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Health officials: Businesses should require patrons to wear masks

The Southern Nevada Health District is urging businesses to require patrons to wear face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Health District didn’t single out any industry but said “businesses have a moral obligation to protect this community by implementing policies that require their patrons to wear masks in public areas.”

State gaming regulators said today they would not mandate casinogoers wear face coverings. That remains for individual casinos to decide, and the trend has been to make masks optional.

The Health District recommends all residents and visitors wear cloth face coverings in public, especially in situations with social distancing is challenged.

“While growing evidence is showing that face coverings can be one of the most effective tools for slowing community transmission of the virus, unfortunately, it has faced opposition from limited segments of the population and reluctancy from some local business to properly request it from its patrons,” Dr. Fermin Leguen, the acting chief health officer of the Health District, said in a statement.

Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all nonessential businesses closed in mid-March to help curb the spread of the virus. Businesses have been allowed to start reopening in phases starting May 9, with casinos getting the green light to resume operation on June 4.

At casinos, employees are wearing face coverings in accordance with health and safety protocols. But patrons aren’t required to follow suit.

In a statement today, Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Douglass Morgan said state regulators will not — at least for the time being — require casino guests to wear face coverings.

“Licensees must have masks available for patrons and should strongly encourage patrons to wear them,” Morgan said. “These policies were created and implemented based on guidance from medical professionals and from the state’s testing data, testing capacity, and contact tracing. If that data changes and our percentage of positive cases increase, the Nevada Gaming Control Board would consider additional measures to ensure our health care system is not overburdened.”

The state is in its second phase of reopening, allowing for most business to welcome back customers with safety standards in place for employees. Masks for customers have not been required.

“Unfortunately, as more businesses are opening and people are beginning to resume their normal activities, it is easy to forget that we are still responding to a pandemic, and precautions need to be taken,” Leguen said.

“I would ask our community and visitors to show the same regard for the public health and safety of the people who are providing you with services during these unprecedented times. Wear a mask or a cloth face covering when you are out in public areas,” he said.

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