Nevada Leads Nation in Covid Cases as 300,000 Descend on Vegas

Nevada is reporting the highest-in-the nation rate of new Covid-19 cases, just as the gambling mecca of Las Vegas prepares for what could be its biggest weekend since reopening.

The state ranked first in the U.S. with almost 112 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The average daily hospital admissions have jumped 44% from a week earlier to about 55 a day, with a surprising increase in the 30-to-39-year-old cohort.

The bad news comes just as Las Vegas, one of the top tourist destinations in the country, is seeing a rebound in visitors. Some 2.9 million tourists came to the city in May, a nearly 12% increase from the prior month. About 300,000 more are expected to descend on Las Vegas for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to the Nevada Department of Transportation.

“There’s a lot of people coming here from all over,” said Michael Gardner, vice dean for clinical affairs for the School of Medicine at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Some of these visitors will be bringing things.”

Nevada is coping with a convergence of factors. The state has a low vaccination rate with fewer than half of its residents receiving at least one dose. That’s coinciding with a return of Las Vegas’s famous nightlife: casinos and restaurants are packed to the point where it’s difficult to even get a reservation, with many locals also enjoying the fun. Masks are rarely worn.

Resorts World, the latest property to open along the Las Vegas Strip, said it’s “solidly booked” this weekend at average room rates not seen even before the pandemic as visitors flood the city.

About 90% of new patients in the greater Las Vegas area were people who weren’t vaccinated, according to Cassius Lockett, director for disease surveillance and control at the Southern Nevada Health District. The highly contagious delta variant is also becoming more prevalent, now making up almost a quarter of cases from just 2.2% in May.

While previous surges in the state were tied to essential workers and others returning to work, the latest uptick is based on people -- younger ones in particular -- getting out more, Lockett said. Many hotel and restaurant workers have gotten vaccinated.

“It is a function of our economy reopening,” he said. “There are a lot more gatherings. We have prevention fatigue, especially among the younger population. We definitely have a lot of masking fatigue.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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