This summer, millions of Netflix viewers tuned in to watch Las Vegas become ground zero for another cinematic catastrophe. Our city has already been nuked, flattened by earthquakes, occupied by the Devil, invaded by dinosaurs, and subjected to over a decade of Criss Angel. What else could it endure? Well, another zombie apocalypse, of course.
Zack Snyder’s ARMY OF THE DEAD envisions a future where casinos are boarded up, dozens of decaying showgirls shuffle in the hot sun, and pasty-looking Elvis impersonators fall on their faces. Not too far from reality, only this time they’re part of a total occupancy by millions of undead, presided over by a zombie power couple who are protected by Siegfried and Roy’s white tiger (also no longer alive).
Although the movie was shot on soundstages and mock-ups, the empty streets of Las Vegas circa April 2020 would have worked just as well. Aside from the occasional riot or BLM protest, Las Vegas Boulevard was very much a darkened ghost town. Stunning videos and photographs of our plight were seen around the world. The imagery was just too shocking for the masses to comprehend.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman poured buckets of gasoline on the fire when she squared off against CNN’s Anderson Cooper on 4/22/20. Their televised sparring match went viral, becoming one of the most cringe-inducing interviews in history. Clearly, the COVID-19/Las Vegas scenario created a firestorm of questions, controversy, theories, and what-ifs.
Now here we are, more than seven weeks into the removal of all COVID mandates...and Las Vegas is once more in the CDC’s crosshairs. Just as major shows are reopening, tourism is exceeding projections, and we’ve forgotten all about last year’s devastating effects....it’s back!
Yes, that nasty virus is climbing back up the charts like Dua Lipa’s latest dance remix. Like it or not, the percentage of positive tests is rising daily, hospitals are bracing for the Delta variant, and most tellingly.... major casinos are announcing new testing and mask requirements for their employees. They’re also making things more difficult for staffers who haven’t been vaccinated.
MGM Resorts guide leaked to Vegas 411
What does that mean for you, the tourist? Well, it’s only a matter of time before the plexiglass is re-installed, distancing mandates return, the few remaining buffets close, and some businesses chain up their doors for good. How the tourism trade will react to the creeping return of COVID depends on your willingness to comply with our latest protocols, even if you’re aching for a Vegas fix. Perhaps there are other options within your budget...ones that would make a suitable replacement without a list of buzz-kill restrictions.
It would be a lie to say that Vegas is 100 percent back in business at this point. Convention organizers are still peering over their face shields, music festivals have been put off again and again, and Barry Manilow has yet to sing “Copacabana” at Westgate. Still, Garth Brooks filled Allegiant Stadium last weekend, Justin Bieber attended Connor McGregor’s big break with Kendall Jenner on the same evening, and two Cirque du Soleil productions are back to a regular schedule.
But let’s step back and look at the much bigger picture. All through last year, optimists were saying “Vegas has rebounded before. It’ll come back stronger than ever”. But when has something like this happened twice in a row, especially without the opportunity to fully recover from the initial collapse? Answer: never.
Imagine Japan getting hit with a second catastrophic tsunami immediately after a total rebuild from 2011’s devastation. One could easily envision the survivors throwing up their exhausted arms and permanently leaving. The same thing could happen to Las Vegas. Right now, the city is surviving on temporary fixes and massive cost-cutting measures. We’re also enduring extreme manpower shortages while simultaneously creating thousands of disillusioned residents.
Sure, hotels are currently packed on weekends. But the word is spreading that visiting here is nothing like it used to be...or what it was meant to be. We keep hitting tourists with bogus COVID surcharges, an ever-growing list of bullshit fees, long lines, poorly-staffed restaurants, soaring prices, and gnarly customer service. There is a breaking point, and for some, it’s already arrived.
Nearly all of our locals depend on the tourist trade in one form or another. Without it, few of us have reason to stay. Families will leave by the thousands, the housing market will crash, more casinos will permanently shutter and our entertainers will depart for destinations unknown.
If you’re one of those loyal enthusiasts who just can’t get enough of our city, you’d better head to your nearest airport right now. We need you. Should the moment come that our state government decides to press the pandemic shutdown button a second time, countless visitors may potentially say “f*ck Vegas!” once and for all. If that happens, we’re all screwed.