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Public Health

Health Officials Decry New Year’s Eve Plans In Vegas

A wide shot of a busy city at night. There are tall buildings in the foreground, many small dots of light in the middle ground and dark blue mountains in the far background.
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Aerial view of the Strip in Las Vegas, Nev.

Editor’s note: Since this story published, the Fremont Street Experience cancelled their New Year’s Eve event in a day-of decision on Dec. 31.

Downtown Las Vegas typically attracts tourists from all over the world for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Even though the pandemic has shut down most of the festivities this year, a scaled-back event could still draw thousands. Health officials decry the potential risks.

The Fremont Street Experience is a popular outdoor mall that spans about five blocks in downtown Las Vegas. The area includes casinos, street performers and attractions like a zipline.

Even though there will be no live performances and fewer visitors to this area on New Year’s Eve, officials are still expecting people to flock there.

The marketing firm for Fremont Street Experience created what they describe as a “limited access event,” for New Year’s Eve and could draw up to 14,000 attendees. The City of Las Vegas approved a special permit for the night.

Nevada’s COVID-19 response director Caleb Cage said it’s a terrible plan.

“This is in a particularly difficult time when we are experiencing a surge in hospitalizations, we’re experiencing a surge in cases, we’re just now leveling off after Thanksgiving. This is not an event that would be allowed under any of the directives that have been in place for the last ten months, let alone the current restrictions under the pause,” Cage said.

One of the directives in place includes a 50-person cap on public gatherings.

To access Fremont Street on New Year’s Eve, guests will be required to pay a $25 security fee. Organizers say the money is intended to step up security to ensure people follow COVID-19 mitigation measures and deter larger crowds.

But health officials continue to worry about the spread of COVID-19 and the threat to hospital capacity caused by holiday gatherings.

Nearly 80% of staffed hospital beds are occupied in Clark County.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

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