LAS VEGAS -- "Why is he wearing a mask?"
As I walked up to a roulette table at the Cosmopolitan on Friday night, I couldn't help but hear the young woman ask her friend about my facial covering. I knew she was talking about me because as I scanned the casino floor, I was the only nonemployee wearing a mask.
Welcome to the new Las Vegas, where the coronavirus pandemic is in the mental rear-view mirror of many visitors, and mask shaming is in vogue for some tourists trying to return to normalcy.
Several hotels and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip opened for the first-time last Thursday since being closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on where you went, the new normal may not have looked that much different than the old normal.
MGM Resorts opened the Bellagio, MGM Grand and New York-New York on Thursday. When the doors at the Bellagio opened at 10 a.m., Bill Hornbuckle, MGM Resorts' acting chief executive and president, was there along with hotel staff and executives to applaud their first customers in nearly three months as the fountains outside played "Viva Las Vegas."
Guests checking into the hotel walked to the left and had their temperatures checked, while patrons looking to gamble and grab a drink at the casino went to the right and didn't have their temperatures checked.
Plexiglas safety shields separated the players and dealers at gaming tables and were placed between every two seats at the bars. There were hand-washing stations on the casino floor and several kiosks with complimentary masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. All employees, including dealers and bartenders, wore masks, while signs on the casino floor "strongly encouraged" guests to wear them. It was hard to forget the pandemic at the Bellagio.
The Cosmopolitan, however, appeared as if it was six months ago when there was no pandemic and social distancing had yet to enter our lexicon. There were signs posted in the casino encouraging guests to wear masks, but they were received as warmly as someone telling you "try not to have too much fun" before your Las Vegas trip.
I posted a video of my walk through the casino floor on Twitter, where it was viewed more than 16 million times. There wasn't anything extraordinary about it except that it felt ordinary, which perhaps passes for extraordinary during this time.
Nobody seemed to be keeping a 6-foot distance, few outside of employees were wearing masks, and there were no dividers at the gaming tables and bars, which were packed.