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Vegas Strip tourist from New York tests positive for virus

Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting chief health officer of the Southern Nevada Health District, responds to a question on three new presumptive positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) during a news conference in Las Vegas, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun via AP)
March 11, 2020 - 7:46 PM

LAS VEGAS - A New York woman attending a conference at a Las Vegas Strip casino became sick last weekend with the new coronavirus, health authorities said Wednesday, stoking concerns that a widening outbreak could cripple business in a gambling mecca that attracts more than 40 million visitors a year.

The woman, whose name was not made public, arrived March 5 in Las Vegas the Women of Power Summit at The Mirage resort and was hospitalized Sunday and isolated in stable condition, Southern Nevada Health District officials said. She is among five people in the Las Vegas area to test positive for COVID-19.

State officials reported another three cases since last week, with 164 people statewide under public health monitoring as of Tuesday. Another 168 people have tested negative.

"The risks of acquiring a coronavirus infection in our community still remains low,” said Dr. Fermin Leguen, acting regional chief health officer in Las Vegas.

Still, fears prompted some postponements and cancellations, including President Donald Trump's upcoming events in Nevada as well as Colorado. “Out of an abundance of caution from the Coronavirus outbreak, the President has decided to cancel,” said White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Trump was set to speak on Saturday at a now-postponed three-day Republican Jewish Coalition conference at casino mogul and big Republican party donor Sheldon Adelson’s flagship Las Vegas Strip resort, the Venetian. The group later announced that it “will look for dates in the near future when we can reschedule and when the current health crisis allows,” a decision made in consultation with the White House and experts.

The National Association of Broadcasters is cancelling its annual trade show that draws about 100,000 to the Las Vegas Convention Center. It had been scheduled April 18-22.

“We are deferring to the developing consensus from public health authorities on the challenges posed by coronavirus," association chief executive Gordon Smith said in a letter.

Casino giant MGM Resorts International on Tuesday took buffets off the menu at its Las Vegas Strip resorts, citing concerns about the virus.

A Cirque du Soleil charity event scheduled for March 27 at a nearly 1,500-seat theatre at the pyramid-shaped Luxor casino-hotel was postponed, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The International Wireless Communications Expo announced it will be rescheduled, and next week's ISC West security trade show was postponed to an unspecified date in July. It usually draws about 29,000 attendees.

Seven weeks after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the U.S., the outbreak was classified by the World Health Organization as a widely spreading pandemic. The virus has infected more than 120,000 people around the world and killed more than 4,500, mostly in China where the new strain of coronavirus originated.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate fever and cough. Some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, can develop severe illness and pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover within several weeks.

Many events remain scheduled, including a construction equipment expo that was expected to draw more than 100,000 attendees continues through Saturday at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman complained during a Tuesday meeting of tourism officials that media coverage of the outbreak was hurting business, reported the Review-Journal. She recalled the Depression-era words of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority chief Steve Hill told board members the agency was preparing an advertising push to begin in two or three months, after infections and their financial effects are expected to have passed.

Analyst Robin Farley, at UBS, issued a report Wednesday attributing a weekly drop in revenue per available rooms, a hospitality industry measure, to the outbreak.

David Schwartz, director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research, said Wednesday it could take weeks for financial reports to reflect effects of the virus outbreak on tourists and spending.

“Potentially, travel restrictions could have a big effect," he said. “I think we have to see how this develops."


Associated Press staff writer Michelle L. Price contributed to this report.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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