Las Vegas casinos begin testing workers in key step to reopen

Metal barricades block the entrance to Caesars Palace on Las Vegas Boulevard on March 26. File Photo by James Atoa/UPI

May 21 (UPI) — In a key step toward reopening the heart of Las Vegas’ ailing economy, medical officials on Thursday will begin testing tens of thousands of city casino workers for the coronavirus disease.

MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Boyd Gaming said they will participate in the employee testing plan coordinated by University Medical Center and the Culinary Health Fund to collect up to 4,000 samples for testing per day, the groups announced in a joint statement.

Casino workers who have been recalled will be tested at scheduled appointment times at the Las Vegas Convention Center beginning Thursday.

Caesars CEO Tony Rodio said the workers will complete a pre-screening questionnaire to determine if they need to be tested before returning to work.

Test results are expected within 48 hours and positive diagnoses will be passed on to the Southern Nevada Health District for contact tracing, officials said.

“The ability to safely reopen our properties has been our singular focus over the past several weeks,” said Bill Hornbuckle, acting president and CEO of MGM Resorts International. “This testing partnership will allow us to provide our employees and guests peace of mind that we are taking the greatest possible precautions to keep them safe.”

MGM employs about 50,000 people in Las Vegas, while Caesars has about 30,000 and Boyd about 10,000.

Casinos in Las Vegas have been shuttered since Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak ordered all non-essential businesses to close in March to curb the spread of COVID-19. The state, however, has since loosened restrictions for businesses such as dine-in restaurants, hair salons and retail stores as long as they follow guidelines.

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No date has been set for Las Vegas’ many casinos to reopen, but Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced this week it expects its Venetian Resort to reopen on June 1, followed by a phased reopening of the Venetian tower and Palazzo tower.

“Upon opening, our guests can expect the amenities of a luxury Las Vegas resort including: a full service casino, more than a dozen restaurants, our fully renovated Venetian pool deck and multiple retail outlets,” Venetian Vice President of Public Relations Alyssa Anderson said.

Anderson said the company has also required COVID-19 testing for all employees.

Despite plans to reopen casinos and resorts, Sisolak has left open the possibility of reinstating restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus if Nevada sees a resurgence of cases.

Among those to be tested are employees in the Culinary Union, which represents 60,000 resort workers in Las Vegas and Reno.

“COVID-19 testing ensures that Culinary Union members are safe when they return to work,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the union’s secretary-treasurer. “The health and safety of both workers and casino guests is our top priority.”

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