This Beloved Tourist Destination Has Become a COVID Superspreader

Skip your trip to The Strip. It's just not worth the risk.

The Las Vegas Strip is now a "hotspot" in more ways than one. Where before it was considered a top tourist destination, Las Vegas is gaining a new reputation as ground zero for COVID superspreader events.

According to the Harvard Global Health COVID-19 tracker, Nevada currently has the third-highest concentration of coronavirus cases in the nation. The vast majority of those cases are in Clark County, which houses Las Vegas—meaning the bulk of the state's 65,150 cases and 1,197 deaths have taken place within city limits.

A new study published by the nonprofit news outlet ProPublica looked at anonymized cell phone records of 26,000 individuals in Las Vegas and found that within four days' time, at least 8,000 of those cell phones had dispersed to all but one state in the continental U.S. Though the study didn't specifically track whether those travelers were infected with coronavirus, it stands to reason that the city's major outbreak combined with excessive travel could spell disaster for the rest of the nation.

In a recent interview with NPR hosts Ari Shapiro and Will Stone, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak maintained that the reopening of the Las Vegas Strip was rolled out safely. Yet NPR analysts concluded that the city might face a hospital shortage if it continues on its current path. "With testing still turning up lots of infections, Las Vegas is on shaky footing. Nevada's rate of new cases relative to its population rivals hard-hit Southern states," said Stone.

Joe Corcoran, MD, chief medical officer for hospitals in southern Nevada, who was also included in the interview, shared that the county is currently treating twice as many COVID cases as in the spring. "Coronavirus is not really showing any signs of sustained abatement," he said. "There's so many components of this city where you're congregating together. But my gut tells me that there's parts of Las Vegas that are just going to make it harder for us to get to a true low level of concern about it."

So, if you were considering a trip to The Strip, don't assume that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Case counts are high in this hotspot, and no one wants COVID as a souvenir. And for more on Nevada, find out why it topped our recent list of States That Could Soon See a COVID Surge.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more