Vegas and the Virus
On Sunday Rachelle and I went for an early morning walk along the Vegas Strip, mostly outside. I wanted to go mainly for curiosity’s sake. Normally the Strip is very uncrowded in the morning and then gets busier as lunchtime approaches, so I wasn’t expecting much activity till 10am or so. I figured the risk would be relatively low relative to what I might learn and share.
Some casinos are still open while others are still shuttered. What we saw, however, were varying degrees of safety measures – definitely inconsistent among different properties.
Every place had abundant hand sanitizer stations and limited seating at slots and table games (like only 3 chairs per blackjack table), so that at least enforces some social distancing.
Casino employees wore masks everywhere, including the dealers.
A few places had plexiglass dividers around the tables, providing some separation between dealers and patrons. Other places had no dividers at all.
A few places had free mask dispensers. Most open places didn’t seem to have these, however.
At first the area seemed like a ghost town. When we started our walk, it was the most deserted I’d even seen the Strip, even at this time of day. On some stretches it seemed like we were the only two people on the whole block. Occasionally I wondered if we were in a zombie apocalypse movie.
For the most part, it was relatively easy to practice social distancing at this time of day, but we also saw plenty that concerned us, especially as more people woke up and crowds started to form in some places.
First, wearing masks inside the casinos is optional for guests. While we saw many people wearing masks, a lot were mask-free. While masks don’t provide perfect protection, they do provide some, and seeing maskless people walking around inside the casinos gave me the impression that some people don’t care as much.
The most concerning sign though is that many people clearly aren’t practicing social distancing, and the casinos aren’t enforcing that within their walls. It looks like they’re playing lip service to social distancing with the chairs and many signs spelling out safety rules, but it’s clear that plenty of guests aren’t following even the most basic rules.
The places we saw that looked the most unsafe to me were the Venetian and the Flamingo. They were the most crowded places during our walk, and I saw a real lack of social distancing inside. I wouldn’t feel safe hanging out in those casinos.
Crowds of people were bunching up in various places, and in some areas that get a lot of traffic, proper social distancing isn’t realistically possible.
The casinos have clearly made changes, but when I looked with my own eyes, I got the distinct impression that a lot of it was more for show than substance. If mask-free people are going to bunch up a lot in high traffic areas, including standing in clusters behind the table games, I don’t see the Strip as being a safe place for visitors while the virus is still around.
I’m glad we went early in the day when it wasn’t crowded (relatively speaking), and we could spot problem areas and avoid them. But based on what I saw, it’s no stretch to expect that these problems will surely be worse later in the day, especially in the evenings. If we’re seeing issues in the early morning hours, they’re only going to amplify as the day goes on.
Normally the Strip has a certain kind of playful, excited, and fun vibe that I’m very familiar with. The vibe this time felt different – more somber and less fun. The feeling inside the casinos felt almost desperate to me.
When we first started walking, it was eerily quiet and looked abandoned. There was a lot of trash on the sidewalks in front of places that hadn’t yet reopened, like Planet Hollywood. At one point Rachelle spotted what looked like a glass of urine… at another point a condom on the ground – and those were inside open casinos. At least the condom was still in the wrapper. Normally the Strip has high standards of cleanliness, so it may be that they’re having some issues ramping back up to previous standards. That doesn’t bode well if they’re trying to raise their standards during this time though.
Unfortunately I think the tourists who are starting to come back to Vegas right now include too many ignorant and reckless folks. I’d recommend against visiting Vegas for tourism during this time. Remember that it’s not just about your own health but about the lives of others you could infect. I don’t intend to go back there anytime soon.
I contrast this experience with another recent morning walk we took yesterday in our neighborhood, through a long winding trail in a park. Locally we saw lots of good social distancing, including people going out of their way and walking on the grass to avoid others. But in the tourist areas, it was mostly the opposite.
Receive Steve's new articles by email.