LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The Clark County Commission held an emergency meeting Tuesday in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the county and unanimously voted in favor of an employee mask mandate.
The meeting started with passionate pleas from community members on both sides of the debate, followed by testimony from the Southern Nevada Health District.
After commissioners asked questions of the SNHD representative they debated the options available to them before voting on a motion brought by Commissioner Jim Gibson.
The motion stated that all employers in Clark County must mandate their employees to wear a mask when in public spaces of the building. Those in enclosed offices or cubicles do not have to wear a mask when in their enclosed areas but must wear a mask when out in the public spaces.
It’s a move Todd Koren is glad to see.
“I think it’s a great first step. We have to prove to our tourists that Las Vegas is a safe place to come and visit," he said.
Koren is the CEO of Absolute Exhibits which builds exhibits for trade shows and conventions. He says the latest rise in COVID-19 cases has worried his clients and hopes this will keep some fears at bay.
“Exhibitors who are thinking about coming to a trade show just want to know that it’s safe and that we’re taking the right measures,” he said.
County commissioners said they want to avoid overwhelming hospitals and prevent any move towards closures or capacity limits.
“We have to do something because we can't afford to allow hospitals to become more worse in terms of their crowding and we cannot afford to have this economy suffer in the slightest,” said Commissioner Jim Gibson said.
Local health officials framed the move as a time to shore up vaccination rates in Clark County with about 42% of the population fully vaccinated.
“The most important thing is to increase our vaccination rates in our community because we know that the vaccines are very safe and despite what you heard, very effective,” Dr. Curt Loeff, with SNHD, said.
There was disapproval from audience members about the vote with emotions boiling over at times. One business owner fearing Tuesday’s meeting could be a precursor of more restrictions to come.
“People are not going to make any money and they’re not going to make any semblance of a reality having to face another shutdown,” small business owner Ben Cucio said.
Others were calling for masking to be a choice for people. Some were frustrated to see a step back after seeing Clark County fully reopen for about a month.
“Fear-based decisions don’t make for sound principles and sound policies,” Blake Corl-Baietti, who lives in Las Vegas, said.
Koren believes the requirement could have been extended to everyone in indoor settings, but mainly wants visitors to remain comfortable visiting.
“I think we just need to do as much as possible to make people feel safe, I don’t think that wearing a mask means you can’t have fun in Las Vegas," he said.
The new mandate will take effect at 11:59 p.m. on July 21 and run through Aug. 17 when the commissioners will meet again.
REPLAY THE FULL MEETING HERE: