Entertainment

Half of Nevada's businesses failed to follow rules on masks, state investigators say

Key Points
  • Nevada sees widespread business noncompliance with health and safety regulations.
  • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak vows "swift and decisive" action against rule-breakers.
  • Casinos are cracking down internally, with warnings of disciplinary action including termination.
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Only 50% of Nevada businesses are complying with coronavirus health and safety regualtions

Nevada is among the states with the fastest rising rates of coronavirus infection, and state investigators have reported less than 50% of the businesses observed on July 2 complied with the governor's order requiring face masks in public.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has promised "swift and decisive" action this week against industries that continue to flout the rules. 

In a statement released July 3, he reprimanded businesses that aren't following social distancing and face covering guidelines.  

"You're not only jeopardizing people's health, but you're also jeopardizing your fellow businesses, your industry, and our overall economy," Sisolak said.

License enforcement teams from cities and counties across the state were out in force over the long holiday weekend. The Nevada Gaming Control Board said it had opened 111 regulatory cases for noncompliance since casinos reopened on June 4.

Worries and rumors about casinos closing again have been published on local blogs. Las Vegas Sands, MGM Resorts and Caesars have told CNBC the rumors are baseless, and there are no plans to close again voluntarily.

Sisolak's threat to take action is being taken seriously in this state that is so heavily reliant on travel, tourism and gaming — all industries where people congregate in groups.

The casinos are cracking down internally. MGM Resorts emailed out a memo to employees, reminding them of social distancing and face covering rules, and asking them to report noncompliance of co-workers. Failure to do so will result in progressive disciplinary action, MGM warned.

Caesars CEO Tony Rodio put it more plainly in his employee memo. "The failure to wear your mask at work will be grounds for termination." 

In the memo obtained by CNBC and authenticated by the company, Rodio reassured workers, "You will not be penalized for missing work if you don't feel well. ... If we learn you've been at work when you knew you were ill, you may be disciplined for violating company policy."

Additionally, the memo encourages workers to get comfortable asking co-workers how they feel – and reporting it.  "See something, say something," it said.

On June 24, a porter who worked at Caesars Palace died of the coronavirus. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported the man told his manager he didn't feel well, and the manager told him to take a sick day, according to the porter's family, though the man declined.

Caesars Entertainment has now instituted mandatory Covid-19 testing for all Las Vegas employees, regardless of whether they work on-site or from home. The company pays for the tests, but according to the message to employees, "Anyone who does not complete the test by the end of day on July 10 will be removed from the schedule [and/or placed on unpaid leave]. Refusal to take the test may result in termination of employment." The company has since extended the deadline to July 17.

"It is important to provide context that casinos, like many businesses, are operating in uncharted waters, implementing in the last month or so new health and safety protocols that impact every element of the business," Richard Broome, executive vice president of communications and government relations at Caesars, said in an email. "We are adapting as we learn and as we see medical data and new directives that result in new operating requirements. "

Broome insisted guests are largely complying with face coverings except when eating or drinking.

Video tweeted by Los Angeles Times sports columnist Arash Markazi showed an entirely different scene at the Cosmopolitan over the Fourth of July weekend — after the governor's masks-in-public mandate went into effective on June 24 — compared with the June 4 opening weekend. 

The state issued the directive on masks after cases in Nevada rose for four weeks