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No buffets, masks for guests among union’s requests for Nevada casino reopening

Michelle Rindels

The Nevada Independent

The Silver Legacy Resort casino is seen closed the afternoon of Saturday, March 21, in downtown Reno. The casino is among hundreds in the state that have been fully closed since the governor's original order on March 17.
Photo: Kevin MacMillan
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was first published May 5 by The Nevada Independent and is republished here with permission. For more Nevada news, including wall-to-wall coronavirus coverage and a constantly updating live blog, visit The Nevada Independent.

LAS VEGAS — The parent organization of the Culinary Workers Union has developed a detailed set of safety guidelines it wants to see implemented before Nevada’s casinos reopen to the public — and they are significantly more rigorous than the general recommendations offered by state gaming regulators.

The six-page checklist released by UNITE HERE at a virtual press conference on May 5 recommends everything from offering surgical masks for all guests to wear in public places to offering contactless tipping options and offering staff company-funded tests to determine a person’s current and past COVID-19 status.

“The health and safety of both workers and casino guests is our union’s top priority, which is why UNITE HERE consulted with public health professionals and industrial hygiene experts to develop a set of health and sanitation guidelines for gaming facilities,” UNITE HERE International President D. Taylor said in a statement. “The casino companies need to work with us to ensure a healthy and safe environment when casinos re-open, and if they won’t, the gaming regulators of the states in which they operate must take action.”

Casinos were declared non-essential businesses and ordered closed in mid-March. Gov. Steve Sisolak has said the Nevada Gaming Control Board will have to approve any plans for casinos to reopen, and that they wouldn’t be opening at the beginning of “Phase 1” — a period that is expected to begin around May 15 if health metrics show the virus subsiding.

The Gaming Control Board issued guidance on Friday laying out baseline safety measures it expects from casinos seeking to reopen. Those include promoting social distancing, such as by thinning out chairs around gaming tables, and keeping nightclubs and dayclubs closed until further notice.

UNITE HERE is making even more specific recommendations. They include:

  • Not compelling employees to come to work if COVID-19 has been detected within 14 days in the state, and not challenging their claim to unemployment benefits if they stay home in “involuntary layoff” status
  • Installing plexiglass sneeze/cough guards at front desks
  • Suspending buffets
  • Turning off some slot machines or reconfiguring them so players can remain six feet apart
  • Performing non-invasive temperature screenings of guests and employees at entrances, and turning away guests who have temperatures higher than 100.4 degrees, unless there is evidence such as a doctor’s note that it’s because of a non-communicable condition
  • Replacing high-touch items such as menus and salt and pepper shakers with disposable alternatives
  • Avoiding use of vacuums, but steam-cleaning carpets upon checkout with temperatures of at least 160 degrees
  • Using non-touch timeclocks to track employee attendance

Read the full document here.

The Nevada Independent is a 501(c)3 nonprofit news organization. The following people or entities mentioned in this article are financial supporters: Culinary Workers Union – $7,450; and Steve Sisolak – $3,200.