Pummeled by unemployment, Las Vegas tried to reopen without widespread vaccination. Here are the lessons the city learned — and the challenges ahead.
The back doors of the union hall are propped open, letting the desert sunshine in to reflect off metal shelves lining the cinder block walls. On them are jars of peanut butter and piles of canned goods, unfolded cardboard boxes and other remnants of the food bank the local entertainment union set up here to help its 1,700 members after the coronavirus shutdowns last year threw them out of work almost overnight.
Standing on the back steps, facing out toward the Las Vegas Strip on a 100-plus-degree August Friday, Phil Jaynes reflected on the progress his union had made in the months since. As coronavirus case counts fell and high-rise hotels, theaters and convention spaces began hiring again this past spring, the food bank grew quieter. In early July, Jaynes, as president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 720, reopened the union’s doors for the first time in 16 months.
Then everything started to move in the wrong direction again.
Within days of Las Vegas’ official reopening in early June,Covid case numbers had begun trending up, and within weeks some events around the city were getting canceled. Once Las Vegas reached the highest infection rate in the country among major metropolitan areas, and once 13 cast and crew members at a local hotel tested positive for the virus, Jaynes shut the union hall doors again — 11 days after reopening them.