clark County have received a first dose, according to the Southern Nevada Health District. To reach the 60 percent threshold, about 1,097,955 people locally will need to get a first dose of vaccine. With about 856,131 first shots administered so far, that means nearly another quarter million people in the county would need to get a shot to reach the threshold.

“We are doing everything we can to remove barriers to vaccination and address hesitancy through education and peer-to-peer outreach,” said Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association.

J. Brin Gibson, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, said that more than 100,000 people have indicated that they worked in the hospitality or restaurant industry when they received their vaccinations. He believes that the actual number is higher, since others might have checked an alternate box indicating they had an underlying health condition or were members of the general public.

The public call to action coincided with an announcement Thursday that a major public vaccination site at UNLV would be closing for first doses at the end of next week due to lack of demand. This came on the heels of a recent announcement that a mass vaccination site at Cashman Center downtown would be closing on May 5.

The emphasis of state vaccination efforts is moving away from large sites, Sisolak said.

“We’re going to get the vaccine to where people are, where people live, to where they work, to where they shop, to where they worship,” Sisolak said. “And that’s how I think we’re gonna get them.”

The Culinary Union, which represents 60,000 casino workers in Las Vegas and Reno, contributed to Thursday’s united front.

“The Culinary Union will continue to encourage hospitality workers and our community to become fully vaccinated as the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective,” Secretary-Treasurer Geoconda Argüello-Kline said in a statement. “Getting vaccinated is a critical step to completely reopening Las Vegas, getting workers back to work, protecting our families and helping our union stay strong.”

Although Sisolak has said he wants the economy to be fully reopened by June 1, he would not provide an estimate for when the 60 percent vaccination rate might be achieved, allowing this milestone to occur.

“That decision is not up to me,” the governor said. “That decision is up to the 3 million residents in the state of Nevada that they’re going to have to go out and get it done.”

For information on vaccination site locations, visit nvcovidfighter.org. For assistance making an appointment, call 1-800-401-0946 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m, seven days a week.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter.

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