Casino operators in Atlantic City have so far reported 251 positive cases of the disease amongst staff members since casinos were allowed to reopen in July at a reduced 25% capacity. A huge majority of the cases recorded, almost 60%, were chronicled in October. Casino staff including managers, housekeepers, admin staff, dealers, and table staff were affected the most, totaling 172 cases in total.
In general, only slightly higher than 1% of the workforce in the city has tested positive thus far. This is a relatively low number compared to the cases that are ballooning out of control in other parts of the country. This low number can largely be attributed to the state-wide safety measures implemented by different casinos. The enforcement of enhanced cleaning and management procedures, as well as maintenance of the recommended social distancing, have been having an impact on keeping the cases down.
Other states that are working just as hard to enforce these measures are also starting to report low cases among its casino workforce. For example, across the pong in Pennsylvania, only 108 staffers have tested positive out of the state’s 16,000 employees since gaming facilities resumed operations.
The low numbers over the last couple of months aren’t surprising as the health and gaming officials in the city had already established a well-detailed plan outlining specific safety procedures and measures before casinos were allowed to resume operations.
All casinos were diligent in enforcing the various measures but some took extra initiatives to keep guests safe such as upgrading airflow through a series of building renovations, as well as enforcing mandatory temperature screenings for all guests and employees.
The good news is that there is hope as scientists recently confirmed the development of 2 vaccines, each that have been proven to be at least 90% effective against the disease. If things go according to plan, most individuals should expect to receive shots by the spring, according to estimates by the medical community.
So what has led to the spike?
Nearly all the cases that have so far tested positive were recorded in October in line with the rising infection rates taking place all over the country. So far, it appears as though the restaurants and bar staff have been the most severely affected which can partly be attributed to the resumption of indoor dining and beverage services in September.
As the positive cases continue to soar across the Garden State, New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy has even hinted at the implementation of new more stringent measures aimed at preventing any further spread. The hope is that once the safety protocols in place have been refined and updates, the case will go down once again.
Like most states situated in the Northeast, the Garden State has made major strides in cutting down the outbreak rates after the governor halted all nonessential activity in March which consisted of the closure of schools, restaurants, bars, casinos, and most other businesses. Even state parks had been closed off to the public and if the numbers don’t go down anytime soon, it appears that we might revert to the old lockdown situation.
During the early months of summer when the outbreak’s first wave ended, the state slowly started reopening business operations while maintaining restrictions on activities such as indoor dining and social gatherings as we’ve discussed here. Some of the restrictions were not received well by certain business owners that claimed that the restrictions were threatening their livelihoods.
When AC’s 9 casinos were closed off to the public, more than 20,000 workers were instantly put out of work, leaving many to rely on support from various food banks. Even today, many of these employees continue to struggle to access unemployment insurance and healthcare benefits in a system that has been heavily characterized by malfunctions and interruptions. The NJ casino tax relief may have calmed things down for a bit as we’ve covered here, but hardly made a difference as casinos are still laying off staff members in an effort to survive.
The spike in new cases and widespread community spread for the first time since the spread was slowed down has caused lawmakers to indicate a desire to loosen and perhaps even reverse the existing 25% capacity limit on indoor dining. Unfortunately, as the holidays approach and as family members start convening in celebration, it has led to a spark in outbreaks.
Meanwhile, even in the wake of increased infections, casino operators have banded together to request government officials to ease restrictions on indoor gatherings. If this is allowed, the casino industry would be able to host conventions, trade shows, as well as various entertainment programs that will aid the road to economic recovery. This doesn’t seem likely though now that the numbers are gradually spiraling out of control.
The challenge lies in striking a safe balance between the still real threat of the pandemic and the economic needs of a region that has been crippled by the outbreak will continue to be felt at least a vaccine or cure is formulated. The virus isn’t going away soon so operators must continue to invest in long-term protective measures both for staff and guests.
Until the virus is curbed, the city will just have to do its best to stay afloat within the established regulations. These precautions necessitated by the outbreak may be inconvenient for all parties involved, but punters and operators must keep in mind that the inconveniences are only temporary. As such, the best that operators and punters can do is deal with the blow that they’ve been dealt.
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