The Las Vegas Strip is slowly awakening after a nearly 80-day slumber due to the coronavirus crisis. USA TODAY
LAS VEGAS — Roller bags in tow, the couple shuffled into The Excalibur, no masks wrapped around their faces.
They did not make it very far.
A security guard at the entrance of the iconic Strip resort greeted them, pointing to a mask dispenser next to him. Everyone must wear one, he said.
“I forgot,” the man said, plucking a blue and white mask out of the dispenser for himself and one for his companion, and they hurried toward registration.
What happens here may stay here, but there’s a new mantra now at play in Las Vegas: “No shirts, no shoes, no mask, no service.”
Amid a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases across Nevada, Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all residents and tourists to wear face coverings in public and inside private businesses, like the many beckoning resorts dotting The Strip. The mandate went into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday.
On Friday morning, it appeared visitors – at least on the outside – missed the memo.
At the Welcome to Las Vegas sign on South Las Vegas Boulevard, tourists waited in line to get a photo, standing less than six feet apart.
Almost all them — more than two dozen — were mask-less.
North of the sign, you could see the teeth of street performers in feathery showgirl costumes. With no face coverings to hide their smiles, the girls greeted visitors with masks dangling from their ears or pulled around their chins.
Others had no masks at all. They packed crosswalks, shoulder-to-shoulder.
Inside the resorts, a different story unfolded.
Nearly all Caesars Palace casino players sitting at slot machines wore masks.
One woman pulled down her mask, stuck a cigarette between her lips and lit up. A man nearby pulled his down to sip an icy cocktail.
In the poker room, everyone at the tables played with shielded faces.
About 75 people sat at tables in the Caesars casino food court — the only place they could get away from wearing a mask by ordering pizza or pasta.
Andrew Payne came to Las Vegas for a bachelor party.
“The guy is marrying my sister,” said the 33-year-old firefighter from Havertown, Pennsylvania.
He sat in The Excalibur lobby with a bottle of Miller Lite, waiting for the groom and the rest of the party to show up. He wore Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap and a custom Phillies face mask.
“It is what it is,” he said about the mask mandate. “I’d rather be here than not be here.”
Wearing a mask might be a hassle to some, but Payne doesn’t mind.
“I get it. I have three kids at home,” he said.
There is one element of the Las Vegas experience – one fueled by the melting away of inhibitions – that may make the enforcement of masks difficult, according to Payne.
“The more you drink,” he said, “the more lackadaisical you are.”
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.
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