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Casinos face new capacity limits while retail isn’t. Here’s why.

On Tuesday, Nevada casinos cut already-reduced capacity limits in half to comply with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s ordered three-week statewide “pause. But indoor malls and retail stores are allowed to keep operating with the previous 50 percent capacity limit.

UNLV epidemiologist Brian Labus, who serves on Gov. Steve Sisolak’s COVID-19 medical advisory team, said the discrepancy is largely based on consumer behaviors.

“It has to do with the density of people, the layout of the environment and the way people interact (within that environment),” he said. “People sitting at a table eating without masks is a different interaction than people going in and out of a clothing store. You’re not interacting in the same way.”

Labus described casinos as a social setting, where people are often sitting around card tables within close proximity for long periods of time. Other venues — like indoor malls and grocery stores — often require fewer face-to-face interactions, and visitors tend to be more mobile.

“Any time you’re around people, there’s an increased risk,” Labus said. “At grocery stores, you’re having brief interactions, you’re keeping your distance. With a casino, you’re not doing that. At a blackjack table, you’re in close proximity for potentially more than 15 minutes.”

Exposure reports no longer compiled

It’s unclear just how many infections have taken place within certain business sectors, such as casinos, restaurants and malls. Last month, state health official said they stopped compiling reports that analyze potential exposure sites.

The tightening of restrictions come as COVID-19 case numbers continue to surge within the state. There were 3,159 cases reported Wednesday, the first time Nevada surpassed more than 3,000 new cases reported in a single day.

Labus said the stricter occupancy limitations in certain sectors should help impede virus transmissions, since the new restrictions are “basically cutting the density of people in half.”

“You’re going to be in close contact with fewer people,” he said.

Labus emphasized that different venues call for different restriction standards.

“A casino and church and grocery store are not the same thing,” he said. “We have to think of the unique ways the virus spreads in each of those facilities.”

Contact Bailey Schulz at bschulz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @bailey_schulz on Twitter.

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