Health & Fitness | August 18, 2020 11:46 am

Las Vegas Is a Hotbed for COVID-19, According to Smartphone Data

Hard-to-trace visitors and lax safety measures put the whole country at risk

Las Vegas showgirls at Bally's Las Vegas reopening on July 23
Las Vegas showgirls at Bally's Las Vegas reopening on July 23
Denise Truscello / Getty Images

Avoid crowds. Wear masks. Have a good program of contact tracing available. Don’t go far from home.

This is all important advice in our current COVID-19 conditions. And none of these requirements are being met at an acceptable level in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, casinos have been open since June 4, and Sin City itself has likely “become a likely hotbed for the spread of the novel coronavirus,” as ProPublica reports.

Because contact tracing is a local and not a national program, it’s pretty much impossible to track the comings and goings of anyone who visits Las Vegas — a current COVID danger zone.

“The way it’s set up right now, contact tracers are not looking for clusters that might identify outbreaks tied to traveling to a casino or other specific locations,” says Joshua Michaud, an epidemiologist and associate director of global health policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation. “You’re not actively looking for it, so you might miss that event. Contact tracing is not set up to answer those questions, so you’ll still be in the dark.”

A four-day survey in July utilizing available smartphone data showed how interconnected (and dangerous) our country can be during a pandemic. Identifying 26,000 devices from the Las Vegas Strip, these phones then later showed up in every mainland state except Maine, with most of them in Southern California and Arizona.

Adding to this issue: There’s up to a two-week incubation period for the virus. And “Nevada regulators set minimum standards for COVID-19 protections but allowed the casinos to choose many of their own safety measures,” as ProPublica notes, “To the dismay of many workers.”

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