Harsh Criticism over Las Vegas Covid-19 Workplace Exposure Reports Coming to a Halt

Casino Watch Focus has reported on the ongoing impact of coronavirus in the Las Vegas area.  First the area was reluctant to shut down with the rest of the country.  Then they shut down and there was a dispute between the mayor and Nevada Governor over opening. A report also came out that showed those traveling to the area were potentially responsible for a super Covid-19 super spreader event.  Then there was a rushed opening that caused lawsuits due to the lack of proper protective equipment.  Now, it’s been reported that state officials have decided to simply stop sharing specific coronavirus exposure data.  This data has been critical to proper reporting and understanding of these situations.  The Review Journal explains:  

This summer, nearly a third of a local manufacturing company’s workforce caught COVID-19. But the case cluster did not become public knowledge until the Review-Journal obtained government reports on disease investigation analyses through a records request in mid-September.

The reports revealed the first detailed look at possible disease spread in Clark County other than at communal living facilities. Listed were businesses most frequently visited by infected people during the time in which they probably caught COVID-19, although the reports did not conclusively identify where transmission occurred. Now, health officials say they no longer will compile the reports even as new cases are again rising in Nevada, effectively severing the public’s access to the exposure data.

The state’s position is puzzling as they claim having specific contact data wouldn’t provide much data given the entire community is experiencing exposure and virus spread.  They believe the reports simply  demonstrate which businesses have the most foot traffic, but those specific communities know how to manage their own situation. Of course these reports pointed to the casinos, so it’s possible to conclude they are simply attempting to keep people away from such information so they continue to show up and gambling.  It also pointed to other key facilities like the Amazon Warehouse.  Naturally, this decision drew harsh criticism.  The Review Journal continued:  

Nevada Press Association Executive Director Richard Karpel criticized the decision, saying it was a step backward in government transparency. Before the reports were released, state health officials had only generally referenced “backyard barbecues” and “family gatherings” as primary causes of new infections. “It’s not all about mandates, directives and closures,” Karpel said of the state’s COVID-19 response. “It’s about giving people information and allowing them to make decisions on their own.”

The reports also pointed to nonpublic-facing businesses and job sites in Clark County, like Spacecraft Components Corp. and Amazon warehouses. The massive online retailer announced this month that almost 20,000 of its U.S. employees have tested positive since March. Nevada had the third-highest rate of cases among the company’s workers, compared with other states, according to a report released by Amazon. Many of the ill employees at Spacecraft Components Corp. were family members who shared households, said company controller Holly Wiseman.

Key regulatory groups need access to this information.  It was initially buried and only known after the Review Journal publicly published them.  But those responsible for workplace safety of casino employees can’t receive this critical data and cutting off the reports prevents journalists from getting this critical information to those in need.  The Review Journal concluded:  

What did regulatory agencies know? Nevada OSHA, responsible for enforcing workplace safety guidelines, began using the reports after the Review-Journal published them to help the agency prioritize where it conducts inspections, agency spokeswoman Teri Williams wrote in an email.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board, which has issued complaints against hotel-casinos for not following COVID-19 guidelines, “does not receive or track COVID information at casinos,” spokesman Michael Lawton wrote in an email on Sept. 18. Lawton did not respond to a request for comment this week.

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