The frontline workers who are clocking back in on the reopened Las Vegas Strip say hotel and casino guests are gambling with other people’s health by not wearing masks.
Workers and their union said Monday that far too few customers are choosing to cover their faces while indoors amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Guests are encouraged to wear masks while in the common areas of hotels and casinos, but they generally aren’t required to except when playing certain table games.
Diana Thomas, a guest room attendant at the Flamingo, said the lack of face coverings among the hotel’s clientele has made her uneasy since returning to work this month after an 11-week shutdown. Thomas, who must wear a mask as an employee, noted that the purpose of wearing one is to protect other people.
“I’ve noticed that the guests are not wearing masks,” Thomas said in an online press conference hosted by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226. “They come up to my cart; they ask me for towels. I’m kind of leery of giving them the towels because they’re not wearing masks.”
Yolanda Scott, who works as a food server at a coffee shop inside Treasure Island, said she estimates that only around 10% of customers are covering their faces in the public areas of the property.
“That concerns me because I don’t feel safe,” Scott said. “I do not want to bring the COVID-19 back to my family, my children. My partner has a bad kidney and a bad heart and we have to be extra cautious. All guests should wear a mask.”
Florence Lee, a bartender at the MGM Grand’s outdoor pool complex, said she has observed a slightly better rate of mask wearing indoors, but still only around 20%. Even offering free masks only does so much good, she noted.
“It’s provided, but the guests have to do it themselves,” Lee said.
Several workers told HuffPost ahead of the Strip’s reopening earlier this month that they were worried about customer behavior during the pandemic ― specifically, that they would decline to wear masks and get too close to the employees serving them.
Those concerns turn out to be well founded, and now the Culinary Workers Union is calling on state leaders to put in place a requirement that all customers wear masks inside casinos and hotels. So far, the state’s gaming control board has only put that mandate upon certain table games where spreading out is difficult.
There is a growing body of evidence that wearing a mask could go a long way in limiting the spread of COVID-19. A recent meta-analysis of 172 observational studies published in the Lancet found that mask-wearing “could result in a large reduction in risk of infection.”
Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, said Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) should take a page from California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and issue a broad state rule for face coverings that would include hotels and casinos. The union also wants to see mandatory COVID-19 testing for all returning workers and a requirement that all guest rooms be cleaned daily.
“Right now it’s a lot of stress, and workers have fears,” Argüello-Kline said. “They know the situation. The numbers, they’re not going down ... they’re going up. We know that.”
Indeed, Nevada is one of a growing number of states where the coronavirus caseload is increasing. The daily number of new cases has risen from the low 100s a month ago to more than 330 as of Monday, according to a New York Times database. Roughly 400 of the state’s 490 known deaths due to the virus have been in the Las Vegas area.
Late last week, Sisolak said he was asking his medical advisers to explore the possibility of a mask requirement across Nevada, noting that wearing face coverings is “one of the strongest methods of mitigating the spread of COVID-19.” The announcement came after the state had seen its largest-ever single-day increase in coronavirus cases.
The complaints of the Strip’s casino and hotel workers echo the frustrations of grocery workers across the country who have encountered customers who refuse to put on masks while shopping. In many cases, workers have been subjected to verbal harassment and even physical assault when asking patrons to do them the basic courtesy of covering their faces.
“I know that everyone has their own opinions,” Lee said of the masks. “They should just do it for the safety of the employees and our city.”