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Forget Covid, the Las Vegas Strip Faces a Growing Health Crisis

TheStreet logo TheStreet 11/19/2022 Jeffrey Quiggle

While Sin City's entertainment business recovers from the pandemic, new concerns emerge.

On March 17, 2020, a mandate to close all non-essential businesses in Nevada was handed down by Gov. Steve Sisolak. The coronavirus scare had become a reality and the magnitude of the moment was only beginning to settle in.

It was the first time in more than 50 years that all the state's casinos were shut down. It hadn't happened since the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.

The casinos had remained open at all times since then, even in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks and during the Great Recession when the tourism business in Las Vegas was struggling with a steep downturn.

But in March of 2020, Caesar's Entertainment  (CZR) - Get Free Report , MGM Resorts International (MGM) - Get Free Report and Wynn Resorts (WYNN) - Get Free Report were among the city's entertainment giants to suddenly find themselves staring down a path to an uncertain future, fraught with downside risk.

The Las Vegas Strip's many famous resident and visiting performance acts were affected as well. Lady Gaga canceled her "Enigma" performance, Penn & Teller closed shop, and David Copperfield went dark. The pandemic also shut down Jonas Brothers, Rod Stewart, Cirque du Soleil, and the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Eventually, like most of the country and world, after a year of historic health and financial blows -- largely coinciding with the long-awaited availability of vaccines -- people began venturing out. They felt better about being around people and crowds. And when the desire to travel combined with this newfound confidence, Sin City was one of the first beneficiaries in the United States.

By now, Las Vegas has mostly recovered. A few casinos didn't make it and were closed permanently, but nearly every gaming location did and is now up and running. While volume still lags numbers seen before the pandemic, business is largely reported as strong.

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A New Health Threat Emerges

Even so, some recent developments are giving many cause for concern once again. If any new health worries in Las Vegas become wide enough to make visitors wary, local businesses may have further cause for apprehension.

A rise in Clark County COVID-19 cases was recorded during the second week of the month. While that increase seems to have stabilized, heads are turning toward other health concerns.

Ailments other than just the seasonal flu and COVID are currently affecting children in Nevada. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), for one, has been prevalent. It is characterized by cold-like symptoms, with some cases leading to difficulty in breathing.

Rhinoviruses and enteroviruses are causing trouble as well. All of these combined are concerning the Las Vegas medical community.

"Sunrise Children’s Hospital is experiencing record volumes in our pediatric patients and most of them are admitted are with a respiratory illness and some of them have different viruses at the same time," Chief Medical Officer with Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center Steven Merta told KVVU-TV in Las Vegas.

One local pharmacy owner said she started receiving calls from parents about nebulizers and albuterol in early October. And now nebulizers are the store's most sought-after product.

"I think we bought nebulizers more so than I probably have dispensed in my 20 years of retail pharmacy," said Angela Balian, owner of LV Pharmacy & Medical Supplies, according to the television station.

Las Vegas CEOs Say Business Is Booming

These health concerns take place in a Las Vegas business environment focused on recovery, which at the moment is generally filled with positive vibes.

"October was the strongest month in the history of Las Vegas for Caesars," said Caesar's Entertainment CEO Tom Reeg during a Nov. 2 earnings call. "We did over $200 million of EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation) in October, which is up double digits versus last year on a consolidated basis. October EBITDA for bricks and mortar is pacing double-digit percentage above last year's October despite having one fewer weekend day in the 2022 period."

Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings has recently made similar comments.

"I'll kick off in Las Vegas, where the team turned in a third quarter record with a $196 million of EBITDA or approximately $207 million adjusted for lower-than-normal holds," he said during Wynn's third-quarter call. "We saw broad-based strength across casino, hotel, food and beverage and retail, all well above third quarter 2021 levels despite the difficult year-over-year comps. The comparison to third quarter 2019 is even more impressive with our EBITDA more than doubling on a 36% increase in revenue."

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