Las Vegas Casinos Are Driving Coronavirus Spread

Las Vegas casinos are a major contributor to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to one news company.

ProPublica, a media outlet that describes itself as a “nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power,” released a report this week detailing how the popular tourist destination is making it tough for health officials to conduct contact tracing.

The organization looked at cell phone travel patterns aggregated and analyzed by two companies that specialize in location data. It looked at travel patterns of devices that traveled at “pedestrian speeds” on the Las Vegas Strip during weekends in May, June and July.

In May, while Las Vegas casinos were shuttered, cell phone data showed that the vast majority of those devices stayed concentrated in the southwest region of the country.

The device count on the Strip doubled in June, however, after Nevada casinos were allowed to reopen on June 4. There was also increased travel to and from major midwest and east coast cities. During July, the data revealed that there was significant travel to and from Las Vegas in every continental U.S. state.

Contact tracing, which the report calls “one of the pillars of stopping the pandemic,” is a process where government officials track down anyone who has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Those people are able to go and get tested themselves and take steps to prevent further spread.

The process happens on a state level, which makes it next to impossible for officials who have found a positive case stemming from a trip to Las Vegas to get in touch with the countless others around the country that have been exposed to that person. Hypothetically, an outbreak in a Las Vegas casino would be virtually impossible to trace, given the traffic patterns found in the study.

Casinos are clearly a high-risk environment for the spread of the virus, but throughout the reopening process, properties have been complying with safety regulations set forth by government officials. All Las Vegas casinos are operating at a reduced capacity and have updated its sanitation measures to do its best to reduce the spread.

Wisconsin casinos recently began implementing ultra-violet light systems in the ventilation systems to sanitize recirculated air.

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