Las Vegas conventions can go without a mask if vaccination is required
CARSON CITY — Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday added large conventions to the list of permitted indoor gatherings that can go ahead without a mask if sponsors require all attendees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The expanded exception, effective in counties at high risk of disease spread, “gives convention organizers the flexibility to choose between requiring masks indoors for all attendees, regardless of vaccination status, or ensure that all attendees are vaccinated, in which case fully vaccinated attendees may remove their masks,” a statement from the governor’s office read.
An exception for large venues, such as stadiums and concert halls, was initially granted last month. As with the previous measure, the latest decree is not a requirement to present proof of vaccination, but rather an option for convention sponsors.
Masks will not be necessary for fully vaccinated people if the convention has 4,000 or more attendees, requires pre-registration, and lasts a set period. These events will only be open to those who register in advance.
In accordance with the directive, the convention sponsor must maintain access control to prevent unregistered or unauthorized persons from entering or attending the convention and require proof of at least one dose of a vaccine COVID-19 for each participant. Those who do not provide proof must be turned away.
No religious or medical exemptions
Convention sponsors must also be able to verify vaccination status and hire enough staff to handle the verification process. They may admit partially vaccinated participants but they must remain masked and they must have a system in place to distinguish fully and partially vaccinated participants from those who, due to age, are not eligible for vaccination. Religious and medical exemptions, however, “cannot be accepted”, according to detailed instructions on the directive.
Finally, they must submit an exception clearance from the state Department of Commerce and Industry and the relevant local health authority.
Convention interests welcomed the state’s revised guidelines on Thursday.
“Large gatherings, whether trade shows, conventions or special events, are essential to Southern Nevada’s economy and the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on this activity,” said Virginia Valentine, president and CEO of the Nevada Resort Association. “We appreciate the added option and flexibility Governor Sisolak provides to trade show and convention organizers.”
She added that the resort industry “has been tireless in its efforts to vaccinate employees, their families and the public, and we will continue to do our part to increase the vaccination rate.”
Lori Nelson-Kraft, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, said the updated guideline “is a great option for our trade show producers, their exhibitors and attendees.”
Three trade shows with upcoming events at the Las Vegas Convention Center have already indicated that they will require registered attendees to have initiated the vaccination process. These are the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Business Aviation Association in October, and CES in January. The Global Gaming Expo, which will meet in October at The Venetian Expo, will also require attendees to be vaccinated.
The new normal?
Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, said Thursday that the governor’s directive could signal the return of normalized operations in the industry.
“The governor’s directive helps communicate to convention organizers and guests that we take their safety and health seriously, but we still appreciate and welcome them to our city,” Belarmino said. “With the ability to choose between mask mandates or vaccination requirements, the governor allows a level of flexibility for our conventions, especially since we don’t really know the trajectory of the variants in the coming year.”
Josh Swissman, founding partner of the Las Vegas-based Strategy Organization, an industry consultancy, praised the new guideline for its flexibility as long as it doesn’t impose additional burdens on trade show managers.
“If it’s too much and too cumbersome for you as a trade fair organizer, you can always fall back on the lowest common denominator, which is just putting on the mask or requiring the mask. It’s a net positive,” he said. “I would hate for them to be tripped up by additional complexity.”
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at [email protected] To follow @DentzerNews on Twitter. Contact Richard N. Velotta at [email protected] or 702-477-3893. To follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.