Workers in Las Vegas and other parts of Clark County, Nevada, will have to resume wearing masks indoors but customers will not under new rules.
The Clark County Commission voted Tuesday in an emergency meeting to require face coverings for all employees working indoors and around co-workers or members of the public in an increase in Covid cases driven by a more transmissible variant and a slowing vaccination rate.
The new rules do not apply to customers, and it is not a blanket return to masking, like the one recently imposed in the Los Angeles area.
"We have already been through a shutdown and a start-up, and we cannot afford to have major conventions decide to go elsewhere," Commissioner Jim Gibson said.
Tourist-dependent Las Vegas endured Covid restrictions last year that shuttered casinos, dine-in restaurants, bars and other businesses. Casinos were closed altogether for more than two months.
Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rising across Nevada and the rest of the U.S., fueled by the more transmissible delta variant.
Clark County has experienced almost triple the number of Covid-19 cases since early June and a tripling of the positivity rate, said Dr. Cort Lohff, chief medical officer for the Southern Nevada Health District. The increases are being driven by the delta variant, he said, as well as a plateauing of the vaccination rate.
The regional health district recommended Friday that all people, both those fully vaccinated and those unvaccinated, wear masks in crowded indoor public places.
Chris Scarpulla, who owns two The Great American Pub locations, told NBC affiliate KSNV of Las Vegas that the new rules, while a burden, are better than closing.
"I don't think the employees are very happy with it, but I think they're happy enough to follow the mandate and understand that this keeps them employed," he told the station. "This keeps us open."
But at Tuesday's commission meeting, critics spoke out.
"You're telling us what to do, wear a mask — that's my decision, not yours," Jim Blockey told the board.
Las Vegas and the rest of the state formally reopened at 100 percent capacity June 1.
The mask requirements for employees lasts until Aug. 17, when the board of commissioners will revisit the rules.