9 ways Las Vegas is different in the age of COVID-19
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I’ve never seen Las Vegas as empty as it was in August. That said, it can still get crowded in spots where people tend to congregate (think pedestrian crossing bridges). I saw plenty of crowding around buskers and with groups of friends. In general, though, it was refreshing to see the city with so few people.
The one area that was a glaring difference was at the airport. Getting off the plane, it was crowded in the terminal and the people movers at the airport were full. The baggage claim area was a nightmare of crowds and it was even worse at the area where you go to get your Uber or Lyft. Not only was there not enough social distancing, the area is a pedestrian danger zone. My Uber driver told me several people have been hit trying to cross traffic to get their ride share. It was the place where I felt most in danger of being exposed to coronavirus.
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The state of Nevada requires visitors to wear masks in public places, such as casinos, restaurants and other common spaces. Overall, I would say compliance was running at 95%, which impressed me. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to wear a mask with many people wearing masks below the nose or loudly chatting on cell phones with the mask pulled down to the chin. I didn’t see anyone yelled at for not wearing masks though I did see workers ask a few folks entering a couple of the casinos to put on a mask.
Social distancing signage was nearly everywhere I went (see gallery below). Unfortunately, the signs weren’t always successful at directing behaviour. I will say most of the time in the city, I felt I could safely get away from crowds of people even in the casinos. I felt especially safe at my hotel, the Hilton Grand Vacations Elara, where there was plenty of space, signs and hand sanitiser. It was far enough off the strip that I felt safe; plus there is no casino.
Sometimes it felt like there were more hand sanitisers than people in Las Vegas! You can check out the gallery below but there was no shortage of opportunities to get free hand sanitiser squirts (though why — oh why — would you put in a sanitiser machine with a button you have to touch!?).
Never did I ever expect to see hand-washing stations at the entrances to casinos. Sure enough, there they were front and centre at the Bellagio. I’m actually incredibly impressed to how well Bellagio handled the pandemic. That was the casino where I saw the most attention to safety protocols including the use of plexiglass screens at poker tables and dealers wearing full face masks.
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Much is still closed
There are lots of venues and casinos that are shut down. Planet Hollywood is shuttered. Its website says “For the well-being of our team members and guests we have temporarily closed.”
Caesars Entertainment owns Planet Hollywood. Several of its other properties are also closed including the Cromwell, Rio Las Vegas, and the LINQ isn’t taking hotel reservations. MGM Entertainment’s Park MGM — including the NoMad hotel — is also closed.
The Mirage announced on 10 August it would reopen on 27 August.
Some poker rooms remain shut, and not all gambling rooms are available.
All the malls are open, but some stores and attractions are still shuttered. Note that there is very limited capacity at some shops so the popular designer boutiques including Balenciaga, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci have lines to get in.
The Mob Museum and The Neon Museum have reopened. The number of visitors is limited, and would-be tourists are advised to buy timed tickets in advance.
Most restaurants are open again with limited hours and capacity. Same deal for most resort pools. Pools are supposed to adhere to social distancing guidelines, but I didn’t see that enforced at all.
Enforcement was not a thing that I really saw while I was in Las Vegas. Aside from a lot of signs admonishing folks, I saw few workers enforcing any mask-wearing, social distancing or doing crowd control. The use of plexiglass shields was rare. Most dealers and cocktail workers were wearing masks, but very few were wearing face shields or gloves.
Most nightclubs and parties are closed down
The Nevada governor ordered nightclubs and most daytime clubs shut down. That means popular venues like Omnia and Marquee Las Vegas are closed for now.
There is some good news for ‘club kids.’ Day clubs are offering socially distanced and adults-only pool parties. Crowds are much smaller (though maybe not small enough), and you’ll need reservations and a table. Some of those pool parties are even during nighttime hours.
Most are featuring music by local resident DJs. You aren’t likely to see big-name DJs until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
One of the top things to do in Las Vegas isn’t available at the moment. All shows were closed back in March, and there’s no firm dates on when they will resume. Some restaurant bars had reopened and a few venues were even selling tickets again, but a resurgence of cases led to a second shutdown in July.
In fact, the loss of revenue from Las Vegas is one of the reasons given for the bankruptcy of Cirque du Soleil.
MGM Resorts International says concerts and other entertainment likely won’t return in August. Others have suggested they won’t return this year.
Gatherings of 50 or more people are not allowed under current Nevada COVID-19 restrictions.
Vegas was fascinating to see during COVID-19, but I didn’t really feel that safe. The crowds at McCarran International Airport (LAS) at baggage claim and especially in the line for Uber freaked me out. I personally wouldn’t go back until there is a vaccine, and I certainly wouldn’t spend more than the 10 minutes I did at each casino, even though I think they are doing what the can to keep the virus at bay.
Featured photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy.
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