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Sisolak lets conventions drop mask mandate if vaccination required

CARSON CITY – Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday added large conventions to the list of permitted indoor gatherings that can go maskless if sponsors require all attendees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The expanded exception, effective in counties with elevated risk of disease spread, “gives an option for convention organizers to choose between requiring masks indoors for all attendees, regardless of vaccination status, or ensuring that all attendees are vaccinated, in which case fully vaccinated attendees can remove their masks,” said a statement from the governor’s office.

An exception for large venues, such a stadiums and concert halls, was initially granted last month. As with the earlier measure, the latest edict is not a requirement to show proof of vaccination but instead an option for convention sponsors.

Masks will not be required for those fully vaccinated if the convention will host 4,000 or more attendees, requires pre-registration, and lasts for a set period. Such events will be open only to those who register in advance.

Per the directive, the convention sponsor must maintain access control to prevent unregistered or unauthorized persons from entering or attending the convention and require proof of at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination for every attendee. Those failing to provide proof must be turned away.

Convention sponsors also must be able to verify vaccination status and hire enough staff to handle the verification process. They may admit partially-vaccinated attendees but those attendees must remain masked, and they must implement a system to distinguish between fully and partially vaccinated attendees and those who, due to age, are not eligible to be vaccinated.

Finally, they must submit an exception certification from the state Department of Business and Industry and applicable local health authority.

Convention interests on Thursday welcomed the state’s revised guidance.

“The governor’s updated directive is a great option for our trade show producers, their exhibitors and attendees,” said Lori Nelson-Kraft, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Three trade shows planning to meet at the Las Vegas Convention Center already have stated publicly that they will require registered attendees to have started the vaccination process. They include the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Business Aviation Association in October, and CES in January.

Global Gaming Expo, meeting in October at the Venetian Expo, also will require participants to be vaccinated.

Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV, said Thursday that the governor’s directive may lead to the appearance of more normal operations in the meetings industry.

“The governor’s directive helps to communicate to both convention organizers and guests that we take their safety and health seriously, but we still value and welcome them to our city,” Belarmino said.

“For Las Vegas, conventions are truly the key to returning to normal. There is no place with a better combination of facilities, entertainment, and dining for convention attendees than Las Vegas,” she said. “With the ability to choose between mask mandates or vaccination requirements, the governor is allowing a level of flexibility for our conventions, especially since we don’t truly know the trajectory of the variants in the coming year.”

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