The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on life as we know it. In the months since the virus was first discovered and started to spread, the world has watched as countless people got infected, a tragic number lost their lives, entire countries were shut down, economies collapsed, and populations of millions upon millions of people were forced into lockdowns and quarantines for their own safety.
Now, as the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts are enjoying a lot of success in many parts of the world like the United States and certain countries in Europe, hopes are high among the general public that life may be able to return to normal in the weeks and months ahead. And it seems that the city of Las Vegas is attempting to lead the way after its grand reopening, with no more coronavirus restrictions, on June 1.
Crowds of local Las Vegas people gathered together in the Downtown streets of Sin City to usher in this special event. A giant clock had been prepared to count down all the way to midnight, and the people cheered as the full reopening of Las Vegas officially came into action. It was the first time in over a year that Downtown Vegas had been fully open for the public.
Over a loudspeaker system, the announcer for the evening called the event a “historic night in Las Vegas history”, and a local band immediately took to the stage, performing a cover of Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These”.
The song’s lyrics seemed particularly fitting for the occasion as the lead singer belted out the words “It’s times like these you learn to live again”. This was the first sight of a live music event in the Entertainment Capital of the World in more than 12 months.
The grand reopening event signaled the end of enforced social distancing and mask-wearing in the city, allowing locals and Vegas visitors to mingle together and enjoy the moment. Many people in the area still chose to wear masks, while others removed them.
Many locals seemed thrilled and excited by the spectacle, with some of those interviewed expressing their eagerness to get back into work, share gifts with bosses and colleagues, and return to some sense of normality in their day to day lives, but others are still expressing caution about the changes and will continue to exercise precautions to stay safe.
There were also a lot of vacation-goers in the area for the special night of entertainment. CNN interviewed Pam Turner, who had made the trip all the way from North Carolina and called the event “really exciting”. Her mother, who had accompanied her, added “It’s so much fun to see all these people doing their thing.”
The reasoning behind the big Vegas reopening is the fact that the high uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations in the area has helped to drive case numbers down quite heavily in recent days and weeks. Clark County, the county in which Vegas resides, has had 252,000 cases altogether, with over 4,400 deaths in total, but the infection numbers have dwindled significantly through April and May.
The city and its people appear cautiously optimistic that this night will be looked back on as the start of a new beginning, or perhaps, from a different angle, the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 crisis for one of the world’s most famous destinations, as well as a big and much-needed boost for the local economy.
Joblessness rose to a whopping 34% in Las Vegas back in April, giving the city some of the worst unemployment statistics in the entire country, but with casinos, bars, theaters, stores, and entertainment venues now being allowed to open fully and operate as they once did pre-pandemic, those numbers should begin to dwindle.
Immediately after the 12:01 announcement and celebration, local casinos all over Vegas started removing the various COVID barriers and dividers they had previously installed around slot machines and gambling stations to keep guests safe and distant from one another. And it hasn’t taken long at all for the city to start getting back on its feet.
Mere minutes after the reopening, hotels and casinos were reporting huge rises in bookings and public interest. The Venetian Resort, for example, has sold out its convention center for the rest of the year already, while local hotels are reaching 80% occupancy rates at weekends and around holidays.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority will also soon be opening up its newly improved convention center to host Vegas’ first major trade show event since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, with tens of thousands of names on the guest list, making it one of the biggest events set to occur in the US since the early days of the pandemic.
The reopening of Las Vegas is the latest major occurrence in a chain of events that have served as a demonstration of America’s recent progress in terms of fighting the pandemic and pushing towards pre-pandemic life.
Sporting events like the Indianapolis 500 have been held in recent days, for example, selling tens of thousands of tickets, while the US airports are said to be busier than they have been since 2019. Movie theaters, too, are reopening and seeing big success, with the recently released A Quiet Place Part II enjoying the biggest opening weekend of any movie since the pandemic began.
At the same time, some experts remain cautious regarding these sorts of events and re-openings. Dr. Brian Lubas of the University of Nevada stressed the importance of continuing to wear masks and practice caution, especially for those who have not yet been vaccinated, adding that whenever big groups gather, the potential for transmission of the virus will still be high.
The reopening of Vegas will be seen by many as a great sign that the battle against coronavirus is slowly but surely being won, but caution is still needed across the country to avoid undoing so much of the hard work and efforts that have helped the nation get this far.