Las Vegas torn by virus as casinos clamor to reopen

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by Valerie Miller

A smattering of cars drove past the eerily quiet hotels and casinos, shuttered since mid-March, while a handful of tourists gathered by the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign to take photos.

But beneath the quiet of the world-famous Strip, Sin City is in turmoil.

A tug of war has emerged between the need for safety during the coronavirus pandemic and the survival of the gambling capital’s tourism industry, which some casino operators fear will never be the same.

Nevada’s Culinary Union Local 226, which represents some 60,000 casino and hotel workers, has had 98 percent of its members laid off, according to secretary-treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline.

At least 12 union members have died from the COVID-19 outbreak, out of Nevada’s total death toll of 243.

Arguello-Kline said the union fully supports Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak’s decision to extend the lockdown until at least May 15.

“He is doing what he can to protect us,” she told AFP. “I know it is tough for people, but if you lose your life, you have lost what is most important.”

But the length of time of the shutdown — and whether it was even necessary — has triggered heated debate in Las Vegas.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman has called the shutdown “insanity,” and has pleaded for the city to be reopened.

Last month, Goodman faced some national backlash after a controversial television interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

In a statement released last week, Goodman –- who still enjoys support among many Las Vegas residents eager to get back to work — emphasized the need to reopen in the “safest” way.

“Las Vegas is in a unique economic crisis,” she wrote. (AFP)

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