(UPDATE: Mask were required when indoors again from July 30th, 2021 – February 10, 2022. The mask mandate is no longer in effect)
Vegas is back. Kind of.
The cab driver on my way from the airport said that Vegas was back. And on the surface, that’s believable. There are a lot of people on the Strip. Shows are reopening and most restaurants and clubs are open. The airport is crowded. That’s about as far as it goes. Even though the airport was busy, they have only 1 taxi line open and there wasn’t much of a wait when I landed.
Many restaurants have reopened, but not all of them. The ones that are open tend to require reservations. The lineup I saw waiting to get in to Catch at Aria right when they opened was comical. I considered going to the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars, but all reservations were sold out for the duration of my last trip. Late night dining options are very limited (and you can expect long lines at the ones that are). It seems like more restaurants are reopening each week, though (like Fleur at Mandalay Bay reopening July 26th).
As a general rule, masks are not required if you are vaccinated.
If everyone is being honest, it looks like over 90% of the people in Las Vegas are vaccinated. I don’t believe that, though. I did get a few looks for wearing mine. Most staff members wore masks, but not all of them. I am guessing that some vaccinated staff may not be required to wear masks. I wasn’t happy that the Cosmo room service person came right into my room without a masks, though.
MGM properties have every other slot machine turned off or disabled. At table games, they have plexiglas dividers between each player space as well as between the players and the dealer. They have similar plexiglas barriers in the poker room. I still felt the poker room was too crowded.
Caesars on the other hand has every slot machine on. They are expecting players to not use a machine next to another player, but they are not being proactive. I saw multiple instances of players playing and sitting next to each other, so that isn’t working. Caesars doesn’t have barriers at tables or in the poker room, either. They have removed seats to limit the number of players at each game. Caesars seems to be taking a more staff oriented approach. They have dealers wearing plastic face shields in addition to masks, but there is nothing separating players..
MGM has also installed hand washing stations around the casinos and has stands with free disposable masks and hand sanitizer near the entrances. I saw hand sanitizer available at Caesars properties, but not to the same extent as the MGM properties.
Check in lines and hotel lobbies were also very different. The Bellagio had a lot of space available to keep distanced while in the check in line. MGM Grand also had a lot of space. Neither place was crowded when I visited. The Flamingo check in line was a mess. They did create some space to keep the waiting line away from the check in counter, but the line continued across the lobby and down the hallway. People in line were much closer than 6 feet. There were no markings to indicate where people should stand in the extended line. It was a hazardous situation. It also created a road block if you were trying to get from the casino to the Spa Tower.
We each have our own personal risk tolerances. The situations at Caesars Palace and the Flamingo made me very uncomfortable. I was happy that I was not staying at either place. It would have made for a very stressful trip for me. Unless things change, I cannot recommend staying or playing at a Caesars property in Las Vegas until things get better.
On the other hand, my stay at the Bellagio was really good and relatively comfortable given the situation. I would readily stay at the Bellagio or another MGM property during the pandemic if necessary.
Many things are changing as casinos reopen during the COVID pandemic. The most important change right now is that you are going to need to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth whenever you are inside a public area of the building. That means you need to be wearing it when in the casino, in the lobby, walking down the hotel hallway, in a public bathroom, at bars and restaurants, etc. That is a statewide mandate from Gov. Sisolak. The mandate also include public spaces outdoors where six feet of social distancing can be observed. That means you should wear it whenever you head out since you can’t guarantee that you’ll have six feet of space when walking down the Strip or on Fremont Street. The mandate goes a step further than what MGM and Caesars had already put into place require mask use, but only in a few areas.
There are limited exceptions for children 9 and under, individuals where wearing a mask would be a health or safety risk, when dining and drinking and when exercising or doing socially distanced recreational activities outside.
The new mask mandate actually simplifies a number of things. As a general rule, if you are staying at a resort you should be wearing a masks unless you are in your room with family.
It has been difficult for me to write about Las Vegas recently. I promised some more posts about the COVID reopenings and I hope to make progress on that soon. In the meantime, I thought I’d share a few of my Las Vegas favorites (and places I hope we will be able to visit again soon) in an effort to get the writing flowing again.
Upscale: Bavette’s Steakhouse at Park MGM. When you step inside, you forget that the casino is right outside the door. The food, drinks and service are great (like many of the upscale restaurants), but what makes Bavette’s my favorite is the hidden back bar / back room. It is quieter and makes you feel like you are in a secret, special place.
Catch at Aria and Fleur at Mandalay Bay are both close seconds. The theming at Catch is over the top. Check out the entryway even if you don’t want to go all the way in for some great seafood. I’m big fan of Hubert Keller, so Fleur is a regular stop for me when I’m at that end of the Strip.
UPDATED June 30, 2020 Las Vegas casinos and hotels will be able to reopen after the COVID-19 closures starting June 4, 2020. Everything isn’t going to instantly reopen and try to get back to normal, though. I plan to do a series of posts on the topic in the coming days. I am going to start with the most pressing one.