Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak orders end to statewide mask mandate

Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak has added the Silver State to the growing list of U.S. states who have ended their statewide mask mandates in public places holding large gatherings. In an emergency directive signed yesterday that took effect last night, the wearing of masks in most venues is no longer required.

The directive ending the mask-wearing mandate as a means of combating the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic comes as the recent surge in Omicron-variant COVID-19 cases continues to wane. Though likely the most contagious major variant yet, the Omicron version has also appeared to be somewhat less lethal, and the means for treating those who do contract serious cases have more effective treatment options available.

“(T)he number of hospitalizations [in Nevada] due to COVID-19 is decreasing,” Sisolak’s directive declared. The directive also noted that Nevada has an abundant supply of COVID-19 vaccines and an increase supply of monoclonal antibodies, one of the most effective treatments against active infections of the virus.

Nevada Gaming Control Board issues casino-specific followup

The easing of Nevada’s mask mandate is of vital to the state’s tourism industry and comes as plans continue for the traditional early-summer gathering of the world’s best poker players in Las Vegas. The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NCGB) followed the publication of Sisolak’s directive with its own brief on how the mandate pullback would affect the state’s casinos.

As the NGCB mask update noted, “Individuals are no longer required to wear a mask in public indoor settings in licensed gaming establishments, unless a local jurisdiction still imposes such a requirement.” The local-jurisdiction carveout is one of two such caveats, though it appears unlikely that Nevada’s major cities, including Las Vegas, plan on instituting their own city-wide mask mandates. The NGCB did remind all licensed gaming entities that should any local jurisdiction enact continuing mask-wearing measures, the NGCB expects full compliance. The regulators also expect all gaming properties to continue their virus-mitigation practices.

Venues may still enact their own mask-wearing requirements

Though no longer required to do so by the state, Nevada’s casinos may still enforce their own rules and requirements regarding the wearing of masks. It’s of particular importance to those casinos that offer poker, where players and floor personnel spend long periods in close proximity to one another.

The mask-wearing relaxation gives Nevada’s poker-offering casinos a chance to plan their mask strategies well in advance of the early-summer peak poker season, when the largest assortment of major poker series such as the World Series of Poker will run. The WSOP had a hybrid mask strategy in place at the Rio during last fall’s series. Masks were mandated for all players and staff away from the tables, though players seated at a table and playing could remove their masks.

In the WSOP’s case, that was just one part of their anti-COVID strategy. The series and parent company Caesars also instituted a controversial vaccine mandate that may have slightly limited overall attendance. Anecdotal evidence suggests that an indeterminate number of players found ways to evade the CLEAR Health Pass vaccine-record system put in place by the WSOP, which may have turned out to be little more than a glorified honor system. Whether the CLEAR system returns for the 2022 WSOP has not been announced to date.

Featured image source: Facebook / Governor Steve Sisolak

Author: Paula Dunn