LAS VEGAS – Nevada’s largest labor union has released data showing how COVID-19 has affected 60,000 workers and their families.
Since March, the contagious respiratory illness has killed 22 members of the Culinary Union, including their spouses or dependents.
As of Wednesday, 352 members and their spouses or dependents have been hospitalized. Hospitalizations tied to the union have increased more than 860% since Nevada officials allowed casinos to reopen in June, according to the union.
On June 4, there were five hospitalizations, the union said. On July 16, there were 43.
The Culinary Union is now using the data to call for state officials to protect workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“Behind every worker in this state there is a family,” said Geoconda Argüello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union, in a statement Friday. “Governor Sisolak, the Nevada Legislature, and casino companies must do everything they can to ensure workers and their families are protected from the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. When workers are protected, our entire community – from the hospitality industry to customers and locals are protected.”
Stella Kalaoram, a guest room attendant at The Cosmopolitan, has been hospitalized for almost two weeks, barely able to breathe on her own.
“She was exposed to someone who had COVID-19 at work,” said her daughter, Sara Kalaoram, in a statement. “Now, my dad, my younger teenage brother, and I are all positive for COVID-19 and we are really worried.”
Her mother’s heath has deteriorated every day since positive test results came earlier in July, she said.
Union pushes bill after worker’s death
The Culinary Union is now pushing Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and state legislators to pass a bill named after a Caesars Palace porter who died from COVID-19.
Adolfo Fernandez died on June 24. He was 51.
His death came one month after several hotel-casinos reopened in the wake of a COVID-19 shutdown that lasted almost three months.
The Adolfo Fernandez Bill would mandate the following:
- Daily room cleaning at hotel-casinos
- Social distancing
- Free testing for all workers before going back to work or those that have been exposed to COVID-19
- Temperature-checks for workers
- Action plans for when a worker gets COVID-19 or is exposed
- Enhanced safety training for all employees
Nevada enters ‘red zone’ for cases
State officials received a report prepared for the White House Coronavirus Task Force showing Nevada is in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases.
“Red zone” status means a region has a positivity rate above 10% and there were more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people last week. In Clark County – home of the Las Vegas Strip – the incidence rate is 1,216 cases per 100,000 people.
The unearthed document suggests Nevada and 17 other states should limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer, close bars, nightclubs and gyms and mandate masks for all residents.
Read the Nevada section of the report here:
Gov. Sisolak has already required masks to be worn in public and his latest order closed bars in seven counties. Those bars returned to Phase 1 restrictions – meaning those without food closed except for curbside pickup. But gyms remain open.
Nevada is the latest state to roll back reopening plans, but cases continue to surge.
7-day positivity rate reaches all-time high
Nevada reported 13 more deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, as the state’s seven-day positivity rate for the virus reached an all-time high.
The additional deaths bring Nevada’s COVID-19 death toll up to 637 as of July 17. Confirmed cases, meanwhile, rose to 33,295 statewide, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The 1,380 new daily cases are just shy of the all-time high of 1,440, which was set on July 15.
Clark County – the home of the Las Vegas Strip – continues to account for the bulk of COVID-19 cases in the state as well as the highest incidence rate. Nearly 85% of cases for COVID-19 in Nevada occurred there.
The daily positivity rate for the virus — which indicates how many results returned positive out of all tests conducted — is at 25.8% while the cumulative rate stands at 8.9%. The seven-day moving average for the positivity rate also hit 18.8%, the highest ever recorded in Nevada since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The World Health Organization recommends a rate of 5% or below for 14 straight days prior to reopening businesses.
The seven-day average positivity rate was showing a decline after initial peaking on June 30 at 16.8%. The rate, however, started trending upward on July 8 just after the Fourth of July weekend — culminating in a steep spike after July 13.
Contributing: Jason Hidalgo, Reno Gazette Journal.
Ed Komenda writes about Las Vegas for the Reno Gazette Journal and USA Today Network. Do you care about democracy? Then support local journalism by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal right here.