Players and visitors to gaming properties in Las Vegas and California are placing protective masks on their faces — sporadically — in an apparent effort to reduce the risk of exposure to the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus.
While chances of catching the viral illness remain low in the US, news of deaths linked to the malady — on the West Coast — have led to people searching for ways to protect themselves.
At Graton Resort & Casino, located in Rohnert Park, California, three gamblers — out of the several hundred people there — were wearing masks last Thursday afternoon, according to the Press Democrat.
I definitely have seen a lot more people in general walking around wearing face masks.” Lexi McKimmey, a showgirl who often walks on the Las Vegas Strip, recently told NBC News.
As early as January, local pharmacies in Las Vegas saw customers buy out mass market face masks — as coronavirus cases appeared more frequently in China, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
But there is skepticism among health officials whether such masks — especially loose-fitting ones — help much to curb the spread of the illness. That especially seems the case for the so-called surgical masks and the masks used to block dust particles, according to Consumer Reports.
In an online post, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises, “While a facemask may be effective in blocking splashes and large-particle droplets, a facemask, by design, does not filter or block very small particles in the air that may be transmitted by coughs, sneezes or certain medical procedures.”
Facemasks also do not provide complete protection from germs and other contaminants because of the loose fit between the surface of the facemask and your face,” the FDA adds. “Facemasks are not intended to be used more than once.”
If someone has coronavirus or is helping to care for an infected patient, there is better reason to wear such a mask. But for a healthy person — who is out among the general public — it is not recommended by US health officials.
Currently, there are no known cases of coronavirus in Las Vegas though hundreds of people were tested in southern Nevada, KTNV said. But Wildhorse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon closed temporarily after an employee tested positive for the virus.
Surgeon General Tells General Public Not to Wear Masks
This past weekend, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted, “Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!”
“They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
Health professionals who treat patients with COVID-19 prefer N95 respirators. They are worn snugly on the face and may block many harmful particles.
This type of mask is called “N95” because they block at least 95 percent of very small particles, the FDA said.
“If properly fitted, the filtration capabilities of N95 respirators exceed those of face masks,” the FDA statement adds. “However, even a properly fitted N95 respirator does not completely eliminate the risk of illness or death.”
Instead of masks, US health professionals recommend members of the public thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water, as well as not touching one’s face. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an approved option, too. The Wynn Las Vegas recently installed more hand sanitizer stations.
Face Masks Worn in Macau
Before Macau’s casinos were closed for two weeks — and since reopened — requirements were announced in January and early February that both employees and players were required to wear face masks. Gamblers who refused, were asked to leave the casino floor.
On Friday, Aristocrat Technologies Macau donated 50,000 protective face masks to Macau city officials. They will be used by health workers and at local schools, according to GGRAsia.
A charity associated with Tak Chun Group donated another 100,000 face masks to city officials in Macau. The business, which runs gambling operations in hotels, also donated 100,000 masks to Hubei Province in China.