Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and state health officials last week announced that resort employees and other essential workers would be granted access to an express lane to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The “Tier 1 lane” includes the groups of essential workers. In the state’s latest COVID-19 playbook, front-line casino and resort workers are in the fourth category of workers eligible for the vaccine through Nevada’s “frontline/essential workforce lane.”
Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resort Association, said in a statement that the strategy “will accelerate the consumer confidence needed to drive the visitor volume our economy depends on,” Las Vegas Sun reports.
As of 2019, more than 25% of all workers in Nevada were employed in the leisure and hospitality sectors, according to the resort association. Appointments for the Tier 1 lane workers to be inoculated are being accepted online, and vaccines will be given at several locations across the Las Vegas Valley.
Candice McDaniel, a bureau chief with the state Department of Health and Human Services, said hospitality and food service workers are “essential to our ability as a state to be healthy and to recover.” The department classifies a hospitality worker as any employee who has “prolonged/sustained customer interaction.” Workers at local casinos off the Strip and in downtown would also be included in the prioritized group.
Valentine said that having a vaccinated workforce could be a “significant competitive advantage” over other cities and destinations that might not be as vigilant safeguarding their hospitality workers. “The more Nevadans are swiftly vaccinated, the sooner our transmission rates decrease across the community,” she said. “We believe this will provide peace of mind to visitors and influence their travel decisions against other communities where the rates of vaccination among front staff would be less certain.”
Las Vegas visitation decreased from more than 42 million people in 2019 to about half that number in 2020, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. But COVID-19 vaccines are offering hope that business this year could return to normal.
“The governor’s decision to expedite the front-line hospitality workforce in vaccine eligibility is very encouraging news,” Valentine said. “Protecting the front-line members of Nevada’s economic engine sends a clear message to visitors and meeting and convention organizers that Nevada is the world’s safest travel and tourist destination.”
Furthermore, Valentine said the new vaccine strategy would help “reduce the strain on our public health infrastructure, rapidly increasing the number of vaccinations in the community and positioning the state for a faster and stronger economic recovery.” That will also give a boost to business and convention tourism, which dropped from 6.6 million conventioneers in 2019 to 1.7 million in 2020, according to the authority.
Culinary Local 226, which represents about 60,000 workers in Las Vegas and Reno, has been working with Sisolak’s office and the resort association to ensure that hospitality workers have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer, as reported by Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The hospitality industry is critical for the well-being of the entire state of Nevada, and the Culinary union is supportive of the governor’s designation of hospitality workers as essential,” she said in a statement.
MGM also stated the company will make “the necessary resources available to achieve this critical objective” of immunizing workers."
Assuming the continued rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines goes as planned, the trade show industry will pick up steam during the second half of 2021, Steve Hill, president and CEO of the authority, said last month. Hill said that once visitation picked up, “I think it will stay.”