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Employee mask mandate puzzles some Las Vegas businesses

Updated July 22, 2021 - 8:08 pm

Some Las Vegas businesses and associations are finding Clark County’s new mask mandate for employees contradictory but are still supportive of the initiative.

The sentiment comes on the heels of a Tuesday announcement by the Clark County Commission that all workers must wear a mask, effective at midnight Wednesday.

The county implemented the mandate to help ease the continued surge of COVID-19 cases in the county, which has caused medical advisers to sound the alarm. The general public is not required to wear a face mask, and the commission said it would revisit its requirement on Aug. 17.

CraftHaus Brewery co-owner Wyndee Forrest said she’s not surprised, but she questioned the mandate’s effectiveness.

“I understand public perception plays into these decisions; however it seems shortsighted that only employees wear masks and not guests,” Forrest said. “Are we really making that big of a difference?”

Forrest said she required her employees to wear a mask almost a week ago amid a rise in local COVID-19 cases that has been attributed to the more contagious delta variant.

“I didn’t get any pushback (from employees), and it hasn’t been a big deal,” Forrest said. “A few actually thanked me. My hope with doing this again is that we won’t go into another shutdown because that’s what we’re trying to avoid and, of course, more deaths.”

Staying open

Requiring employees to wear a mask is seen as an easy task if it prevents another financially crippling shutdown, said local business associations and chambers.

Peter Guzman, president of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, said he hasn’t heard any complaints from members about the new mandate. Many businesses were already continuing with COVID-19 safety precautions including asking employees to wear a mask, he added.

“The (coronavirus) numbers went up. So listen, if we have to wear masks to stay open, then so be it,” he said.

The Vegas Chamber said it’s also looking at the big picture — economic recovery.

“Our businesses have been through a lot over the past 15 months,” Vegas Chamber Chief Executive Mary Beth Sewald said. “They have had to shut down or significantly reduce their operations. Employees have been laid off or lost their jobs completely. Some businesses have not made it. We cannot go through that again.”

Sewald also pointed out the state’s rising case numbers is impacting its tourism industry, which will hurt conventions and special events.

Recently, Chicago issued a travel advisory for residents looking to visit Nevada by encouraging them to quarantine for 10 days after their trip or get tested for COVID-19 when they return if they have not been vaccinated.

In Hawaii, Kaua’i County officials have warned of traveling to Las Vegas because of increased COVID-19 risks. And Los Angeles County’s top health official last week recommended its residents reconsider traveling to Nevada because of its high infection cases.

Nevada Restaurant Association representative Alexandria Dazlic said that though the latest mask mandate is to help capacity concerns at hospitals, “restaurants continue to follow all COVID-19 specific mandates on top of our rigorous health and safety protocols” to protect both employees and customers.

More support

Michael Mack, owner of luxury resale store Max Pawn, said the new mandate is a good move and supports the safety measure that is meant to keep the state open.

“It takes pressure off of businesses to make that choice for their employees,” he said, adding that staff were required by Max Pawn to wear masks last week.

He said the growing number of COVID-19 infections encouraged the retailer to implement its own mask mandate prior to the county’s announcement.

“We have a great team at Max Pawn and they’re completely aware we want to make sure they’re protected,” said Mack. “We’re asking guests to consider masks again regardless of their vaccination status as well to protect our other shoppers and staff.”

While some businesses have already implemented a mask mandate, others are working to follow the new change.

Bryan Wachter, Retail Association of Nevada’s senior vice president, said its going through the necessary steps to alert retailers of the new requirement, but noted the county should consider larger steps to encourage tourists and residents to do their part.

“Yet again our elected leaders rushed a new COVID restriction that will likely have no effect on slowing the spread of COVID in Clark County or changing how protected our employees are from the community spread of COVID,” Wachter said. “While a grocery store may be a location each resident visits once or more a week, it’s important to remember that as large, public events return to the Las Vegas Strip, that all residents and tourists should be doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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