In a move marking a turning point in the state’s battle with COVID-19, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed a directive increasing capacity for conventions, trade shows and conferences to 50 percent.
The capacity increase is effective starting Monday.
Previously— under the Roadmap to Recovery Plan that Sisolak announced in February— large gatherings were limited to 20 percent capacity for venues with over 2,500 seats. Conventions, conferences and trade shows were going to be capped at 1,000 individuals.
The directive Sisolak signed Friday will now allow conference, convention and trade show organizers to have up to 50 percent capacity if they submit a large gathering plan approved by state and local health officials. Large gatherings can only take place with approval by the Department of Business and Industry.
Control over the process for submission and approval of large gatherings will shift to county authorities on May 1 at the earliest, the state announced in a release Friday.
During the transitional period, officials said, the state may approve large gatherings through June 30 to provide event organizers certainty in the planning and approval of their future events.
Capacity to jump at other businesses March 15
On Monday, these businesses operating at 35% since Feb. 15 will be able to move to 50% capacity:
- Food and beverage establishments
- Fitness studios
- Yoga studios
- Dance studios
- Gaming floors
- Bowling alleys
- Pool halls/billiards rooms
- Amusement and theme parks
From now until May 1, retail stores, indoor malls and community recreational centers will remain at 50 percent.
Spas, massage establishments, hair salons, barbershops, nail salons other businesses that provide cosmetic skin services will continue to operate under strict social distancing requirements.
Capacity increase a boon for convention business
With virtually no international travel and devastated domestic travel, Las Vegas has become a regional gambling hub for drive-in business from California and Arizona.
Visitation has been down to levels the state hasn’t seen since 1993. Visitor volume was down 63% in 2020 and hotel occupancy was down 57%.
But as more people get vaccinated across the U.S. and the rolling back of restrictions continues, travel destination states like Nevada are poised to regain its footing.
In 2019, spending by convention-goers had an economic impact of $6.6 billion. The Las Vegas Convention Center hosted 54 conventions and other events in 2019. With a total attendance of 1.3 million, the events had an economic impact of $1.3 billion.
How we got here
Sisolak first shuttered all nonessential businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19 in March 2020, issuing strict stay-at-home orders that were cautiously rolled back as the case curve started to flatten in late July.
Then, in September, Sisolak raised statewide limits on large gatherings to 250 people, and said he would allow well over 1,000 people to attend conventions, trade shows and other events that submit a large gathering plan approved by state and local health officials.
Those efforts were abandoned amid a record-breaking November spike in virus cases that saw more than half of the state’s counties declared a “high risk” for transmitting the disease.
But the Silver State’s daily new case rate dropped significantly during the pause, falling from a high of 2,709 average cases in early December to the current 14-day average of 231 new cases.
The statewide test positivity rate also dipped below 15 percent for the first time since late November, when Sisolak initially reimposed strict limits on indoor dining, live entertainment and other public gatherings.
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.