UNLV Epidemiologist Gives Stark Warning To Poker Rooms
The Nevada Gaming Control Board already released some guidelines that will help facilitate the reopening of casinos in the state.
A UNLV epidemiologist said it is still not safe for gambling establishments to resume their operations, sharing the views of other public health experts.
Brian Labus, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UNLV’s School of Public Health, warned that card rooms can do nothing to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is despite tight restrictions and disinfection measures that the gaming authority laid out in its guidelines published earlier this month, which include limiting overall capacity to 50%, and setting table caps (each poker table can only accommodate a maximum of four players).
Card rooms are also required to install accessible sanitation hubs, and disinfect gaming equipment on a regular basis. Employees and staff should also be properly trained in dealing with suspected cases, and strict social distancing must also be implemented.
WFLA News Channel 8
Despite Measures, Poker Rooms Can’t Contain COVID-19
But regardless of these measures, it is still impossible to curb the virus in public venues like poker rooms where people sit together and interact with each other for an extended period of time. The possible outbreak will not be triggered mainly by the touching and passing of cards and chips, but by players coughing at close proximity to other players, with whom they breathe the same air.
The poker room setting itself increases the risk of players contracting the virus, and there is nothing much they can do about it, though he agrees that the NGCB restrictions, if strictly enforced, can help reduce the potential for harm. Photos of casinos trying out plexiglass dividers at poker tables have recently emerged on Twitter, but Labus believes they wouldn’t be effective enough in preventing the spread of the virus.
Nevada, which has a population of around 3 million, has reported more than 6,800 COVID-19 cases with 350 deaths – this is a relatively lower rate compared to other US states, but this shouldn’t be a reason to be complacent.
Las Vegas is a tourist destination. Once the casinos and resorts in Vegas begin to reopen, tourists from different parts of the country and the world will start flocking into the city, and this could trigger a potential massive outbreak, as some of the visitors would inevitably travel from highly-infected locations and territories.
According to Labus, Nevada is still not ready to reopen the casinos, and even when they do, it will be very difficult to contain the virus during a game of poker.
Labus is currently serving as member of a group of experts in Nevada tasked with providing scientific advice with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. He, alongside four other members of the statewide task force, was appointed by Gov. Sisolak in March 2020.