Pandemic has killed more Las Vegas folks per capita than rest of U.S.

Pandemic in Las Vegas

1918 Las Vegas newspaper headline

At the one-year anniversary of the national pandemic shutdown, the image-makers of Las Vegas are working mightily to lure back the visitors who have avoided Sin City like the, ah, plague.

PR types are apparently paying to fly in “social influencers” from around the country to sing the praises of Sin City.  Officials play up the cleansing efforts of the hotels casinos. VisitLasVegas.com, an official site of the official Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, even has a page linking to the sanitation policies of individual resorts.

However, one thing not exactly being stressed here is the hard fact that the overall death rate from coronavirus in the Las Vegas area is worse than the national average. True, numbers are moving in a good direction here and elsewhere. But all that scrubbing in Las Vegas has not yet produced a decided advantage.

There is an eerie parallel to what happened hereabouts during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918.

Over the weekend it was announced that the number of deaths from the Covid-19 pandemic in Clark County, the population of which is mainly the Las Vegas Valley, topped 4,000–4,004 to be precise. In a county with a population of 2.3 million, that’s one death for every 574 residents.

Nationally, 534,794 coronavirus deaths have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University. In a country with a population of 331 million residents, that’s one death for every 619 residents.

A lower ratio is worse. So put another way, the coronavirus death rate per capita in Clark County despite all that cleaning is 7% higher than than the national average. That ain’t good.

Nearly a year ago, in mid-April 2020, I wrote from the New To Las Vegas world headquarters about the similarities in the Las Vegas area–including mask wearing, social distancing, school and theater closings, and inadequate medical facilities–of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. By early 1920, when the Spanish Flu pandemic finally petered out (after three waves, another similarity), it was calculated that there were 40 deaths in Clark County. But the county population at the 1920 census was only 4,859. So that worked out to one death for every 121 residents.

For the U.S. as a whole, it was estimated that 675,000 persons died of the Spanish Flu. The country’s population in 1920 was 107 million. So that penciled out to one death for every 159 residents. Thus, Clark County’s per-capita death rate was 24% worse than the U.S. rate.

Of course, the Spanish Flu hit Las Vegas in an era before legal gambling, quickie marriage, quickie divorce, the Strip and big-time entertainment brought in scads of visitors. But that’s sort of my point. The Las Vegas economy then wasn’t based on tourism. Hell, Las Vegas didn’t even have an economy to speak of.

Now virtually the entire Las Vegas economy, or at least the part that attracts money into the community from outside, is dependent on tourism. Utterly so. Would-be visitors need to be confident that, tweaking the famous marketing slogan owned by the owner of VisitLasVegas.com, what happens here, happens less than in other places.

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