Thousands of tourists have descended upon Las Vegas, as the city takes a gamble on loosening coronavirus restrictions and allowing casinos to operate at 50 per cent capacity.
Governor Steve Sisolak announced that the rules would be eased from Monday, but photographs taken over the weekend show revellers from across the US mingling on the city’s main strip with scant regard for social distancing measures.
With only 222 new cases and one death in the whole of Nevada on Sunday, restaurants, gyms, arcades, bowling alleys, racetracks and casino floors can now increase their operating capacity from 35 per cent to 50 per cent. Nightclubs and brothels remain closed.
The new limitations are expected to remain in place until May 1 when the state says it will review the measures and make changes.
But concerns have been raised that despite clear signage and a number of enforcement officers, tourists are not adhering to the rules.
Videos on social media showed the city’s strip bustling with partygoers.
“I took a few pictures to send to my son in Chicago, and I said, ‘I can’t believe there are this many people out,’” 55-year-old local resident Laura Amendala told the Las Vegas Review Journal.
“It’s scary just because mask compliance is an issue,” she added.
One tourist, Yolando Hagwood, said: “I think most businesses are trying to adhere and still let people have a good time.
“You can’t tackle people. You’re gonna see people with no masks. You’re gonna see people not social distancing. But you just try to do your part.”
Hotels were ready for the changes and MGM Resorts, which runs the Mandalay Bay, Park MGM and The Mirage hotels, resumed 24/7 operations earlier this month.
“As we begin to see positive signs around the public’s sentiment about traveling, coupled with important progress on the vaccination front and decreasing Covid-19 case numbers, bringing Mandalay Bay, Park MGM and The Mirage back to full-week operations is an important step for us,” Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts’ CEO & President, said in a statement.
“We remain optimistic about Las Vegas’ recovery and our ability to bring employees back to work as business volumes allow us to do so.”
On Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris boarded a plane to visit the city with plans to visit the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ vaccination clinic and the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas.
Since the start of the pandemic, Nevada has seen 299,326 coronavirus cases and 5,119 deaths.